11 Valuable Lessons I Learned This Year


My birthday was yesterday and in hopes of feeling wiser and one-upping myself in the year to come, I recapped all the lessons I learned.

Over this past year I had a ton of new and adventurous Hollywood experiences — namely a private No Doubt concert, studio sessions with various artists, and meeting one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. I’ve also had more awesome nights that were filled with laughter than I can count. Additionally, I’ve had a few modest wins in my career. All in all, I’d say this year was a success when I look back at it.
Here is the advice I’d give to anybody else looking to have a similar really awesome year.

Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to speak up.

In work, and all of life really, the most scary and rewarding times have happened when I’ve spoken what’s my mind. Typically I form a strong point of view on just about everything, but I still second guess every time I speak up for fear that I might say something stupid or be judged poorly for my very strong opinion or for taking a stand when others are keeping quiet. Despite these fears, this year I decided to trust my gut reactions and speak on them. Because of this I’ve noticed more people coming to me to help shape ideas and make them better. I’m also told that my speaking up has inspired others to do so as well. Speaking my opinion, even if it’s an unfavorable one at first, has allowed me to step up and be a leader.

Lesson 2: Always say yes.

Do you want to know the secret to getting invited to cool shit? Always say yes. When I moved to LA, I had one goal, and that was to squeeze every last bit out of life. After being bored in my previous city, I wanted my life to be full of spontaneity and adventure. I vowed to say yes to invitations. I wanted to be known as reliable and up for anything. One time my friend, who was a new friend and slightly skeptical in the beginning, hit me up at 2am and told me to swing by what I assumed was a bar. I was headed home from being out and since I hadn’t hit the bed yet, I said sure. What I thought was going to be an after hours spot, was actually an iconic recording studio. I ended up watching a creative music session with some of the Black Eyed Peas. Turns out my friend was a pretty awesome song writer, and wanted to give me a glimpse of his work life. It was unforgettable and incredibly inspiring. I was happy I had been open to the unknown.

Lesson 3: Be open to new friends no matter if they don’t seem like they are your type.

I’m a creative person and I love creative people. I also love anybody who is ambitious and self-made. Another time I was out and about with a friend, we stopped at a corny cantina &  bar and bought margaritas in plastic cups the size of our head. As we walked to find a place to sit I caught eyes with a guy and swerved to go talk to him. While he was cute, he looked a little rough around the edges. He wasn’t somebody I would normally consider dating. As I walked up to his table, all I really could think of to say was, “hi.” So that’s what I did, then I introduced myself and my friend. He invited us to join his table and so we did. About a minute later one of his friends arrived to the table as well, he looked even more rough around the edges and immediately took a liking to me. But because we were bored and had huge margaritas we stayed and talked with the guys. We found out that the first guy was a videographer and the other was an artist manager. This small conversation turned into a nice friendship and a couple more invites to creative studio sessions with a pretty well known artist. Aside from getting some cool invites, these guys were about a million times nicer and more gentleman like than I ever would’ve guessed by looking at them. I was happy we decided to sit down and spark a conversation. Variety is the spice of life, and this year being open to new types of people has made my life more flavorful.
Secondly, remember my songwriter friend in lesson #1? He was wearing sunglasses…at night…inside when I met him. Glad I was open to the creative, crazy genius that he is.

Lesson 4: Don’t sleep.

I’ve missed a few epic after-parties this year because the invite came in after I was already in bed. The lure of my cozy cocoon had been too strong to resist and I’ve ended up staying in instead of accepting the invite, only to wake up and hearing about all the fun I could’ve had from my friends. A couple times of doing this has created enough regret that I’ve vowed for the next year to never let my comfortable bed deter me from getting up and out of the house.

The second lesson from “don’t sleep” is goal-related. I’ve started getting up at 5am in the mornings to work on my passion projects. Though 5am is a full hour or two earlier than when I would typically wake up, I learned that rather than being tired from lack of sleep, I’m actually more energized because I’m excited about making progress. Taking advantage of all the hours in the day is something I’ve trained myself to do this year and so far it’s paying off and helps me live a well-rounded life. My life is no longer filled with “either / or” it’s filled with “and.” Once I started to believe I could have it all — a full-time job and side projects, and a social life, and great friendships, and enough sleep — I started to have it all.

Lesson 5: Keep in touch and foster authentic relationships.

Reach out when you don’t need something, it goes a long way. This year I attended a workshop that encouraged honest communication. We learned and practiced how to state reactions and feelings in an objective way. This required giving and listening to a LOT of feedback. This course taught me multiple lessons, but one that stands out is how much little gestures, words and actions mean to people and make a difference in their life. furthermore I saw how these little efforts influences other’s perception of me. As a result of this lesson, I’ve started reaching out more often and speaking very authentically to my friends. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much this has strengthened relationships with those in my life.

Lesson 6: Hang out with the people who make you laugh and appreciate your company.

At the beginning of the year, there was a little group of people that always hung out together, they were all cool, smart and fun people, but every time I hung around that group, I ended up leaving unfulfilled. I’m not quite sure why, other than than it seemed that I never really had fun. The sense of being left unfulfilled always left me feeling kind of bad. Later in the year I found a few new friends who liked to have fun no matter where they went. A few weekends with this group and my life was immediately uplifted. Their lighthearted attitudes, easy laughter and willingness to start a dance party anywhere always left me felling full. These people left me with a sense of satisfaction. We ended up enjoying every moment life offered. After comparing the situations of these two groups I’ve decided that my life is only as good as the company I keep. That people who invite joy and laughter into my life deserve all the time I have to give.

Lesson 7: Don’t forget to visit and call Mom and Dad.

I work a lot. a lot. I’ll say it again – a lot. This year my mom said something to me that made me feel incredibly disappointed with myself. Though she didn’t mean to have that effect, when she said , “I didn’t know if I should call you because you’re always so busy,” my heart dropped. For the amount of support my parents have unconditionally given me my entire life, I didn’t ever want my mom to think I was too busy to talk to her. It was that tiny sentence that reminded me that my job won’t be at my death bed. Family is the most important thing we have all been blessed with. With that, I booked two trips home and worked in morning calls to my mother during my commute.

Lesson 8: You’re never too old to have the relationships you want.

My sister and I are 4 years apart and really different people. My entire life, we’ve both expressed the desire to be closer but neither of us have been able to really get there. This year, as a result of the workshop I mentioned earlier, I finally prioritized making our relationship better. It required making more frequent calls, getting real in our conversations and even a few nasty disagreements to get to a place where we’ve finally built a foundation of what we wanted our sisterly relationship to look like. What this taught me is that there is no time like the present. Rather than accepting the idea that as adults, we would never have a fulfilling relationship, we took a stand together and created something wonderful.

Lesson 9: Respect and learn from everybody you work with and for.

Though I may not love the way co-workers or bosses do things all the time, I’ve started to believe that that people got to where they are for a reason, just like I did.  When I started my new job, I had to adjust to the unconventional way one of my bosses lead our team. It was uncomfortable at first and I resisted every step of the way until finally I chose to view this person from a different perspective. Instead of criticizing and resisting his unconventional methods, I decided to observe him and figure out what his strengths were. After a few weeks of really looking at him in a different light, I ended up not only respecting his style, but learning from it as well. Now, for instance if I have a co-worker who is super awesome at bullshitting his/her way instead of being prepared, I learn to bullshit from the best. I also had co-worker who seemed like an asshole but always managed to get what she wanted. Instead of shying away from her because of her reputation, I started to break down why I thought she always got what she asked for. The conclusion I came to was that being harsh didn’t necessarily get her the goods, but rather it was the way she was confident and unwavering in going after what she wanted.

Lesson 10: Be grateful and think positively.

Super corny, but as soon as I shifted to moment-to-moment gratefulness and rid my mind of negative thoughts, more awesome things happen, simply by believing they would and being thankful for what I already had. One fantastic book that helped me look at and shift my thinking is “ask and it is given.” I listened to this on the way to work for about 2 weeks; those 2 weeks ended up being amazing in every way I could hope for.

Lesson 11: Appreciate.

A close 11th lesson is being appreciative. I have made time to be appreciative not only for what I have but to those around me; if wasn’t for for a bunch of other people helping with all these awesome experiences, I would have one boring and stagnant year.

featured image – Maria Morri