The paths we take... and make

The barbs are worth it to get to the other side. 

The barbs are worth it to get to the other side. 

My mom still lives in the house I grew up in, five miles outside of my Missouri hometown. The house and its flower-filled yard, along with two bayed buildings now used for storage, front an acre of timber where the sun sets. When I go back to visit, I retrace the paths I traveled as a kid, like the trail that led the way from the house to my dad’s shop, where he repaired and restored cars. And the path to the barbed wire fence I would climb to explore our neighbor’s property. With streams, ponds, boulders and meadows--as well as wandering cattle that cut down the overgrowth--it was worth it to risk the barbs (and the chance of getting caught trespassing).  

My mom working in her office at UCM. I loved visiting her at work. 

My mom working in her office at UCM. I loved visiting her at work. 

My dad, a business owner who preferred writing on walls. (Those are pencil marks behind him). I inherited both traits. 

My dad, a business owner who preferred writing on walls. (Those are pencil marks behind him). I inherited both traits. 

Crossing the fence to business ownership has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I met it in 2016 by starting 3chord Marketing. Maybe the entrepreneurial spark came from my late father, who started and ran his own auto body business. And my mom was instrumental in my journey, instilling in me the value of working hard and unwittingly putting me on a path to a marketing communications career. When she became a single mother, Mom started her career as an administrative assistant at the University of Central Missouri. While spending time at her office (usually after serving detentions and walking to campus to ride home with her), I’d envision the day I would go to college.

To bring in more income, Mom sold Home Interiors, and I witnessed her presenting at meetings, helping customers and working hard to manage it all so we could keep the only home my sisters and I had known. 

All the while, the free time I had as a Gen X “latch key kid” was spent with my nose in a book or a pencil in my hand. While childhood wasn’t perfect (is anyone’s?), the positive and negative experiences--and countless ones since--were all critical parts of my path. In the years since, the people I’ve met along the way have been instrumental to every accomplishment.

During the beginning of each new year, mantras and advice abound, like “live in the moment” versus dwelling in the past, and “approach every day with a spirit of gratitude.” While mindfulness and gratitude are important, reflecting on the paths we’ve traveled and the relationships we’ve built should be part of the process, helping us appreciate where we are now while inspiring us for the future. As da Vinci said, everything connects to everything else.

As we transition to 2017, take some time to reflect on the following questions: 

  1. How did you get here? What life experiences and relationships were integral to who you are today? (And have you thanked those people lately?) 
  2. What were some of the positive experiences and successes of 2016? How did they come about? Why were they positive? 
  3. What were some of the challenging moments of 2016? What did you learn from them? 
  4. How can you apply what you’ve learned from both the positive and challenging experiences to your personal and professional goals and action items for the future?

I find this activity to be motivating and fulfilling to do during the transition to the new year, storing the top moments, lessons learned and goals in an easily accessible Google Doc I can review and update periodically. If you take me up on this challenge, drop me a note and let me know what you think. And if I can support you in any of your goals, let me know that, too! 

Wishing you all the best as you travel your paths in 2017.