Erica’s Wordy End of Year Reflections

by Erica Pefferman

I’ve been doing something really cool this fall. I’ve checked something big off of my bucket list! I have been teaching at Stephens College as an adjunct professor for their magazine publishing course “Stephens Life.” It’s been a lot of fun and has brought my own experience as a non-traditional student full circle. I graduated with my undergrad degree in July after an on again, off again journey of 23 years and sent two sons off to college in August. Graduation and accomplishment have been a theme for 2019 for me as I reflect back on this year. It brings to mind a commencement speech I gave at Stephens College a year and a half ago where I talked about how everyone needs six things for the next chapter of their life. As we look ahead to a new year and those pesky new year’s resolutions, I submit these six things to you as I did those students.

One: You will need a community.

You need a community of people that you like to do life with. You’ve all heard how important networking is. And it is!! But, I know that some of you may hear the word networking and think that it’s an inauthentic bid to meet someone for the sole purpose of what they can give you. But the truth is…networking is about building a community of people that are mutually interested in your success. True, authentic networking is about learning who the person you’re talking to is. What makes them tick? What are they trying to accomplish and what can you do to help them with that? That’s true networking. I’ve met my best friends by being engaged in non-profit work and the Chamber of Commerce.

Two: You will need wine.

You’ll need a great glass of wine to celebrate with…to rest and to reflect. There’s something about the elegance of the glass, the feel of it in your hand, the taste of it on your tongue. For me, a glass of great cabernet is the pause button for me. Pause to think. Pause to relish. Pause to appreciate. If you don’t drink…what else is that in your life? Find something that feels indulgent to you and participate. A great cup of coffee. That piece of rich, dark chocolate. What makes you feel good? What is a signal to you and to your brain to take a break.

Three: You will need a break.

You need a break. You’ve worked hard this year. Are you tired? It’s okay if you are! I am too! Take an actual break from all things. It’s ok. The world WILL survive without you and you certainly deserve it. I know how hard it can be, but I have done it myself and lived to tell the tale.

Since I joined the 40’s last year, I have committed to doing as many things for myself as I could. New things to try. New places to go. It has included trying new music, getting a new tattoo and the biggest thing yet…going on vacation alone. As an extrovert that likes to get things accomplished ALL the time, taking a week long solo vacation was a huge risk for me. I picked a place I’d never been. I planned to do things I’ve never done. I ate things I’ve never eaten. And I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin without the coulda woulda shouldas that we do to ourselves all the time.

Four: You are going to need another goal.

You’ve accomplished some things this year. What’s next? What will keep you moving forward from here? Is it a new job? Writing that book that you’ve been thinking about incessantly? We all need a next thing. In fact, I think we all need the next several things. What is the goal you have for your life? For me, my ultimate goal is to slide in sideways at my own funeral and leave a huge group of people laughing and telling stories about all the fun things we did together. I want children that saw me work hard and give a lot to those around us in our community. I want them to know that I lived an authentic life and hopefully will have passed that value on to them. What goals do you have for yourself?

Five: You will need flexibility because your path will be twisty.

One of my favorite quotes is God draws straight with crooked lines. I resemble this A LOT. I don’t know about you, but my life looks NOTHING like I thought it would when I was 10 years old. It also doesn’t reflect anything I thought my life would be when I was 30 years old. Heck, life threw me a pretty good curveball just three years ago. The one thing I know to be true in life is that none of us know what will happen or what choices we will be faced with. And knowing this, you must remain flexible and pliable to changes as they come up. When a door is shut, look for a window to crawl through. And if there is no window, ninja kick that thing open. There’s ALWAYS a choice. Often more than one. Step back, assess and move forward with intensity.

Six: You will need to stay hungry, humble and smart.

My favorite author and speaker Patrick Lencioni recently came out with a new book. It’s called the Ideal Team Player. Basically, anything he writes is required reading for our company but this one in particular gave my leadership team and myself the words we’d been looking for that describes who we hire and ultimately who we keep at the Business Times Company. Hungry, humble and smart describes what you must be to be on our team.

Hungry refers specifically to your work ethic. You must have a strong work ethic to succeed. I’m not talking about merely the number of hours you work. In fact, an overabundance of time spent on work is often an unhealthy thing. I’m talking about a desire to be better. To grow and learn more. Your internal motivation.

Humble isn’t just being humble yourself. It’s bringing your full self to what you do for the sake of your team. Being humble is a great thing. It’s required on our team. We have no divas. But, being too humble can also be a horrible thing. If you err on the side of so much humility that you actually keep yourself from putting your gifts in play for the betterment of your company and team, you are stealing from your community and yourself.

Lastly, stay smart. I am not talking about your skill level or intelligence. I’m going to assume that you’ve got the necessary skills and intelligence to do your job. I’m talking about emotional intelligence. If you don’t know how or why you process thought, are recharged or deal with conflict…how will you understand those around you? Smart is being able to read the people around you. Smart is being able to know when to talk and when to listen. Smart is knowing how to successfully be an engaged member of a community. Smart is being what they call people smart. It’s sometimes even more important than being book smart.

In closing…if you read this whole thing, you get a very special prize. Email me here to not only prove Bethany wrong (she didn’t think you would) but to get your awesome prize!