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I will admit I did not start off the year on the best foot, and there were a good number of things out of my control that did not make for the best year, but I am thankful for 2016. For me it was a year of learning and growth. After leaving the comfort of a full-time job, I found myself spending my savings as the year went on and being forced to make tough decisions. It was a situation I did not like and made for a lot of stress and sleepless nights. I had to do something about it, and fast. Along the way I became a part of two wonderful communities, gained several sources for regular design projects, and learned even more about the freelance world and myself. In reflecting on this past year and my goals for 2017 I thought I’d share 16 lessons from 2016.


Take Responsibility

It is what I have done in the past that has brought me to the current position I am in today. Previously I had given excuses and blamed my circumstances on other things like time and money. The reality is, if there is something I don’t like, I have every opportunity and ability to change it. I am responsible for my circumstances and have no one to blame but myself.

When you stop making excuses and shifting blame on others or things, you gain a new freedom of opportunity. Instead of saying you have no time, realize instead that you have made choices to spend your time in other ways you view as more important. And when you own up to your mistakes in the workplace you have the opportunity to give a solution also, and grow your professionalism and respect.

It is Okay to Say No

As someone who likes to be able to take care of quite literally everything, this was a tough one to learn. After overcommitting I hit a mild burnout and realized I cannot do everything, and I have to say no and miss out on some things. I did not like this, but, by saying no to some things I leave myself open to say yes to even better opportunities.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Along with realizing I cannot take care of everything, I also realized that it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT failing. I have a limited set of skills  I excell in  and a limited amount of time. Asking for help from someone who does have the skill set or time  means that I may be able to do something even better! Who doesn’t want that!?

The Elements of Typographic Style

I Don’t Have to Finish Everything

I love to read, but not every book is for me. Maybe this is more a lesson of time and its value, but before this year I would hang on to a book and force myself to finish it before I took it off my shelf. Gary Vanyerchuk said in a Daily Vee or Ask Gary Vee Episode it is okay to leave a movie if you aren’t enjoying it, there is no reason you have to give of your valuable time to finish watching the movie until the end. This made me think of the books I was struggling to finish. I quickly went to my shelf and took off every book I had started and no longer had any interest in finishing – this was over 5 books and probably about 40 or more hours saved! The lesson is, if an activity, book, movie, or tv show no longer interest me, it is no longer worth me giving it my time and attention to continue with it.

Finish At My 90%

This idea was mentioned by Sean McCabe, and is basically a call out to all perfectionists. That’s me! I’m always going to have something I could change or fix to make what I’m working on better. However, my 90% is better than another person’s 100%. The world needs finished work, not perfect work. If I keep fixing every little thing in my work, I would never be able to get a blog post like this out or have a finished design project in my portfolio.

Just Start

Along with my perfectionist mentality, is the desire to start something new only when I have the ability to execute it perfectly. This has held me back from completely launching my website, starting making YouTube videos, and much more. It really hit me this year that there is not a perfect time to start, rather it is better to start now and improve as I go. I won’t have an audience right away, so it is a great opportunity to experiment with what I put out and take it in small steps towards the best it can be.

P.s. There is also no reason to wait until January 1 to begin a new routine or start a goal. As it is often quoted, when you look back you’ll wish you had started today. Every day is a new day to begin something new.

Get My Work Out There

Sean McCabe often says you have to show up every day for at least two years. Results (views, interactions, etc) won’t happen immediately, but if I put out consistent content people will start to notice. Consistent regular posts will also help to establish me as the expert I am in my field as I am putting out there and talking about it.

It’s Okay to Sell

I don’t call myself introverted because I love being around people, but I’m also not a big talker. I admit talking business is not something I’ve ever been really comfortable with, especially when it comes of money. However, in order to make a living doing what I love I need to be good at talking about what I do and feel comfortable charging a fair price for it. I cannot make a sustainable living by giving away my work for free, or being afraid conversations will sound too much like I’m trying to make a sale. I never know who I talk to might know; my next opportunity could be a connection away.

Think Bigger – Don’t Limit My Dreams

There is a bit of a theme here, but Think Bigger was the seanwes conference theme for 2016 (and I wish I could have been there). The team and community members of seanwes often talk about goals and how to 10X them, a concept from the book The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. (I received this book for Christmas, and I am super excited to read it.) The general concept is if we think small on our dreams, we will only achieve small things. However, if we dream bigger with concepts we think are out of our reach, we will accomplish far more than we ever imagined was achievable. Sean and his brother Cory have a podcast around this concept called Lambo Goal, where I also learned to think of one-million dollars as “not a lot of money”. That is a definite mental shift!

Rising Tide Society Lessons from 2016

Community and Who You Surround Yourself with is Important

I mentioned the seanwes community, which I joined this year, and I also joined my local Rising Tide Society chapter in addition to my previous AIGA membership. I cannot stress the importance of community and being able to talk to like minded individuals who are going through or have been through the same situations you are. It is the best way to find advice, bounce ideas off a trusted source, and create bonds over commonalities you can’t get from your regular friend or family groups. Both of these two communities I joined this year have proved to be uplifting and positive groups, which is much needed. I am better for having surrounded myself with these motivated and inspiring people.

Procrastinating Means Not Caring

I’m going to do the things I care about and love doing first, and as Jessica Hische says ‘Whatever you do to procrastinate is probably what you should be doing for the rest of you life”. But procrastinating means not caring is really another takeaway from the seanwes podcast. (Go take a listen, seriously. It is life changing). As soon as I heard it, I wrote this down on a post-it note and kept it by my computer as a reminder. I’ve always been one to work well under pressure but this statement is so true and I want to care about the work I’m doing.

Getting Up Early is Better Than Staying Up Late

Did I really just type those words?! Anyone who knows me, knows I prefer the night owl life. Around the middle of the year I started setting my alarm for 6am, and scheduling do not disturb on my phone from 10pm to 9am. This is so hard to do, even still, because I am not a morning person. What I like is the work I am able to accomplish between 6am and 9am because I do not have the interruptions from people, phone calls and emails. I also don’t find as many ways to procrastinate in the morning because I am not exhausted from the day. Admittedly, I am still working on not checking social media right away in the morning!

It All Starts With Writing – Get It Out of My Head

I cannot count the number of times I have gotten overwhelmed by all the to-dos and ideas in my head. It can became crippling to motivation, and did not help as I approached that mild burnout I mentioned earlier. Writing allows me to get everything out of my head and forget it–temporarily. The ideas I have and want to work on but am not able to currently are safely written and saved for a future time when I can revisit them. I no longer have to lose my focus to these thoughts and can accomplish the work I need to.

Debt is Not Normal

Debt is not the normal in life that most think it is. You do not need to accumulate debt to pay for school, a car, house, etc. Debt sucks! Every penny I make is not mine because of my student loan debt, my car debt, credit card debt, and money I owe my mom; not to forget the bills I pay. I have never liked debt and always pay more on my monthly payments tham I need to, but I started 2016 with the thought of, why should I do that? I’m going to have debt anyway, so why can’t I save the extra for travel and other things I want. I quickly changed that tune when I realized from listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast that debt is not normal. I’m thankful that I am now under $15,000 in student loan debt and my car will be paid off with the bank in 2017. As it is mentioned in the Bible, the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). I do not want to be a slave to anyone or anything.

The Elements of Typographic Style
The Elements of Typographic Style

Be Confident

My journey is unique to me, as is yours to you and each other person’s to them. There is no doubt that I have desires to be in my own house, travel, etc like some of my friends, but I am where I need to be and heading where I will go. What I realized this year, is I don’t know everyone’s situation. An example being the friend who has the home might also have a large loan to pay for it. I have to be confident in me, my goals and vision for myself and stop comparing myself to others.

Taking Care of Me Has to Come First – No Excuses

The most important lesson I learned in 2016 is the one that came last: I have to take care of me first. Of course I know that it is good to eat right, exercise regularly, and find a good sleep cycle, but they are often the first things I put off when I get busy. This is a big focus for me right now to take care of myself first because if something happens and I’m not around, I won’t be able to help the others and get the work done.


I’ll admit that many of these I knew prior to 2016, and you probably did too, but it was hearing it again, or in the way it was said by those mentioned that really hit me and made me pay attention and start changing some of the things I do and ways I think. I hope you received a takeaway or two from this as you head into the new year. I’d love to hear what you learned in 2016! Comment letting me know.