Every year on my birthday I open the notes on my phone and create a new note titled with my age. As the year goes on and I learn lessons, I write them down so I can reflect on what the past year has taught me. I started doing this on my 30th birthday and I loved it so much I now write them down and share them every year. It’s my favorite birthday tradition.

I turn 35 today and here are 5 things I learned in my 34th year of life:

Sometimes what’s better for the collective is more important than what’s best for you.
We all know this right? Returning your grocery cart isn’t the most fun thing ever when you’re in a hurry but we do it because if we leave it in a parking spot, it’s inconvenient to someone else. We do little things every day for the greater good of others but never ever on par with what we went through this year. This year we saw empty offices, 6 feet of distance between people and more face masks than I could have ever imagined but we all join together in the idea that the collective is more important than the individual.

Find the gifts in crappy/unexpected circumstances
OK so in my 34th year there was a global pandemic and I really couldn’t have imagined that it would have impacted our entire world. Pre-pandemic my life was full of appointments, lunch with friends, attending my favorite workout classes. My whole life more or less revolved around not being home. Even my quality time with Jeff was going out somewhere, anywhere. I spent 11/12 months of my 34th year at home and honestly, while it wasn’t easy to be away from gatherings and friends, I found immense gratitude in being at home with Jeff. I was pregnant most of the year and being “stuck” at home meant pausing to really savor the moments and quality time we have together. We were forced to pause. While you won’t catching me say “let’s do that again” I’ve found the gift of slowing down for the first time ever and that’s a gift I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

Learning how to pivot is a skill you can take with you anywhere
I had big plans last year…well…we had big plans last year for our business and most of them revolved around seeing people face to face which quickly went away. It became the year of the pivot for us. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we own our own business so losing a primary source of income forced us to pivot and create something different than we had originally planned. This year I learned how to pivot more than ever. If you’d ask me what pivoting meant last year I’d have seen it as a weakness…something failed so you were forced in a new direction. I now see pivoting as an incredible skill. Being flexible and knowing how to pivot ensures that you’re constantly willing to walk in a direction towards success as the world or circumstances change. Yes, I’ll be adding that to my resume.

Not everyone is cut out for leadership and that’s OK
I used to think being a leader meant that you successfully mastered leading other people. That thought changed for me this year. Jeff and I own a business but we realized the past year that trying to manage other people isn’t what we’re good at…so we hired a boss to lead us. Not everyone is cut out to lead others. Sometimes forcing a non-natural leader to manage other people is like a round hole in a square peg and guess what: it doesn’t make you any less of a business person or a human being, it just takes your time and focus away from what you are good at. Delegate and move on!

Hire people smarter than you with different skill sets
I think the typical corporate structure is set up so that we assume people in positions are smarter than we are…that’s what I always thought anyway. NOT TRUE. The smartest leaders consistently hire people smarter than they are with skill sets they don’t have. Put the ego aside and you’ll thank yourself later.