Well, another year is in the books and I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to reflect on the past 12 months. As I was thinking about writing this reflection, my initial reaction was to focus on all of the things that I did NOT accomplish. My business didn’t grow as much as I would have liked. My podcast didn’t get as many downloads as I would have predicted. I’m not in the physical shape that I expect of myself. I have felt sorry for myself at times during this year.
The irony in those thoughts is that it is exactly what I experience in working with my young clients. At some level, perfectionism exists in all of us and the instinct to focus on the negative is frankly biological. Our brains lock in perceived threats and mull the worst possible outcomes. Whether it’s me or my clients, we all have a predisposition to beat ourselves up over all the things we didn’t do or SHOULD have done.
So, I am going to take the opportunity to reflect on my wins for this year, but also attempt to objectively evaluate my areas for improvement without being overly critical of myself. I believe that my training as a mental performance coach has helped me to build self-awareness, which evidence supports is a necessary condition for change. However, I’m still human and every bit of training and life experience will still struggle to overcome the power of the human mind. Thus, it takes continuous work to improve and self-reflection is a very big part of that process for me.
First and foremost, I proudly state that I have gone another 365 days without making a bet. On October 3rd, I celebrated my nine-year anniversary in recovery from a gambling addiction. I have gone 3,361 days without gambling as I am writing this. It is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. I caused a lot of mental, emotional, and financial distress for myself and those in my life during the 25 years that I gambled. The unconditional love and support that I have received in recovery has inspired me to build a career around helping others. I never would have openly shared myself as I am here prior to entering recovery. That is a gift to me.
In 2021, I launched The Freshman Foundation Podcast, which focuses on the transition from high school to college athletics. It started with an idea based upon my experiences working with high school athletes. The idea became a logo. The logo became a mission. The mission became a podcast and a coaching platform. To date, I have published about 30 episodes with amazing guests. They have graciously shared their experiences as athletes, coaches, and professionals for my benefit and the benefit of those who listen. I cannot thank them enough. I’ll give myself some credit here too. I figured out how to produce a podcast simply through trial and error. I develop what I consider to be a pretty efficient process, which will help me get to 100 episodes.
I also have had the opportunity to be a guest on a number of podcasts in 2021, which is not something I would have ever imagined. Who in the world would want to listen to me? I was on Second Act Stories, which is a podcast about mid-life career changes. I was on The Quarterback Dadcast, which is about fatherhood and being the quarterback of your family. I was on My Name is Craig with nationally-recognized sports radio personality Craig Carton, who is also a fellow compulsive gambler in recovery. We discussed my journey from addiction to recovery. Finally, I was on the Dad.Work podcast again talking about my experiences as a single father in recovery. I accepted all of these invitations in hopes that my story would benefit those listening. Being a guest on these podcasts was a privilege. I am grateful to all of the hosts for having me on their shows.
My mental performance coaching practice also grew in 2021. I built relationships with the clients that I acquired in 2020, my first year of operation. I also took on new clients of all ages and circumstances in 2021, which have presented new challenges and new opportunities. My clients now range from nine years old to roughly 60 years of age. I work with Division I college athletes. My practice has expanded healthily, giving me the opportunity to help more people. It has also given me the opportunity to get better at my profession. I am grateful to all of my clients for their trust in me, investing their time, energy, and money into a process that is not formulaic. It takes effort, patience, and humility to improve the mental game. I am proud to be a guide in this process for my clients.
2021 has not been a banner year from a health perspective. I’ve struggled to take care of myself at times, maybe even having suffered from a bit of depression upon reflection. However, I am proud that I’ve continued to exercise regularly through what has been a very challenging year emotionally. I also had the opportunity to ski a couple of times this past winter. I’ve never been much of a skier, but I love being outside and love trying new things, so I figured what the hell. I ski with mostly toddlers and find myself scraping myself off the slopes once in a while. However, it’s fun and frankly, I need more fun in my life. I’m looking forward to skiing more in 2022.
It would be easy to break my arm patting myself on the back, but the truth is that this year has been really challenging for me at times. I have a LOT to improve on in 2022 based on my experiences this year.
Perhaps my biggest area of improvement is not feeling self-pity when I don’t get the results that I want. The truth is, that as a single man and entrepreneur I get very little feedback on a daily basis about what I am doing well or not doing well. I don’t have any employees. I don’t have a boss. I don’t have a partner – business or life. There are many benefits to having my own business, but external support is not one of them. I’m usually looking to my bank account, social media, or my podcast feed for positive feedback and most days I don’t like what I see. It takes a lot of hard work to put my work and my purpose in the proper perspective when my results are below my expectations. One thing that has helped me in this respect in 2021 is daily journaling, trying to break my life into 24-hour chunks focusing on what I can control and celebrating small wins.
I think the other lesson I’ve learned in 2021 is that I have a lot of room to grow as a business owner. My 20 years of experience in consulting and sales has helped me a lot. I think I understand business concepts better than the average bear and I’m fascinated by the entrepreneurial journey. However, I need to have better financial discipline. I have to work on budgeting, planning, calculating return on investment, and understanding the customer acquisition process. Fortunately, I am a believer in leveraging coaching (I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t). I ask my coaches to guide me through the process, so that my learning curve isn’t as steep as it would be otherwise. Coaching costs me money, but saves me time which is my most valuable asset. I am grateful to all of my coaches for helping me progress as a business owner through this year. I will continue to seek mentorship in 2022.
I could go on and on about the reasons that 2021 was another challenging year. However, acknowledging my challenges is not the same as dwelling on them. Ultimately, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to live a life of my own design. I can only control certain things. As I tell my athletes, I can control my attitude, preparation, and effort or my “APE.” I am responsible for objectively evaluating my APE and making necessary changes. Beyond that, the results are out of my control. Even though I teach these concepts for a living, it’s still hard to abide by them myself because the human brain is a pessimistic machine. It takes work to shift my perspective to focus on the positive, to be grateful for what I have, to see challenges as opportunities. I struggled to do these things in 2021, but I am committed to this process in 2022.
So what are my three biggest takeaways from 2021?
- I’m human. Well no (crap), genius. It might be the most trite thing to say (especially for a mental performance coach), but it always rings true to me. I’m going to mess up. I’m going to make mistakes. And, I’m definitely going to magnify those mistakes as much as my brain will let me get away with. Nevertheless, I must constantly remind myself that it’s okay to not be perfect. I must be aware of my self-talk. I must give myself a pass when I don’t get the results that I want if I make a genuine effort to be successful.
- Thoughts => Feelings => Behaviors. This has been the first year in many years where my thinking has gotten the best of me and led to some really difficult feelings. As I discuss with my athletes, if you don’t feel good then you certainly will not perform well. I have underperformed at times in 2021 because my feelings have overwhelmed me. I need to work on building connections in 2022 and continue to seek out help from others when I find myself isolated from the world.
- I can deal with a lot of shit. This was my #1 takeaway from 2020 and it stands up 12 months later. I’m not special in this respect. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for our ability to cope with difficult thoughts, emotions, and circumstances. We almost always find a way to deal with hard stuff, whether it is constructive or destructive. I’m proud of my ability to withstand discomfort and to find ways to bounce back better than before.
What will your 2021 year-in-review look like?