“Reality tells you what you can’t do.”
— Rick Rubin on HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, Season 2, Episode 4
It’s the end of a decade, and I can’t help but reflect on where I am now versus where I was back in December 2009.
This entire decade, pretty much, has been the balancing act between the blog, the family, and the day-to-day work as a public servant for Ontario.
Back then, I’d just started my first job out of the Ontario Internship Program, putting my time and energy into that and the time I spent with Sarah. I didn’t even really use Facebook at the time, much less everything I’d get up to on Twitter just a year later—the world I spend all this time on now as a Canadian Dad was utterly inconceivable to me back then, because so much less was on the line. Nor was I married. Or had any kids. So many of the things that make me a better man and keep me coming back to do the best that I can for all that are things I wouldn’t appreciate until I had them.
But a decade later, my friend Ramy put it to me best—the more you do something, the more your capacity grows to take on even more, and that’s the mentality I’m keeping with me as I get ready for 2020. Work smarter. Plan better. Make better decisions. I’ve come this far this last decade while doing whatever I wanted and getting better at it along the way. But you eventually hit a point where that just doesn’t cut it anymore, and in 2020, I think I’ll finally learn what I’m made of.
LESSON ONE: Success is More Than Just a Number on a Screen
One thing I can tell you that separates the me today from the person I was a decade ago is that I think differently.
When I started this blogger journey, I treated success like it was a quantifiable measure. That I was the sum of the followers I had. Or that I should measure my happiness by the number of comments I got on my work. I would chase after engagement rates, post frequencies and Domain Authority scores, thinking that they were the keys to my success, but what I understand now is that they’re all just indicative of something much larger at play.
It goes back to what I’ve been saying all along—the medium doesn’t matter if you’ve got an amazing story to tell.
When I took a break from creating as intensely as I usually did in the last few months of the decade, it made me understand that it was what I probably should’ve been doing all along—taking the time to make my work great instead of just good. You get used to trying so hard to be first or trying to be on trend that you forget that great work usually doesn’t just pop out of thin air. If you don’t spend the time and nurture it, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.
What that sweat equity looks like for me is bleeding pens dry. Blazing through as many notebooks as I can. I’m trying to spin gold from a dining room table full of straw every night, and as much as it pains some right now to see me work as hard as I do, I keep doing it because I know there are higher heights I can reach if I try.
LESSON TWO: Show, Prove and BELIEVE in What’s Possible.
I’m of a very “show and prove” mentality, so I understand that I can’t expect others to see what’s in my head unless I lay it out and show how it all comes together. I know that whatever actions I take now will only build toward the success I want to see in the future. But, asking for that kind of faith from others for then when they’re so busy surviving the now is no easy proposition, so I’m sure that slowing down and getting my head out of the clouds would be a big help.
But who, then, would that make me a year from now? A decade from now? Would I be a better or a worse husband, father, family member and friend if I didn’t seize the opportunities before me and try to make something special of it all?
I can’t see the future, but what I do know is this—though I always compare myself to other creators, thinking I’m not doing well enough, there’s still so much of a story to tell when it comes to the fatherhood experience. Until I’ve found the right way to do it for me, I’ll never really feel like I did enough.
So if that means that the people I care about are angry with my decisions in the short term, or that others get mad because I don’t use my voice in the battles they want me to fight, that’s a cross I’m willing to bear while I work all the pieces out.
But if I’m working to become successful, I’d better damn well be ready for it.
LESSON THREE: Learn to Treat Your Brand as a Business Instead of Just a Big Hobby.
I’ll often start the year with a million things I want to do, looking to make a clean break from the one I had before. Yeah, Black History Month’s always waiting in the wings by then, but after the chaos Christmas serves up, it’s easy to feel like a fresh start will help put the pep in your step to start the year off right, but that’s just a distraction from what you need to do.
And we’re on the cusp of a year where I’ve finally started to figure that out. If you don’t put in the proper planning and preparation for the opportunities that might come your way, you’re going to squander them.
That’s something I’ve had to learn from more than a couple of times.
So that means I need to approach the year ahead treating my brand as a business looking to grow instead of just this fun thing I do on the side.
What does that look like? It looks like putting The 2020 200 aside, no matter how clever the title sounds. Or writing a dozen well-spaced pieces for Black History Month if daily gems aren’t realistic. I’m learning to temper my expectations and do more with the resources I have, because the better I build up my base, the more I’ll be able to handle when the time finally does come.
A new decade asks for a new Casey Palmer from my brand. Who am I to deny the sands of time?
FINAL LESSON: Think of Who You Were a Decade Ago, and Who You are Today. THEN, Imagine Who You Can Be a Decade from NOW. GO FOR IT.
I want a year of more definition. A year valuing more of what I’ve created already and building a stronger foundation for the future ahead. There is no possible way I could’ve dreamt of being where I’m at a decade ago, and that’s the same thing I want to be saying a decade from now.
But as someone who felt lost for ages, feeling like others defined my path for me in education, career and more, it’s time I take things seriously instead of blaming anyone but myself. If my next decade isn’t as amazing as I want it to be, no one’s going to care about it as much as me, so I’d better be willing to put the work in to see it happen.
Everything said I think that’s a great way to wrap my decade up! I hope this somehow resonated with you, I wish you all the success, and if there’s some way we can raise each other up in the months and years ahead, I hope you’ll remember to look me up!
For now, though, get out there and celebrate the end of these past ten years! It’s a new decade in the morning—let’s all be our best for it!
Be safe, and we’ll see you then,