2021: Taking Stock

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on December 9, 2021

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Most of us have (thankfully) gotten away from creating New Year’s resolutions. We know they don’t work for longer than a few weeks. Still, a new {year, quarter, month, week, day} feels to many of us like a good time to reflect. You see, what happens inside our complicated and mysterious brains is that we look at our growing to-do list, which causes us to wallow in the well of “all the things I didn’t accomplish this past {+%u, +%V, +%m, +%Y}.” So we choose to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

Except that’s not how it works. 

That’s Not How Any of This Works

We can’t wipe away what happened to us or around us with a swipe left. It doesn’t make the done or undone go away. There are no do-overs. We cannot bring back lost remote controls or lost loves, and we cannot unmake our mistakes. 

What we can do, however, is learn. We can learn and repair. We can learn and repair and grow. We do this by reflecting on our past mistakes with a clear head and without judgement. Most of us (certainly and unfortunately not all of us) are good people with good intentions. We don’t design our lives to make mistakes … no we do not. I don’t know anyone whose life goal is to mess up. We try our level best to do the right thing and have the right answers. We do our best to treat people well and speak from a place of understanding. It just doesn’t always work out that way. We’re not prescient beings, but with an open mind we can do better. It doesn’t have to be miraculously better … just 1% better. That’s all it takes each day.

I’m writing this at the end of October, trying to put myself in the place in time when this is published … about seven or eight weeks from now. I hope that Future-me won’t be too critical of Past-me. In fact, I always try to make sure that I don’t give Future-me the opportunity to be critical of Past-me. Past-me didn’t always know better (I may have watched a few too many time loop shows recently).

Taking Stock

So at this time of year, rather than make resolutions that we know we won’t keep, we should be taking stock of our year. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? Who did we raise up and who did we push down? It’s an exercise that requires brutal honesty with ourselves, courage to face others, and a great deal of understanding, patience, and self-care. 

How do you go about reviewing your year? You get out your Handy Dandy Notebook, your calendar, and your PSA (if you don’t have a Professional Services Automation tool yet, put that on your 2022 considerations list) — and you start collecting experiences. Be factual. At first, just make yourself a long list — accomplishments on one side of the ledger and deficits on the other. Find your rhythm and make your lists — this is not the time to judge.

Gathering Info

Your PSA should show you all your stats — how many tickets you took in, how many you solved, how many were critical in nature, how many were user error or admin error, how many were related to newly discovered bugs, what the most often ticketed items are, that kind of thing. 

Compile those results and see if you can discern patterns. Were user errors all of the same nature? Were network issues the bulk of your tickets? Were password resets the bulk of the tickets? What were the trends? 

Look through your calendar to see what kind of meeting year you had. Were there more or less conversions to clients than you expected? Did you have client acquisition plans and expectations in 2021, or just hopes and dreams? 

Look through your proposals to see how many converted and how many were either lost or converted to a lesser contract than you planned on. 

Look through your accounting and pull the key numbers and comparisons to last year in your P&L and your balance sheet. 

On to the Judging

If you’re like most people I know, you’re not particularly good at accepting accolades from others, and you’re better, but still only fair, at accepting criticism from others. Further, if you’re like most people in my circles, you’re terrible at recognizing your good parts and way too accepting of your own self-criticism. In other words, it’s far too easy to say that success is due to luck and failure is due to our own shortcomings. But that’s muddy thinking. Stop it now. 

When looking at your wins and losses for the year, it’s important to figure out why they happened:

  • Why did you win your deals? 
  • What went right? 
  • What did you do right? 
  • And why did you suffer your losses? 
  • What went wrong? 
  • What could you have handled better?

You don’t want you to be too hard on yourself. Likewise, you shouldn’t be sugar-coating anything. To grow, you have to take it all together — the good and the bad. 

Look at the bigger picture and see if you can figure out patterns. Did you lose client revenue because you’ve moved everything into a system where nothing breaks? Then maybe you need to look at a different “product” to sell — one that doesn’t require systems to break in order to make money. Did you win clients because your price was super low? Are low-paying clients the ones you want to nurture, or do you have bigger dreams of fewer clients spending more on your services? 

Did you acquire new clients by spending on marketing efforts or did you gain them through word of mouth or networking? What client difficulties have you overcome this past year? Did you retain your clients at a level that allowed you to have a decent work-life balance?

And How?

Add the phrase “and how” to the end of every question you ask yourself. How did you do things successfully and how did you blow it (nobody has a fret-free year)? After a bit of reflection, you’ll see your own patterns emerge. You’ll gain a better understanding of how your self-presentation affects your client interactions which, in turn, affects your bottom line. You’ll learn to recognize how your self-confidence, kindness, and listening skills enabled you to have a successful year. Or how the lack thereof impacted your relationships with your clients/users/managers/staff. 

Obviously, if you’ve done things well … keep it up. It’s easier to move up if your trajectory is already moving in that direction. An object in motion tends to stay in motion and all that sciency stuff. Don’t neglect to take a good look at what you did to contribute to those successes … it’s more than “luck.” 

Growing Pains

If you have struggled or wronged people, learn from it. Admit the error to the person you wronged and do what you can to repair the damage, to make them whole (psst … it’s more than simply saying “I’m sorry”). Learn from the experience; don’t repeat the mistake. 

You Are the Hero

The results of reflection should be understanding and growth. Sometimes those things are painful or (more often) embarrassing. It is those moments that show others what you’re made of. It is in those moments that you become the hero — to your client, to your family, to yourself. Sometimes, if we reflect carefully, we can grow from the successes too. I would bet that your success was more than being in the right place at the right time; it was being who you are, saying what you did, listening the way you did, and responding the way you did. You did that. See the hero that the other person sees in you. Can’t find that hero? Visit us in the #Admin-Life channel in the JumpCloud Lounge; we’ll help you find the hero inside. 

Only by assessing our past, making right from wrong, and learning from both failure and success will we grow. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and great success next year. 

2022 — bring it on. You got this!

Pam Lefkowitz

Pam is an IT Columnist at JumpCloud where she uses her experience as a consultant and MSP to write about IT admin life and tech. Outside of (remote) work hours, she spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with fiber.

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