5 Lessons Learned in 2012

 1. You can be the change you wish to see in the world

In January 2012, I lost my college roommate to cancer. It was a hell of the way to start off the new year. Kevin’s goal in life was, “to make a difference in the world.” With time running out, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to accomplish that.

Kevin’s mom started a chain, asking for letters from all of Kevin’s friends telling him how he changed their lives so she could put them in a book. Hundreds of letters poured in, even from people Kevin didn’t know but who were inspired by his blog and his journey. It was obvious from looking at that book and looking around his funeral at the hundreds of people who traveled from all over the country to say goodbye: Kevin had accomplished his goal at only 23 years old.

Kevin taught me to be optimistic in the face of insurmountable odds. He taught me that anything is possible, and you can make the world a better place just being one person. I miss my friend.

2. Giving is better than receiving

When I was little, I was the worst gift giver. The. Worst. So I tried to make up for it at Christmas last year. I took my whole family to Puerto Rico for a week in March 2012 as their Christmas present. It was super expensive, but definitely worth it.

It was great to spend a week with my whole family.

Even if my dad complained the entire time about it being hot, and the beach was too sunny, and the rainforest was too mountain-y. Since he is still complaining about it, I know it was at least memorable.

Now I face the problem of trying to get Christmas presents that live up to that.

 3. Loving unconditionally is possible

As a newly single New Yorker, I was feeling kind of lonely after a few months. So in the course of a week in May, I decided I wanted a dog, and got one. Maryann, my new roommate, had just moved in and she approved the choice as long as he was hypoallergenic. I was looking at adoption sites, but my mom went on craigslist and saw this girl had to give up her newly adopted maltipoo puppy. He was just so damn cute in the picture. I was unsure about this transaction, but we went to see little Oscar.

Did you know love at first sight exists? I do now.

Oscar crawled right up into our laps and started playing with us. He was 5 months old, a giant ball of fur, 4 pounds. My heart melted. Another family was coming to see him after us. I made up all this crazy stuff about how she couldn’t possibly give a puppy to a family with a new born baby because the dog will bite the baby and he will be given up again (this is actually true). I seriously sabotaged this family. And I do not regret it one bit.

I completely and hopelessly love this little ball of fur, who is now 1 year old, 5 pounds, takes up my entire instagram feed, and really likes rolling on rugs.

4. Passion and direction are necessary for happiness

If you asked me a year ago what exactly I wanted to do, I wasn’t quite sure. Over the course of this year, I discovered I love startups and I love Product Management. Specifically, I love Lean Product Management and Design.

In March, I went to the Lean Startup Machine weekend. It was the most grueling 3 days ever, but in the end it was worth it. I met a ton of great people I still keep in touch with today. I discovered I was incredibly passionate about lean methodology. I went back to work and changed the way I operated my projects, making my team more successful.

If I had never gone to LSM, I would have never drank too much coconut water, got into ridiculous arguments about trial sized wine delivery services, learned about so many new startups, met amazing people, and found what I’m truly passionate about and started to teach it. Having that direction and knowing what I want to do is irreplaceable.

5. Doing things on your own is empowering

The 2011 me used to never take trips alone, go to the movies by myself, or go around the corner to a restaurant I really like and eat by myself. I’ve done all those things in 2012, and looking back on them they are some of my fondest memories. I still prefer doing things with friends, but I would rather go it alone than miss out on something I want to do.

This year I traveled to San Francisco and had a blast. I met some great people, learned new things in a conferences, and reconnected with old friends. I also had dinner with Alice Waters, nothing to sniff at. I really had a ball, equally on my own and with other people there.

There’s something to be said for being able to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it. You stop missing out on things you want to do because no one will do them with you. In 2013, I’m looking forward to doing more things on my own, taking more risks, and traveling to new places. Although, I also hope I can encourage more people to get off the couch and do them with me.