The Hardest Year to Date: A 2020 Recap

Entrepreneurship, Life, Leadership

Last year's annual wrap-up looks quite a bit different than this year's and I'm sure there's no surprise why. 2020 has been like Buzz's girlfriend, woof. Seriously, this has been one of the hardest years personally, professionally, mentally, and emotionally. I could add physically in there as COVID-19 has been so gracious to help me gain another 10lbs, but it has done serious damage to many people, so as much as I'd like to make light of the situation, I think that'd be in poor taste.

In an effort to keep it honest but find the silver lining, here's my 2020 recap:

In 2020...

  • Shit hit every single fricking fan. I mean really, it did. Every single one.
  • We survived one of the most tumultuous presidential elections. Not to make this a political statement, but I really don't think I could have handled another four years of this crap. I don't think the country could have either.
  • I worked the polls for the presidential election. I don't consider myself a very political person, but I was so worked up this year, I needed to take some type of action. So my sister and I and some of our respective team members sponsored a polling place and worked 15 hours on November 3rd, to ensure hundreds of people had the opportunity to cast their vote. It was one of the most incredible and humbling experiences of my life.
  • I led my team through a global pandemic. For all you small business owners out there, I see you. This year sucked. How do you lead your team with confidence and certainty in a time when you have no idea what is going to happen? How do you continue billing your clients/customers when people are losing their jobs? Blind faith and a bit of compassion, I think that's how. But it has been exhausting, to say the least.
  • We bought a house. YAY! We bought a house just outside of Milwaukee and are in love with it. However, buying a house is also quite a rollercoaster. Holy cow. We looked for 9 months, saw 25 houses, put in 5 offers, and got an accepted offer within 60 minutes of submitting our fifth offer. But who's counting? This market is bonkers.
  • I began working with a life/business coach. In the middle of 2020, I was feeling a bit stuck. I found the amazing Leah Roe who sat with me in my stickiness, asked me hard questions, and helped me clear a path to move forward. There's no gift like the gift of clarity. Boy oh boy, it's a game-changer.
  • I became a CEPA. A Certified Exit Planning Advisor that is. At the end of summer, we had a client approach us and ask for help selling her company. I openly stated I'd never done this before but would love to do more of this type of work. She signed on and I spent almost $2k getting certified to better guide small businesses through the exit of their companies. It's so fascinating and I hope to do more of this type of work moving forward.
  • Brainchild Studios won a few awards.┬áMost notably, Brainchild Studios was awarded Business Services Company of the Year with 10 or fewer employees. This is the second year in a row we won this international award. Humbling doesn't even begin to describe it.

Major lessons learned in 2020:

  • Slow down. Not that we really had any choice this year, but it's been a good reminder. Only say yes to the things that help you reach your goals/desired life and say no to the other things. Spend a few extra minutes soaking up the morning sun and snuggling on the couch and marveling at nature. Slow down. Life happens too fast.
  • Don't take your health for granted. As I've mentioned, entrepreneurship and poor habits have compounded a bit for me and I'm working towards making those changes. In the last few weeks, I've invested in a walking pad for my standing desk, a stationary bike, a Fitbit, and a few additional accessories for our new workout room. Time to start making changes.
  • Find gratitude in everything. I'm actively practicing gratitude and realizing how much I have to be grateful for. Leah, my business coach, reminded me that instead of saying "I have to do X" think about rephrasing it to be "I get to do X." It's been a monumental shift in mindset and graciousness.
  • Be vulnerable. This year I had to have a few tough conversations. However, I realized that in order to be honest with myself and to myself, they needed to happen. Have the strength to be vulnerable and stand up for yourself.
  • Focus on the numbers. At Brainchild Studios, we always focus on the numbers, but this year we honed in on them. And while doing so helped us make smart business decisions to keep our business afloat and be able to give generous gifts at the end of the year, this also helped us realize our next steps in building the company. By focusing on the numbers, it's become crystal clear what our next steps need to be and it feels like running in a wide-open plain. Nothing to hold us back!
  • Pivot. I mean, I think we're all professional pivoters after this year, but it's a good reminder that in order to not get run over, you gotta be prepared to read the room, act two steps ahead and make moves.
  • Figure out what you really want in life, then go get it. I've been saying this for about a decade now, but I want to own my time. That's one of the reasons I started Brainchild Studios. It's also one of the reasons that this year I've started focusing on aggressively saving for retirement so I have options as to how I spend my time. I love working. I love my work. I'm incredibly proud of the career and the professional and personal opportunities I've built for myself. However, I'm 34 years old and I'm tired. I don't have children yet, and while I hope to, I'd like to carve out more space in my too-many-hours-a-week work week that I could spend time with them. So I'm aggressively saving for retirement. And right now that's what I want. The option to be able to retire early. Not that I would, but just the option to do so. So I can really own my time and, therefore, own my life.
  • Figure out what you want your legacy to be and do something about it. This year, we lost my personal idol, RBG. I realize that my somewhat obsession with her probably seems a little misplaced as I don't have a career in law or the judicial system. But there's just something about this woman who defied all odds, gave the proverbial middle finger to everyone who said she couldn't do it, and then became one of the greatest champions for women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community in history. Everything she did was in the pursuit of equity and equality. Not that one is better than another, just equal. And there's something about this woman that makes me cry every time I think of her or say her name. And maybe it's because the world feels a little less safe with her gone but I also think it's because I feel some strange calling deep down to do my part to continue her fight. To continue the pursuit of equity and equality and general kindness towards humanity. So figure out what matters to you. Figure out what you want people to say when you leave this world. And then make sure your actions day-in and day-out reflect that pending legacy.

As for this year...

This year provided a strong arm to those of us who go-go-go. To those of us who are used to networking events three nights a week. To those of us who say yes to most partnership opportunities that come our way. To those of us to put aside healthy habits because they get in the way of our work. Hard stop.

But I think it's a good thing. This year taught me all of the above and also taught me that nothing is guaranteed. So hedge your bets and focus your time, energy, and resources on the things that truly matter most. People.

For this upcoming year...

Breathe it in. I know it doesn't erase 2020. I know it won't magically make it all better. But breathe it in. Regardless of what it is and what it isn't, it's a new year. And that means it's a blank canvas. Another opportunity to create a masterpiece, whatever that means to you.

Moving into 2021, I'm going to focus on the following:

  • Paying off my debt. I'm paying off my car at the end of this year and hoping to pay off my student loans by the end of 2021. At that point, sans our mortgage, I'll be debt-free! Yippee!
  • Saving for early retirement. Keeping my eye on the prize and maxing out all of my savings avenues!
  • Being healthier. For me this means hitting my 10k steps and my minimum of 22 active minutes every day. It means losing a few pounds and making healthier eating decisions.
  • Becoming a certified life/business coach. Following in the steps of my life/business coach, I'll be starting the Co-Active Coach Training Program in January and working towards becoming a business coach for womxn business owners and entrepreneurs hopefully by the end of 2021!

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

I wish you and your loved ones a very healthy and happy end of 2020 and entrance into 2021.

Happy New Year!

Kiley Owner & CEO, Brainchild Studios

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