March 14, 2020
Looking back now, the weekend of March 14 feels like 3 years ago.
On that Saturday, I stepped into what would be my last in-person event: my improv class. The once jovial atmosphere was now anxious and withdrawn. Half the class didn’t show up and none of us knew what tomorrow would hold. The eeriness only continued on Sunday (my birthday) when I walked around the deserted DC farmer’s market then ran to a packed Wegmans to buy 10 weeks’ worth of food.
That bizarre weekend was only the start of our world’s strange and sad year. But let’s start at the beginning.
Like any new year, I started 2020 full of excitement and hope. I told myself 2020 will be the year I learn about myself outside of work.
It turns out I did just that, but in a more profound way than I ever anticipated. Over the year, I didn’t just evolve once, twice, or three times. I became a new person ten times over. It was a personal revolution.
I’d be remiss to not acknowledge that the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. We experienced unprecedented levels of loss and strife as our world was decimated by COVID and divided on politics and race.
It’s been harder for some more than others. And while it hasn’t been easy for me, I’ve faced the challenges head-on. It’s taken hard work, but I have the incredible people in my life to thank for making the last 12 months possible.
Personal Learnings of 2021
How to Love Someone Fully
I believed that I’d only be able to have a strong and stable relationship when I was able to relax professionally. Any founder would be quick to tell me that this isn’t realistic considering the constant ebb and flow of start-ups.
Though I’m far from relaxing professionally, I was lucky enough to meet a very special partner named Brit. For the first time in my life, I learned that I could love someone fully, make time to show up, and go the extra mile. To be loved and accepted for who you are––and reciprocating that love––is incomparable. I’m incredibly grateful to have learned that it’s possible for someone with large professional goals to feel that kind of love.
How to Work With My Past
For the past decade, I’ve solicited performance, business, and life coaches to help guide me. I staunchly believe that carving your path without help is asking for trouble. But this year I realized that coaching, while very valuable, is mostly future-oriented.
I’ve never looked critically at my past to analyze how it held me back. So starting in November 2020, I began working with a therapist. One of the first things we worked on was developing empathy and figuring out why it was hard for me to be empathetic.
My therapist and I worked together to practice empathy and understand why it’s fundamental to a strong relationship. For some “homework,” I read The Art of Empathy by Karla McLaren and later interviewed her for The One Away Show (stay tuned for her episode). While my empathy muscle has room for improvement, I’m much more aware of opportunities for empathic listening.
Another skill I learned in therapy is how to navigate my fear of loss to mitigate my anxious attachment system. To track my triggers, I started keeping a daily behavior log where I mark when I made impulsive, emotional decisions in my personal and business life. Although my triggers aren’t going to disappear, knowing their roots and how to control them contributes to my awareness and growth.
Expanding My Views on the World
Our country and world went through massive amounts of change scientifically, technologically, and societally.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, I began an incredible learning journey on inequality, oppression, and the systems that I’m complicit in. My learning, reflection, and action are far from over; it’s a continual commitment that I have to practice every day. In addition to raising Black voices, I shared my thoughts here.
If you’re interested in other learning resources, I compiled a list of my favorite and most impactful content here.
Additionally, I made a conscious effort to expand my cultural horizons in person. For the first time in my professional life, I took 2 weeks off work to travel. This experience opened my eyes to the different cultures of our country from Asheville to Boise to Taos. During this time, I discovered my love for the West and its expansive openness. (More on that later.)
Building a Health System
After herniating two discs and undergoing shoulder surgery in my 20s, I learned that to succeed in life, I needed to prioritize my mental, physical, and emotional health.
While it’s not perfect, I’ve implemented every routine possible to keep myself in optimal condition.
In October, I hired a fitness coach, Fred Munzenmeir. He programmed my workouts, created a nutritional program, and kept me accountable (I’ve hardly missed a workout since October). Check out the stats below from my Train Heroic App.
Last but not least, I’ve incorporated daily walks and meditation into my workday routine. Building in this time helps give me space to think, breathe, and be in solitude.
This structure has reduced my anxiety and helped me spend my mental energy on what matters. Having a rhythm, nourishing myself with good food, and making an effort to take care of myself have left me feeling better than ever.
Establishing Financial Systems
Over the past decade, I’ve struggled to choose between investing in myself or my work. Do I spend money on myself or do I put it back in the business to help drive it forward? Since I subscribe to the philosophy of “sacrifice today for a better tomorrow,” I usually do the latter.
But recently I’ve started to form habits that stop this thinking.
First, I created a personal budget for myself with the help of Carson Morell. Since the fall, I’ve tracked every single expense on my credit card. This forces me to be intentional about my spending decisions.
While I am still very much at the beginning of my journey, I’m finally able to see the big picture. I have a special client, friend, and mentor to thank for that: Brandon Green. If you’re interested in how to build wealth on your entrepreneurial path, see the guide he created here.
BW Missions and Professional Interests
- Revenue growth from May 2020 to May 2021: 300%
- Team size growth from May 2020 to May 2021: 160%
Business and Team Building
At the start of the pandemic, I parted ways with the person I started the business with, and we lost 3-4 clients. I truly didn’t know if we were going to make it.
Then Carson Morell came into my life (thanks, Jacob Garlick for helping us solidify our partnership). He was a force of dedication, forethought, grit, and knowledge. He came into the office every day at 5 AM at the start of the pandemic. He took over our backend operations and financial systems. Then, he started managing the team. He succeeded on all client projects and constantly raised the bar for himself. It wasn’t long before I knew this was who I wanted to build the business with.
My relationship with Carson is a model for an ideal relationship, business, personal, or otherwise. We’ve learned how to:
- Make decisions together
- Respect boundaries
- Align on values
- Compromise for the betterment of our vision
- Stand up to one another
Beyond work, Carson has become one of my most respected and meaningful friends.
We share a common language, dream, and set of desires. Building this business is more meaningful because of him.
We’re in the business of helping leaders find their next path later in life. This mission is directly tied to my personal story, and it’s been incredibly fulfilling to build something so close to my heart. It wouldn’t be possible without Rich Keller, who’s been instrumental in building a solid foundation for our brand. Rich shared his philosophy with us and it made all the difference: get your branding correct from the start. It’s something we continue to invest in today.
As we entered 2021, a few conversations changed our business trajectory. One was with Dan Berger, former CEO of Social Tables (acquired by CVENT), and the other with Allen Gannett, author of The Creative Curve. In these conversations, we worked to figure out who our customers are and what they need. Defining our ICP has helped me speak about the business in a more precise way. I’ve been able to get in touch with more potential clients, begin a rebranding process, evolve our messaging, and so much more. Simply put, the business is becoming more efficient.
Evolution of culture
As I’ve grown in my personal life, I’ve also had to grow as a leader. Culture became a top priority when I learned that the culture at BW Missions was unsustainable for our team. Thanks to Ben Horowitz’s book on establishing culture, What You Do Is Who You Are, our company culture has never been better. You can read more on this here.
Diversity has become front and center of our business operations. We built our initial client base off my network, which was mostly white men. A dozen people in my orbit spoke up and shared how we could improve our diversity and representation, and I realized I was living in an echo chamber. Since then, we’ve made great internal efforts to reshape our client base and will continue to put diversity at the forefront of what we do.
We have a lot of evolution ahead of us. The more I evolve personally, the faster the business will grow and improve.
What Does the Next Year Look Like?
I finally feel free, ready to go, and ready to take on a new chapter.
I’m planning to let my lease expire in June and go out west for the summer, hopping from city to city for 2 months at a time. Hopefully I’ll start this adventure in Boulder, CO. Where I go after is still up in the air, but the Pacific Northwest is calling me, too.
Another goal of mine is to get more into the music that drives my curiosity. I’ve discovered many new artists this year like Mt. Joy, Wilderado, and Gregory Alan Isakov. Their lyricism and imagery grab my heart in a way I haven’t felt before. I’d love to study the emotions behind music creation, how music touches us, and how it connects audiences.
When I moved into my apartment in 2017, I was in the process of coming into myself. I was focused on the future, but I didn’t know how to see the world from a different perspective. Though I didn’t always know my next step, knowing where I wanted to go allowed me to take small steps to get there.
Back then, I knew I had to continually invest in myself and my future through healthy choices, better habits, and fulfilling relationships. I was hopeful that making these small deposits would accumulate over time.
The past year is the first time I saw the fruits of that labor. My growth was only possible because I created a roadmap for myself all those years ago. To see my weekly reflections and long-term goals, click here.
Through the ups and downs of this past year, I learned to look inward, be intentional, and let my internal compass guide me. Following any other guide won’t let you build a meaningful path.
I implore you to challenge yourself, go against the grain, reflect, constantly learn, build meaningful relationships, and act from the inside out. That’s where you’ll find a life worth living and a legacy worth creating.