Iterating Into a New Year

A Personal Rebrand

Most of life’s metamorphoses are impossible to detect while they are happening to you—at least not in their fullest and rooted eventuality. That was certainly the case for me over the past year. While most of the big business and personal decisions were made with great deliberation, there were moments when I worried I may have lost sight of the end goal.

Although the wheels for this professional metamorphosis had been turning for more than a year, the official clock starting ticking on January 1, 2018. As we approach the one year anniversary of that jumping-off point, it is stunning to consider the progress of 12 short (and also endlessly long) months.

So much of the progress I feel proud of today is a direct result of the knowledge I’ve gained from what often felt like an uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, transition. Though I wouldn’t trade any of the lessons I learned—hard knocks or otherwise—these are the key tenants I will be sure to carry into the new year.

 

Embrace Life’s Seasonality

This concept is one I thought I had accepted a long time ago, but this past year proved me wrong. I underestimated the influence that nearly two decades of life at a particular pace would have on my ability to gracefully pivot into a new groove.

I also mistook the idea of work-life balance for work-life integration, which I now know are not at all the same (and many would argue that the first doesn’t even actually exist). I thought I would navigate the path from 70-hour road warrior work weeks to balancing multiple enterprises remotely with relative ease. What actually happened, largely due to blindspots caused by my presumptuous attitude, combined with the sudden inability to neatly compartmentalize my work life into its own sacred space, was not easy at all. But it was chock-full of learning opportunities, in the form of mistakes, accidental victories, and facing down the fear of entirely uncharted waters. While I plan to file all these nuggets away for future use, the most important lesson I am taking from this past skin-shedding year is that the same kind of paradigm shift will happen to me again. And quite possibly again, after that.

One year ago today, I was looking ahead to a new “phase” in a linear life path—garnering all my courage and grit to push through the upcoming change so that I could land safely rooted on the other side of it. Today I no longer see a straight line to some capstone life goal, but instead an existence made up of seasons that, though they may build upon one another, eventually pass in order to make space for the next.


A Successful Strategy Is A Responsive One

Now this idea is nothing new, especially for anyone working in the technology space. However, the experiences of the past year have added nuance to this truism for me that is improving the way I approach client projects. It is not enough to build in customer or market testing or beta review processes into a product plan. The commitment to a truly responsive offering requires real integration into the full product lifecycle. How this is best accomplished depends on the specific product offering. But any project I take on will have tools that support authentic user critique baked into the product roadmap, to occur on a regularly recurring basis, and regarded with the same importance as other interval-based versioning processes.

 

Limitation Can Fuel Creativity

Whether you are launching a new business venture, or cautiously testing the waters of a new work-life paradigm (like me), the concept of “bootstrapping” your way to profitability should be a familiar one. I cannot count the number of times I lamented the lack of cushion in my operating budget to cover certain favorite freelancers or professional service offerings I had come to rely upon to get the job done. After so many years of implementing projects like an orchestra conductor, I was suddenly without my entire string section. And brushing up on my knowledge of each individual instrument took time and was often frustrating. But there is something about rolling up your sleeves and getting under the hood yourself that feels incredibly good, especially when you start seeing your overall efficiency increase, along with skill proficiency.

Maybe I never got fully comfortable on the cello. And for certain projects, nothing but a cello will do. But for many, there is another way—quite possibly one that is more compelling or melodious—to complete the symphony. Having the opportunity to discover those perfect alternatives has been one of the work--related highlights of my year.

 

Trust Yourself

Trusting your own instincts has been preached so often that it can feel almost neutered of meaning. But the actual fact of trust in your own perspective has always felt at odds with my long-steeped tech dev perspective that craves crowd-sourced feedback. If I don’t get enough critical user responses on a project, I start to get paranoid. I do not believe in a trust-yourself echo chamber mentality, but I do believe that the work I do is more than just mechanical and has intrinsic value. As I have grown into my career, I have come to find that sweet spot with content feedback that allows me to operate as both a force-multiplying mouthpiece for each of my clients’ individual voices and also a coach to help guide them through their own discovery process.


Never stop learning.

Have comments or questions? Feel free to join the conversation in the Comments section below or connect with me on Twitter (@alimnewcomb).