2015 Lessons Learned

Bow Lake

As most of you know, I’m a Finance person by training so it seems natural that I first evaluate my year by the numbers. The next step was a little more challenging. How did I feel about how the year went? When I look back at all that I accomplished and didn’t accomplish in 2015, I can distill my thoughts down to three main lessons: 

Learn from the big disappointments and then let them go.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you have lived so cautiously that you might not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” ~J.K. Rowling

Oh to be able to more quickly learn this lesson. 2015 brought me the consulting gig pitched, followed up on, followed up on again, and finally let go after no response. It brought me the illusion of multiple opportunities to travel and to combine my love of the wilderness, photography, and writing only to fade away. It showed me that hard work is not always the answer to the question.

These strengthened my resolve to continue to improve my skills, to be ready for the next time the opportunities come around. Some also served as a reminder to recognize a brick wall when I come across one and to stop beating my head against it. Oh and to breathe. Always remember to breathe.

I stumbled across this poem while reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and it sums up where I landed after evaluating my disappointments:

Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the

noise of failure growing beautiful.

~ August in Waterton, Alberta, Bill Holm ~

Build more time for creativity.

It is far too easy for me to fall back to what I know – building processes and systems for organizations – and ignore the things I wanted to try but might be afraid to fail at. The consulting piece of my business has to look different in 2016 so that I have the space to stare at the wall and dream up big, beautiful ideas, to put the words down on paper that have been rattling around in my head for over a year, to care for the thousands of photographs that have gone neglected, and to experiment with the oil pastels or water colors sitting unused on my shelf.

Celebrate all accomplishments – big and small.

I automatically default to the position that 2015 wasn’t good enough. Is that a finance / accounting person quirk? I suppose it’s neither here nor there. Here is a selection of accomplishments of which I am particularly proud:

  1. I served as the assistant guide on three trips. You can read about them here, here, and here.
  2. I planned and executed on two camping trips with friends, one to introduce a friend to backcountry camping in Canada and one to introduce friends’ daughters to camping.
  3. I solo-hiked Ampersand Mountain as my second foray into solo wilderness day trips. (Overnights to come!)
  4. I was accepted into and participated in the Banff Centre’s Wilderness Photography Workshop with Craig Richards, Gord Wiltsie, and Dan Rafla.
  5. I launched this site in January.
  6. I became a Canadian citizen in September.
  7. And in the “I’m happy I had the chance to do it” category: I spent a week in San Francisco visiting my sister, winter camped at Mew Lake, paddled a little-used route near Bon Echo Provincial Park, finally canoed the French River, and spent a fair amount of time at the Art Gallery of Ontario on art dates with my husband where I fell in love with Emily Carr’s work.

I will have my work cut out for me in 2016 with implementing my lessons learned. I plan to do the following:

  1. Increase my technical skills for whitewater canoeing and swiftwater rescue.
  2. Give more presentations (and longer ones).
  3. Guide more.
  4. Consult less.
  5. Work with a local printer to build out my photography business.
  6. Attend a writer’s conference.
  7. Facilitate workshops.
  8. Focus on a big writing project.
  9. And finally, slow down and be more present. It’s very easy for me to plan and execute my year away.

I wish all of you a happy and healthy 2016! I will see you in the New Year.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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