My 5 Greatest Discoveries of 2017…

The year behind me was possibly one of the best years of my life.  I got to be in a commercial, co-direct a documentary about missions in Haiti, work as an assistant music director at a Renaissance Faire, and perform in a Victorian holiday caroling troupe while simultaneously visiting every Lancaster County Christmassy event ever invented (the techno rave nativity scene at Manheim Township park was a personal favorite).  I also did better financially, relationally, and spiritually than I’ve done in a long time.

I’m a little late on the bandwagon of publicly reflecting about 2017, but I thought that regardless, I’d like to share some of the things I “discovered” last year which I think helped contribute to the good things that happened.  “Discovered” is in parentheses because I actually discovered zero new things.  In fact, skimming the list below might compel your eyes to immediately glaze as you quietly wonder what idiot didn’t already know these things.  To which I raise an enthusiastic hand.

However, I don’t believe that providing the following list will be without benefit to others.  The more I learn, the more I’ve come to see the truth in Shane Claiborne’s quote: “Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.”  Maybe I’m the only one who rediscovered beauty in some simple things last year, but I’m willing to take the chance that there’s others out there who could use some reminders as well.

So here goes!

1.  Books

Prior to 2017, I basically hadn’t read a physical book in a number of years.  I suppose all those college textbook chapter readings left a bad taste in my mouth.  But in February, on a recommendation from a friend, I did this crazy thing and bought a book on Amazon.  A whole $15!  When I could have bought so much macaroni!  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss changed the course of my year.  I discovered things like the Calm and Momentum apps, techniques like fear-setting for dealing with anxiety, and was introduced to countless ultra-successful people who suddenly became personable and whose paths to success were broken into attainable steps like I’ve never seen before.

I immediately got a library card and became a serial reader.  The Alchemist, The Artist’s Way, The Last Lecture, Awareness, Blink….Hard to believe it’s been less than a year since I’ve been introduced to these books; their lessons have become so much a part of my life today.  Like Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”.  ★★★★★

2.  Morning Pages

One of the things The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron demands that you do while reading it is to write morning pages every day.  Morning pages are essentially 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing that you do every day immediately when you get out of bed.  Might sound crazy (and time-consuming) – and yeah, maybe it is.  But committing to this did some wonderful things for me.  I found that forcing oneself to just make something has the effect of making one less judgmental.  And I found I was paying more attention to my thoughts, as opposed to just having them rattle around my brain unattended throughout the day.  As Cameron puts it, “Morning pages map our own interior…it is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning…without being moved to constructive action.”

Though I’m not still writing three pages a day, I am glad to have it as a resource, and I do still journal at least every other day. ★★★★★

3.  Other Humans

I think I was somehow under the impression that life is better if you’re hiding in your room for its duration.  I now see that, while this may be tempting, there are times (other than natural disasters) when it may be advantageous to come out.  Like, much as I like to be a Scrooge and stay inside to save money, sometimes going out can actually be the thing that gets you your next job.  I got one of my biggest video production jobs yet by visiting a friend who happened to have someone with him who was looking for someone like me.  I also ran into someone while shopping at Aldi two years ago who indirectly led me to one of my biggest upcoming music gigs this coming year.  Like they say, “showing up is half the battle”.  Also, Aldi is a great idea regardless.

Heck, I even started posting on facebook (don’t get crazy; I do it like once every two months).  It had seemed to me in recent years that people only go on facebook to find someone to disagree with, but I’ve found that getting answers to questions like “is there a phone company that doesn’t want my firstborn child?” can actually be more efficient and personal if outsourced to a facebook post than spending hours scouring 25 tabs of internet reviews. ★★★★☆ (people aren’t always great, but like, you gotta take that chance)

4.  A Spine

One of the books I read this year was called Never Split the Difference.  It’s a book on how to negotiate effectively, written by one of the top former FBI hostage negotiators.  This book like none other helped me realize that, a lot of times, when I don’t get something I want, it’s because either: 1.  I don’t ask for it, or 2.  I don’t do a good job of asking for it.  While I love my Canadian Mennonite roots, and I want to be kind and generous to all, I have realized in recent years (probably also from living in Philly, the angriest city in America) that us nice people also need to stand up for ourselves and learn to have our needs met.  Too much to explain here – I’d definitely recommend the book!  ★★★★★

5. Imperfection

I just bought a poster from Reformation Designs with the Harry Truman quote that about sums it up: “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”.  I have an incredible amount of projects and thoughts sitting on my hard drive or in my brain which I haven’t shared with the world.  I literally have 35 drafts of blogs which are sitting unpublished in my wordpress account.  Why?  Cause: “It’s not the right timing”, “My audience wouldn’t like this”, “More research”, etc etc.  Believe me, I’m all for effective preparation.  But I’ve realized that people like me are at risk of literally producing nothing ever because it will never be good enough.  So I’ve experimented.  I asked a lady out when I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be cool or terrible.  I committed to recording an EP of my singer/songwriter music.  And as you can see, I started  blogging again after 9 months of nothing. As that infamous tattoo says, “No Regerts”. ★★★★★

In fact, to make a final point – perhaps mostly to myself – for the first time ever I’m publishing this article in the same sitting as having written it.  Yup, without even having anyone proofread it.  I am horrified and sweating profusely.  But I want to practice what I preach, and hope that by doing this I’ll be setting a higher standard for myself in 2018.

So I hope that, even with the inevitable spelling errors and run-on sentences, this was helpful to someone.  Please feel free to comment below – I’d love to hear from you.  Here’s to an even grander – and more blogging-filled – new year!

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