19 Things I Learned (or Relearned) in 2019

By Kevin on December 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

Well, some years you win, others you learn. 2019 was a learning year. 🙂

More important to me than New Year’s resolutions is to take an hour or two to scroll through my calendar from the previous year and to recall things that went well, things that didn’t, and any lessons or reminders I should carry forward. If you practice Secret #3 from my book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, and live from your calendar instead of a to-do list, it’s really easy to look back and take reflection. Here are some things that jump out at me from the year.

    1. Kill your darlings. Writers are often given the advice, “You have to be willing to kill your darlings.” Meaning, you have to cut out your most creative, brilliant, but self-indulgent passages for the greater good of your work. I found this to be true in my articles and books, and REALLY true of entrepreneurship. The functionality I spent a year and a million dollars on we don’t even show to prospects. We turn it off. But by doing that, and building what they like (instead of what I like), we sell.
    2. Traditional publishers still suck. OK, that’s harsh, I haven’t worked with all of them, so maybe there are exceptions. I told myself I would try one more time to publish with a big traditional publisher. See if it would be any better. Going traditional with my Great Leaders book cost me over a year of time, cost me tens of thousands in wasted marketing dollars, and the horrible title killed my speaking business. Publish indie, always.
    3. The Bahamas is way nicer, and closer (to Philadelphia) than I realized. Can’t wait to go back to Baha Mar.
    4. Most people don’t do what they say they will do. Freelancers, advisors, VCs, consultants I pay huge money too, clients–most of the time they just don’t deliver the results they promise, or even the activities they promise, and very rarely by the deadline they promise. Personal accountability seems to be a rare species. Do you want to be a top 10% performer? Just do what you say you’ll do and you’ll be in the top 10%.
    5. Similar to above, “ghosting” at work is now commonplace. I think many (most?) people don’t think it’s wrong to just not respond at all, even if there has been a significant investment in time and or money or favors. It’s like the Ben Franklin principle expired. I think people are SO busy, so overworked, so overwhelmed, they can just deal with the burning fire closest to them in time and space, and just don’t even think about relationships or strategic priorities.
    6. 10x software engineers and 10x salespeople really do exist. I’ve seen one programmer ship 10x the functionality of another. One salesperson on my team is able to generate 10x the demos of another in the same amount of time. They are SO valuable. I am so grateful for them.
    7. Being “agile” is now all the rage, and I think it’s hopeless for established companies (Fortune 1000?) to ever become agile. Just too many bad hires, wrong incentives, and layers of crap. Give up, or start new businesses with their our own brands to compete against the legacy non-agile business, if you really care about agile.
    8. It can be really hard to relate to your teenagers–sports and music are best bets. I’ve found taking an interest in the same professional sports teams they like, and an interest in the obscure rappers they listen to, as good ways to do it. And I need to get way better at remembering the names of all their friends.
    9. GDPR and data privacy concerns are now out of whack with the actual risks. It takes 4 – 12 months for big companies to approve software that only uses employee name and email–no other personal data. GDPR and privacy concerns are costing trillions in lost productivity…all to protect an email address that most outsiders can guess anyway.
    10. You have to “dumb down” your product pitch. You know you have your product pitch (or elevator pitch, or company “story”) down right when a 19-year old, or a hired gun virtual assistant, can deliver it persuasively If they can’t you need to simplify it further. (Yes, my daughter Natalie killed it at ATD conference)
    11. The best speeches, sales calls, and VC pitches are often done with no slides.
    12. A computer can accurately measure if you’re neurotic. If you use our LEADx with Coach Amanda app, you can take the Big 5 Personality assessment and included is where you fall on the scale of negative emotion. Do you feel negative emotions more or less than other people? Turns out people with negative emotionality don’t like to be told they have negative emotionality. They complain about it. (At least we know the assessment is accurate)
    13. People prefer 10-minute book summaries to books. One of the most popular parts of the LEADx app are the book summaries. Nobody reads anymore. 
    14. Today, it can never be too short. We get a lot of “constructive feedback” from users that our 10-minute book summaries and our 5-minute micro-learning videos are too long. Sad, but true.
    15. You can make tofu crispy and flavorful! The secret to great tofu is to REALLY get the water out before cooking. Water out, marinade in, fry a little for crunch…now you’re talking.
    16. Cold pitches on LinkedIn are really annoying when you receive them (and convert at 13% if you’re the one sending them)
    17. Nobody wants anything anymore. It’s the end of stuff. People want to watch Netflix/YouTube/Disney/Hulu, surf social media, read Kindle, listen to music, watch highlights of their favorite teams, and play video games. And all of that can be done on a single device that fits in the palm of your hand. All that digital entertainment/escape is going to turn most people into minimalists. They don’t want or need other physical items. But it is also driving up the demand for experiences: food, live music, travel.
    18. Good writers (not even great writers) are impossibly hard to find. If you are just 22 years old but can write logically, clearly, and perhaps persuasively–and can deliver on time–you can immediately make over six figures a year as a freelancer (but you have to deliver when you say you will). 
    19. “Now is the only moment guaranteed.” Unfortunately, 2019 was yet another year when several healthy people close to me unexpectedly died or began to battle life-threatening illnesses. I will continue to remind myself daily to be present as much as possible, to strive to live a great life in each day, and to never put off the stuff that really matters.

Here’s to an amazing new decade.

Impact > Income,


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