You’re a leader who is making change through your work. So I want to let you a little closer to what I learned and did this year in hopes that it helps you take your next steps, leaps and risks.

Most of my learning comes through experiences, not books or lectures

Each December I look back and ask, “What experiences shaped me the most this year?” As I did this exercise I had a few big realizations…

Loss and grief shaped me this year. It was a “valley year” for me

Those losses helped me become more resilient, steady and grounded

Time in creation was more life-giving and healing than usual

Moments with those I love felt sweeter this year

I needed a slow year, but I wouldn’t have asked for it

Losses created space for even greater gains

12 experiences that shaped me the most this year

“The week of loss” In just over a week Julie and I lost dozens of opportunities and months of income. This loss (which felt like a nightmare to someone in their first year of bootstrapping a business) allowed Stay Forth to adapt and created space for great opportunities. Without these losses we would have never added Stay Forth coaches and hosted Healthy Leaders Summit with Compassion International.

Moving into an office when everyone was moving out of theirs Coaching and podcasting at home wasn’t exactly working any longer once my four kids were learning from home. After officing from my writing shed for six weeks I moved into a beautiful and creative space. It sits on a wilderness preserve just a mile from our home. And it’s super quiet.

My annual time away with my bride In our first year of marriage Julie and I committed to get away every year for our anniversary. We often have to scrap to find the time or money, but it’s always worth getting away from the challenges to focus back on each other.

Watching my daughter’s photography business take flight My seventeen year old is an incredibly gifted photographer. Some amazing photographers gifted her time, training and even a camera. Her photo shoots and editing have taken off, and she is getting vision for her future. Coaching leaders toward impact is great, but watching your daughter step into her unique design is even better.

A summer getaway to Arizona With some cool trips cancelled we needed some family fun. We always have a blast swimming in the pool at my folks house and eating great food together. We needed this family trip!

The sweet mess of quarantine While I didn’t love getting grounded by quarantine, I needed it. There were cranky family moments and tears about online school, but there were also beautiful times together. The pandemic cancelled a lot of good stuff, but it also cleared a lot of frustrating and monotonous stuff out of the way. This left us with evenings in our PJs for more connective dinners, board games, family movies and WAY LESS DRIVING AROUND TOWN. I took up walking multiple times a day, and our kids loved the slower pace.

A backpacking trip with my sons I’ve always dreamed of taking my boys backpacking, and I got to do it this summer. We slept under the peaks, carried way more food than we needed and caught over 100 trout. I will never forget those few days, and I hope they won’t either.

Experiencing the beauty and pain of Nicaragua Julie and I had the honor of joining a Compassion International trip to see their incredible work through churches in communities. We experienced the beauty of their relationships, unbridled joy and stunning landscape as we peered into the pain and struggle of poverty.

Rediscovering the joy of cooking In the rush of suburban family life and years of little kids being picky food had lost a lot of the joy it once had for me. This year the table became central to our family again, and I rediscovered the joy of cooking. I am learning to smoke meat, and I also cook a lot over hot coals in our back yard fire pit.

Coaching leaders adapting like never before Helping leaders clarify and take their next steps is always fulfilling, but it was exhilarating in 2020! Leaders have never needed coaching in order to make hard decisions and take courageous steps than they do RIGHT NOW. I joined a strenuous journey with many leaders this year. Most of my clients experienced serious transformational shifts in their life and leadership.

Celebrating my birthday with buddies around the fire I really missed friends during quarantine. That bled into summer where I worked hard and spent a lot of time with my family. For my birthday all I wanted was to sit around the fire with friends. It was a special moment to reflect on what we had all been through and celebrate one another.

Blessing pastors on The Phoenix Fill Up Each year our Stay Forth team blesses pastors with a ridiculously refreshing experience under the desert palms. We laughed, ate, relaxed and had fun with pastors who were tired from navigating the wilderness. During the apex moment we sat around a beautiful meal reflecting on the pain and beauty of 2020.

Our lives are made of moments. Because we live in a forward-focused, impact-driven, full-speed-ahead culture we miss these sacred gems every day. I invite you to block off time to reflect on the beauty and brokenness of 2020 and how those moments shaped you. I am not who I was a year ago, and I hope you aren’t either.

Merry Christmas, friends. We have a lot to be thankful for!