2009 in Retrospect: Ten Lessons Learned This Year

Ten Lessons Learned in 2009

The 2009 in Retrospect week continues today – and instead of doing any ‘best of’ posts I wanted to get a little more reflective on the personal side of things and talk about 10 valuable ‘life’ lessons I learned through everything I went through in the past year. It was a year of transitions, ups and downs, disappointments and successes. And through it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of where I stand today – the man I’ve become, and above all, I’ve learned that the right attitude will get you through just about anything.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you just have to say, “I Quit!”

As difficult as quitting may be, sometimes, it’s the right thing to do. Before moving to Chicago I quit my job in Nashville – what made it even scarier was that I had nothing “on deck” – I quit and HOPED I would find something better. My advice to anyone who’s debating whether or not to stay at a job, thinking about quitting a project, or whatever the case may be, is to think about yourself first and foremost. Be selfish and do what’s best for you, even if it doesn’t make the most sense. It might sting at first, but over time, you’ll realize that selfishness often times prefaces selflessness.

Lesson #2: It’s OK to be vulnerable

I’m a guy, so naturally, I want to look tough and confident – I shouldn’t wear my emotions on my sleeve, right? WRONG. It’s OK to let your guard down. It’s OK to let people in. It’s OK to show who you really are – to ask for help and admit that you don’t know everything. Vulnerability paves the way for growth and learning. When you stop worrying about what other people think and start being yourself, good things will start happening.

Lesson #3: Honesty sells

For those of you who don’t know – I do a bit of freelance design and consulting on the side. I may be just another sheep in the flock of people who can say they do the same thing, but where I stand out is in my willingness to work WITH people and my honest approach. I don’t claim to be a world class designer – I don’t ever plan to be a web marketing expert – but I can hold my own, and I let every person I work with know what I can and cannot do. Laying an honest foundation has paid dividends for me, and it’s something I will always commit to in the work I do. In short, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.

Lesson #4: Take things offline whenever possible

I love my blog – I’m a big fan of Twitter and Social Media – but I also understand that these are merely tools – a means to an end that has led to some awesome connections and friendships in the “real world” – you know, the one where we aren’t sitting behind our computers? If you have the opportunity, especially with folks who live in the same city, set up a time to meet for coffee or grab a drink – take your online conversations offline.

Lesson #5: Meeting people on the Internet is no longer creepy

Speaking of meeting people – that old idea of meeting people on the Internet being “creepy” is long gone (in most cases – there are still the “To Catch a Predator” people out there). The Internet is a GREAT way to meet people. Full disclosure, I wouldn’t know ANYONE in Chicago if it wasn’t for Twitter and my blog. I would have NEVER found my job if I wasn’t networking like a maniac before I moved here. Use the Internet to your advantage.

Lesson #6: Sometimes you’re going to disappoint people.

When I moved to Chicago and left Nashville, my home of 23 years, I knew I was going to be letting some people down. I left all of my friends and my parents behind – and it wasn’t easy, not at all. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about being back home, but I knew that this was the next step for me – for my fiance – and for our future together. You’re not always going to please everyone, so stop trying. At the end of the day – you have to make the best decision for you. Just make sure you promise you mom and dad you’ll visit often.

Lesson #7: Hard work pays off, but you have to know when to take a step back

This year I became something I never thought I would – A workaholic. Chalk it up to everything being up in the air for half the year, going through a move, trying to figure out what I wanted to do – but, regardless, I have worked my ass off – and have a lot to show for it, which I couldn’t be happier about. But now, what I’m starting to realize, and what I’m finally doing, is taking time for the things that matter most – my fiance, my dog, my friends and family, and…well, myself. I love the work that I do, don’t get be wrong, but I also know that I don’t want to consume myself with work and miss out on LIVING in the meantime. It’s all about balance – and forcing yourself to step away from time to time.

Lesson #8: You can’t do it all by yourself

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the help of other people.” - I feel like I’m at an AA meeting saying that but you don’t realize how hard it was for me to admit I’m not invincible. Until recently, I thought I could do anything and everything all by myself. But what I learned this year is not only is that impossible, but it’s OK to get by with a little help from you friends, family, in-laws who let you stay in their basement until you get your feet on the ground, whatever. I couldn’t be more grateful for those who helped pave the way to where I am today – and I’m humble enough to admit that I when I needed them the most, they were there for me.

Lesson #9: Support from the people you love is a must

My fiance is what keeps me going (well, her, and maybe snuggle sessions with my dog Cowboy). I’m where I am today because of her. She motivates me to be the best I can possibly be every single day and sees the good in me even when no one else does. This year has been full of difficult decisions, but also, amazing life changing ones – including getting engaged last May. It was THE best decision I’ve ever made. If there’s ever a doubt about what I’m doing or where I’m going in my life, I find comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, we will be together. Whether it be your fiance, your dog, or a good friend – we all need someone who believes in us, even when we don’t. Support and unconditional love is a key ingredient to success.

Lesson #10: For the love of God, ask questions!

This speaks for itself. Talk less, listen more, and NEVER be afraid to ask questions. It’s not a sign of weakness. I repeat, it is NOT a sign of weakness. It’s time to throw your pride out the window and admit you’re not a know it all. Ask questions until the cows come home, then ask some more. It’s the only way to LEARN.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I’ve taken away this year. What valuable lessons have you learned? What will you be putting into action in 2010?

Stay tuned tomorrow for a list of 10 things I’ll be doing in 2010!


46 Responses
  • Ryan Stephens Reply

    Sounds like a pretty productive year to me. I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with both you and your content and wish you all the best in 2010. Like you though, I struggle with the workaholic badge, and I’ll likely show my face a little less (especially now that I’m surrounded by friends and family again.)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Productive is an understatement. Been great getting to know you and of course, I can’t complain about the three-peat domination of the Top Gen Y blogs throw-down (which apparently ruffled some feathers).

      Only kidding man – Here’s to both of us taking a (small) step back and not working ourselves quite as hard in 2010.

  • Ryan Stephens Reply

    Sounds like a pretty productive year to me. I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with both you and your content and wish you all the best in 2010. Like you though, I struggle with the workaholic badge, and I’ll likely show my face a little less (especially now that I’m surrounded by friends and family again.)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Productive is an understatement. Been great getting to know you and of course, I can’t complain about the three-peat domination of the Top Gen Y blogs throw-down (which apparently ruffled some feathers).

      Only kidding man – Here’s to both of us taking a (small) step back and not working ourselves quite as hard in 2010.

  • Emily Jane Reply

    This is such a wonderful post. The biggest lesson I learned was to stay true to myself and not try and be someone else in order to fit in. I’ve been guilty of that in my past and it never got me anywhere, so I really explored who I was and who I wanted to be this year, and made a vow to just be myself, and get out there instead of hiding behind the scenes worried about people thinking badly of me. And it kind of goes with yout number 9 – I can count on one hand the people I have close to me, but their support and love is the most valuable thing in the world to me. And I know I’m blessed enough that no matter what I do, their support is unconditional – and it’s been a catalyst in propelling me forward, being okay with who I am, and quitting worrying so much about what other people think.

    Great post!!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Emily, you are becoming a regular around here – I love it! Love and support is about QUALITY, not QUANTITY – I may have a lot of friends and family, but like you, I can count on one hand the people that I am REALLY close with, that I am TRULY myself around – and that’s OK. You don’t have to show that side of yourself to everyone, but you need SOMEONE, even if it’s only one, who will listen and support you through everything.

      To your other point – there are a lot of folks out there right now who are trying to be someone or something they’re not. It may work for now, but it always catches up to you. It’s best to just focus on what you’re good at and what makes you…well, you, and screw all the rest.

      Thanks again for the comment! Great points Emily!

  • Emily Jane Reply

    This is such a wonderful post. The biggest lesson I learned was to stay true to myself and not try and be someone else in order to fit in. I’ve been guilty of that in my past and it never got me anywhere, so I really explored who I was and who I wanted to be this year, and made a vow to just be myself, and get out there instead of hiding behind the scenes worried about people thinking badly of me. And it kind of goes with yout number 9 – I can count on one hand the people I have close to me, but their support and love is the most valuable thing in the world to me. And I know I’m blessed enough that no matter what I do, their support is unconditional – and it’s been a catalyst in propelling me forward, being okay with who I am, and quitting worrying so much about what other people think.

    Great post!!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Emily, you are becoming a regular around here – I love it! Love and support is about QUALITY, not QUANTITY – I may have a lot of friends and family, but like you, I can count on one hand the people that I am REALLY close with, that I am TRULY myself around – and that’s OK. You don’t have to show that side of yourself to everyone, but you need SOMEONE, even if it’s only one, who will listen and support you through everything.

      To your other point – there are a lot of folks out there right now who are trying to be someone or something they’re not. It may work for now, but it always catches up to you. It’s best to just focus on what you’re good at and what makes you…well, you, and screw all the rest.

      Thanks again for the comment! Great points Emily!

  • Evie Stewart Reply

    You’re so wise for your young years. Let’s see — “What valuable lesson” have I learned this year? I guess it would be that we all make mistakes and the best thing we can do is it to try and not make the same ones again!
    xo/
    @EvieStewart

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      A good one – usually learned the hard way. I’ll take it a step further and say you have to be willing to stick your neck out, even if it means making mistakes. Mistakes make you stronger as long as, like you said, you learn from them and make an effort to not make the same one twice.

      Thanks for the comment Evie, and for coming by – I’m now following you on Twitter, hope to chat more in the future!

  • Evie Stewart Reply

    You’re so wise for your young years. Let’s see — “What valuable lesson” have I learned this year? I guess it would be that we all make mistakes and the best thing we can do is it to try and not make the same ones again!
    xo/
    @EvieStewart

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      A good one – usually learned the hard way. I’ll take it a step further and say you have to be willing to stick your neck out, even if it means making mistakes. Mistakes make you stronger as long as, like you said, you learn from them and make an effort to not make the same one twice.

      Thanks for the comment Evie, and for coming by – I’m now following you on Twitter, hope to chat more in the future!

  • jenniferalaine Reply

    I love #5 — the Internet friends I’ve met in real life are some of my favorite people in the world. My friends in real life who know I blog and have this whole online world don’t really get it, and some are worried about my “safety”. But it’s not about that anymore; instead it’s about connecting people who would never have been connected before and the implicit trust that requires is a solid foundation for a great friendship.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well said Jen – and you’re right, the “non” bloggers still think it’s weird and creepy to meet up with online friends. My fiance still thinks I’m nuts when I say I’m going to a “tweet up” (which, full disclosure I hate that phrase – even if that’s what it is). But you’re right – these online tools are facilitating the establishment of REAL friendships and relationships. It sounds stupid but I owe A LOT to my blog, Twitter, etc – it’s provided me with opportunities I otherwise would have never realized.

  • jenniferalaine Reply

    I love #5 — the Internet friends I’ve met in real life are some of my favorite people in the world. My friends in real life who know I blog and have this whole online world don’t really get it, and some are worried about my “safety”. But it’s not about that anymore; instead it’s about connecting people who would never have been connected before and the implicit trust that requires is a solid foundation for a great friendship.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well said Jen – and you’re right, the “non” bloggers still think it’s weird and creepy to meet up with online friends. My fiance still thinks I’m nuts when I say I’m going to a “tweet up” (which, full disclosure I hate that phrase – even if that’s what it is). But you’re right – these online tools are facilitating the establishment of REAL friendships and relationships. It sounds stupid but I owe A LOT to my blog, Twitter, etc – it’s provided me with opportunities I otherwise would have never realized.

  • David Spinks Reply

    Disagreed on #5. The internet is still a very creepy place to meet people…unless it’s for business/networking. That’s why there are so few in college and younger, that isn’t into networking, on twitter. In general, people still need their privacy online and will only connect with friends.

    The others are all good though ^_^

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Disagree – it’s still not “creepy” to make friends online. I’m the perfect case study. Technically, I was first introduced to my (now) fiance via Myspace over four years ago. If that isn’t enough, I would literally not know anyone in Chicago (other than my family) if it wasn’t for Twitter and my blog. Thus, the Internet can be a great way to spark an initial conversation (in a non creepy way) that can lead to REAL friendships and business connections.

      In college it’s not as important because you’re surrounded by people all the time – it’s a social playground. But once you graduate, it’s not easy to meet people outside of work – unless you want to go be that creepy guy sitting at the end of the bar alone.

  • David Spinks Reply

    Disagreed on #5. The internet is still a very creepy place to meet people…unless it’s for business/networking. That’s why there are so few in college and younger, that isn’t into networking, on twitter. In general, people still need their privacy online and will only connect with friends.

    The others are all good though ^_^

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Disagree – it’s still not “creepy” to make friends online. I’m the perfect case study. Technically, I was first introduced to my (now) fiance via Myspace over four years ago. If that isn’t enough, I would literally not know anyone in Chicago (other than my family) if it wasn’t for Twitter and my blog. Thus, the Internet can be a great way to spark an initial conversation (in a non creepy way) that can lead to REAL friendships and business connections.

      In college it’s not as important because you’re surrounded by people all the time – it’s a social playground. But once you graduate, it’s not easy to meet people outside of work – unless you want to go be that creepy guy sitting at the end of the bar alone.

  • Tara Reply

    Love #1- Couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! Yesterday, I quit my full time (plus benefits!) job because it was making me miserable. As I told my friends, it was stealing my soul. While I do have a somewhat stable back-up plan — a quality retail job and a stable freelancing position — I still feel liberated. I couldn’t let it hold me back anymore — I’m so glad I decided to be selfish and not stay there because I felt badly about the company. Honestly, I feel like a brand new person.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      It’s a great feeling, isn’t it Tara? It’s never easy to quit anything, but sometimes, you HAVE to be selfish to get ahead in life. I went through the same thing earlier this year, with nothing lined up – and while I was worried where I would end up or what I would find, like you, I felt liberated – like a brand new person – when I stopped doing what was “safe”, grabbed the reigns, and took control of my own life. Cheers to you – and keep in touch – would love to know how things progress for you in 2010!

  • Tara Reply

    Love #1- Couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! Yesterday, I quit my full time (plus benefits!) job because it was making me miserable. As I told my friends, it was stealing my soul. While I do have a somewhat stable back-up plan — a quality retail job and a stable freelancing position — I still feel liberated. I couldn’t let it hold me back anymore — I’m so glad I decided to be selfish and not stay there because I felt badly about the company. Honestly, I feel like a brand new person.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      It’s a great feeling, isn’t it Tara? It’s never easy to quit anything, but sometimes, you HAVE to be selfish to get ahead in life. I went through the same thing earlier this year, with nothing lined up – and while I was worried where I would end up or what I would find, like you, I felt liberated – like a brand new person – when I stopped doing what was “safe”, grabbed the reigns, and took control of my own life. Cheers to you – and keep in touch – would love to know how things progress for you in 2010!

  • Bradford Shimp Reply

    Amazing post. I agree with every point. This is inspiring. I have learned many of the same things, but you really boil them down to truths.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Bradford – glad you could find ways to relate these to your own life. Cheers!

  • Bradford Shimp Reply

    Amazing post. I agree with every point. This is inspiring. I have learned many of the same things, but you really boil them down to truths.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Bradford – glad you could find ways to relate these to your own life. Cheers!

  • Ashley Reply

    EXCELLENT list of lessons learned Matt! Considering I also quit my job with nothing on deck except a trip to drain all my savings and it was the BEST decision I ever made. By far.

    Here’s to 2010 being a fabulous year!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      That’s so awesome Ashley – I’m jealous I didn’t do that myself – but I’m going to make much more time for ME in 2010 – more on that in tomorrow’s post. Cheers right back at ya’ – it’s going to be an amazing year ahead of us, I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me next…

  • Ashley Reply

    EXCELLENT list of lessons learned Matt! Considering I also quit my job with nothing on deck except a trip to drain all my savings and it was the BEST decision I ever made. By far.

    Here’s to 2010 being a fabulous year!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      That’s so awesome Ashley – I’m jealous I didn’t do that myself – but I’m going to make much more time for ME in 2010 – more on that in tomorrow’s post. Cheers right back at ya’ – it’s going to be an amazing year ahead of us, I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me next…

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    I’m with you on all of them, especially number 10. Hoping to see more of this in 2010, rather than sheep just blindly following.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Couldn’t agree more – if people would start admitting that they don’t know everything (consider this my public service announcement) – we’d all be a lot better off! I’m most thankful for the Internet paving the way toward friendships like the one you and I have. Cheers buddy!

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    I’m with you on all of them, especially number 10. Hoping to see more of this in 2010, rather than sheep just blindly following.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Couldn’t agree more – if people would start admitting that they don’t know everything (consider this my public service announcement) – we’d all be a lot better off! I’m most thankful for the Internet paving the way toward friendships like the one you and I have. Cheers buddy!

  • Karen Reply

    “I get by with a little help from my friends!” – The Beatles.

    Well said there, Matt. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing your lessons learned. It’s that time of year to sit and reflect; I’m looking forward to doing some reflecting of my own!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks as always for coming by Karen – it’s great to have you as a part of the community here. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you!

  • Karen Reply

    “I get by with a little help from my friends!” – The Beatles.

    Well said there, Matt. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing your lessons learned. It’s that time of year to sit and reflect; I’m looking forward to doing some reflecting of my own!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks as always for coming by Karen – it’s great to have you as a part of the community here. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you!

  • JONNY | thelifething.com Reply

    Nice man, good reflections on your year. Enjoyed reading them.

  • JONNY | thelifething.com Reply

    Nice man, good reflections on your year. Enjoyed reading them.

  • Helene Reply

    Love this list! #1 really hit home for me. I quit a very profitable job in September to pursue freelance writing. I’m sure my friends and family thought I was crazy – as a matter of fact, I’m sure many of them still do. But I finally admitted that I was doing something that sounded pretty impressive but wasn’t me at all – and I’ve never been happier. I’ve made some great connections and I can’t believe how far I’ve come in just a few months. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and know that things are going to work out.
    Beset of luck you to you in 2010!!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Helene and kudos to you for having the guts to part ways with your “secure” job and pursue something you are passionate about. 2009 was an eventful year, to say the least, and I see big things ahead in the coming year. Best wishes to you as well – hope you’ll come around more often!

  • Helene Reply

    Love this list! #1 really hit home for me. I quit a very profitable job in September to pursue freelance writing. I’m sure my friends and family thought I was crazy – as a matter of fact, I’m sure many of them still do. But I finally admitted that I was doing something that sounded pretty impressive but wasn’t me at all – and I’ve never been happier. I’ve made some great connections and I can’t believe how far I’ve come in just a few months. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and know that things are going to work out.
    Beset of luck you to you in 2010!!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Helene and kudos to you for having the guts to part ways with your “secure” job and pursue something you are passionate about. 2009 was an eventful year, to say the least, and I see big things ahead in the coming year. Best wishes to you as well – hope you’ll come around more often!

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