Lessons Learned in 2023 – Part 2

Happy first day of the new year, dear readers! I’m back with Part 2 of my Lessons Learned in 2023, so here we go:

(You can recap Lessons 1, 2, and 3 here)

Lesson 4 – Be YOU… (even when – especially when! – it challenges norms) – A few times this year, seconds before I’ve gone on stage, I’ve wondered whether I should make some on-the-spot tweaks to my talk to make it more “corporate” or remove elements that may seem “out there”… before snapping out of it.

Because even now, with years and years of experience addressing crowds of all sizes – from a handful of Cabinet leaders in Situation Rooms to hangars filled with soldiers to conference halls and boardrooms packed with executives and innovators – I have to remind myself that it’s okay to shake things up. That my status as an “outsider” in the rooms I am brought into is precisely my superpower. And that my unique perspectives are invaluable because I marry them with empathy for the unique challenges each of my clients or audiences face. This is my secret sauce.

But a lot of the time it feels risky. I am not a “typical” consultant/coach/strategist/talent development expert. And for so long, being “atypical” was seen as a curse in business and in life. 

But the world is changing. And not only do more organizations and leaders recognize how important it is to evolve, they also recognize how much we need new, atypical ideas; new, atypical leaders; and new, atypical ambitions. 

That’s where we *all* can come in. With our sometimes out-there-but-always-focused-on-adding-value ways of doing things and ways of being. The world needs us.

And so do individuals. I am always pleasantly surprised by how well my atypical insights and exercises are received, by how beautifully the people in the room allow themselves to do something seemingly “out there”, and how powerfully the energy shifts when they do.

(Senior leaders often thank me for taking the risks I do with them because it grounds them and opens up something new. How special is that, to be able to give someone the gift of new insights that come from within? And how badly do all leaders need grounding in our crazy times?)

So, take some risks. Be bold. Be YOU. 

You can change so much – in yourself and the world around you – when you do.

Lesson 5 – Set goals that are not going to deflate you – This year, I finally hit a financial target that I had set for myself five years ago. And not only did I hit my target, I exceeded it by almost 30%. After years of what felt like walking uphill in all directions, I finally did it. 

But here’s the thing I realized as I sat down to reflect on what made this year different: I wasn’t “the problem” before; my goal was. 

You see, with this particular target, I was starting from basically nothing. And the number I arbitrarily decided to try to hit represented a 46,000% increase on what I had ever previously done. 

I thought I was being bold, but I was simply setting myself up for failure. 

Because yes, it’s important to push ourselves. Yes, we should aim high. Yes we should believe that anything is possible (because it mostly is). But 46,000%?!?! How stupid was I? 

I may as well have tried to boil the ocean. 

And the thing is, every year that I didn’t hit that (insane… and arbitrary) target, I beat myself up for it. I told myself there was something wrong with me. That I was a loser. And then I’d pep-talk myself out of it and start the cycle again.

What a colossal waste of time. And energy. And headspace. And confidence.

But no more. I know the difference between a stretch goal, and a stupid goal. And I hope that whatever big, bold ambitions you set for yourselves, you walk the line between stretch and stupid carefully and honestly. 

Because you really can’t boil the ocean.

But you can boil a bucket-full at a time.

xx Rupal

PS – See you soon for my next and final installment.

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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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