Lessons Learned in 2023 – Part 1

Hello dear readers, and happy new year’s eve! 

As promised a few weeks ago, here’s the first installment of my Lessons Learned in 2023.

(PS – There’s still time to Capture Your Year, and I hope you find my step-by-step guide here helpful when you sit down to do so.)

Without further ado, here are my biggest lessons from 2023:

Lesson 1 – Decide the WHAT; be open to the HOW and WHEN – I’ve always wanted to be a published author; it is the only thing I knew I wanted for sure from a very young age. And over ten years ago, I finished a novel that got the attention of some pretty high-profile literary agents. But as I started working on the edits to that novel, my interest in the project (my “muse”, if you will) simply left me. And ten years on, that manuscript (and the relationships with those high-profile literary agents) is, sadly, collecting virtual dust on my laptop. 

But, even after that muse left me, I didn’t stop writing. I dabbled in and out of blogging (the seedlings of what you’re reading right now…), and I kept my hand in the craft, without obsessing over the book-that-got-away. 

And then in 2021 I got five offers from five major publishers, and in 2022 my book came out. 

But the book was non-fiction. 

And THAT was a twist I could never have seen coming. Because I had always assumed I’d be a fiction writer. 

And if I had insisted on being a fiction writer and nothing but a fiction writer – and who knows, one day I might be – I wouldn’t be a published author today. 

But I didn’t insist on anything. I was laser-focused on my “what” (being a published author), but I stayed open about “how” (non-fiction instead of fiction, in this case) and let go of any arbitrary deadline about “when” (it happened ten years after I wrote my first manuscript). 

I learned this lesson again so many times this year: with my TED Talk (which came about in a very different way to what I expected… and two years later), with my goal to do 10 chin ups (which took me three years to achieve instead of one), and so many other things.

My friends, sometimes our dreams come true in ways we can’t expect. But we can get so obsessed with how we imagine them to be that we can sometimes forget that the dream has a say in how it will come to be, too. It is a two-way street. 

So decide the WHAT, be laser-focused and clear about what you want, but remain open about HOW it happens and WHEN.  

Lesson 2 – Know your body – I’m a very head-centered person, and my mind is always analyzing and assessing and paying attention. And this year, I started to focus at least some of that attention on my body, its needs, its cycles, and its bare-minimum requirements. And then – and this was the life-changing and performance-boosting part – I started protecting those needs, leveraging those cycles, and providing it those bare minimum requirements. 

For so much of our lives, we are subtly ingrained to treat our bodies as dumb slabs of meat that we are forced to drag around and that get in the way or slow us down or refuse to do our bidding, instead of recognizing them for being incredibly powerful and beautiful and integral parts of who we are.

So this year, I gave my body (more often than not) the recharge time it needed between my high-intensity travel schedule. I paid attention to my emotional and energetic cycles so I could anticipate them and leverage them. And I GOT HELP on the things I hate doing – cooking! – so I could give my body what it needs instead of eating cereal for dinner (though I still do that from time to time because cereal and milk is just the perfect combo).

I also started doing more mundane things like getting physical checkups, monitoring my cholesterol, eating more vegetables, and other boring-but-essential things. 

And I won’t pretend it has made everything perfect, but almost everything is better. 

So pay attention to your “slab of meat”, care for it as your specific “model” needs to be cared for. It is, after all, the only place you have to live in. 

Lesson 3 – Ask for what you want… and be specific – As I mentioned above, I got help this year on some of the life admin stuff I hate doing (dropping things off, grocery shopping – shopping of EVERY kind! – cooking, taking things to the tailor, checking if the trains are running, making appointments, etc) and I got very good at asking for how I wanted things done (destemming kale before making a salad, folding t-shirts a certain way…). But I also started asking for what I want in a professional capacity. 

You see, when I travel for speaking engagements, it is physically brutal (not to mention the emotional toll of being away from two young kids who love to remind me of how I’m “never” at home… as if!). I end up eating crappy pre-made sandwiches and chips way more than I’d like to, have broken days from long trips on planes/trains/taxis, and then have to magically transform from Jerrica into JEM without the benefit of magical it’s-showtime-Synergy earrings!* And while I am in my “zone of genius” when I’m in front of a crowd or on a stage, and absolutely LOVE doing it, it is also exhausting. 

So, I’ve started asking for specifics when it comes to my hotel, my mode of transport, buffer time before/after the event, and my AV requirements instead of settling for whatever happens. I’ve given up worrying about being thought of as a “diva” (gender tangent alert: why is it that when men know and ask for what they want, they are just being “decisive”, but when women do, we are being “divas”??). And I’ve owned the reality that I need certain things to perform at my best. We all do.

So don’t shy away from asking. And being specific. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want – and goodness knows I don’t either! – but at least you tried. And – to paraphrase a saying from another of my favorite 80s cartoons – “Trying is half the battle.”**

Thanks for being here with me everyone, and stay tuned for my next installment of Lessons Learned in 2023!

xx Rupal

*JEM was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. A-MAY-ZING. She would transform from being shy, timid, “ordinary” Jerrica into badass-Beyonce-esque JEM by touching her earrings while saying “It’s showtime Synergy.”

**This one is from GI Joe, where they would end each episode with a life-lesson and close with “…And now you know, and knowing is half the battle…”

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About Me
Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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