For me, 2017, started out with a bang - lots of them. I was at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, surrounded by fireworks from all sides, with snow lightly falling around me. It was a beautiful start to a beautiful new year.
Just a few days later, my favorite event of the year was to begin, CES - the Consumer Electronics Show. This was the first time I was attending both as a columnist for Inc as well as an industry attendee, and I remember the excitement I felt at the new responsibility I'd taken on.
Fast forward a few days. I was sitting in a restaurant at the Aria, just half a block away, enjoying a meal with some colleagues after a long day on the show floor, when I got a phone call. It was the police; they were calling to inform me my mother had passed away.
It was as if my world shifted instantly. Every priority to that point suddenly became unimportant, as I excused myself from the table to start a process I was woefully unprepared for. However, as I paced the lobby of the Aria, one question kept surfacing: "Why didn't I make more time to see her?"
I'd spoken to her just three days prior, as I was helping her purchase an Amazon Echo online, explaining all the benefits that it would bring to her, and helping her avoid the unnecessary products it was suggesting she add. She sounded tired, and as she always did at the end of the call, asked me to come visit. I told her I'd check my schedule, and let her know.
A month earlier, I'd been in New York City for work, just an hour away from her. I didn't go to see her then, nor even mention I was in town, because I was working from early morning to late night.
And then, just weeks later, here I was in the Aria, realizing it had been three years that I'd put off seeing her. Because I was too busy with work. And now, I never would again.
What I learned throughout the rest of the year has been crucial to the way I run my business and my life.
1. Focus on What Really Matters
I've worn the phrase "workaholic" like a badge most of my work life. While it has made me successful in business, often it has cost me my health, my family, and put strain on relationships that are very important to me.
I recognized that while I have a need to be active, I can find ways to do that while including family and friends.
2. Take Time for Yourself
When people are depending on you, it can be really hard to admit you need a bit of time to sort things out. When my mother died, I was dealing with emotions that I didn't expect, that hit me at completely random times. I was definitely in no shape for work, and I needed to take time to reflect and sort things out before getting back to it.
3. Ask for Help
As entrepreneurs, we often think we're superheroes, and no one can possibly take our place. Sometimes, we need to trust that others can handle things while we're down for the count. By simply asking for help, we'll find that there are people waiting in the wings for the opportunity to step up.
4. Be Vulnerable
Perhaps the hardest thing that I learned this year is that by simply admitting what was going on with me, it gave people an easier way to connect with me. While not everyone understands travel, technology, or whatever else is going on in my life, everyone understands the pain of loss. Allowing people to see even a little of what I was going through let them see that I am really human, and let me create stronger relationships this year than I ever have in the past.
I'm still very much a work in progress -- my grandmother recently passed away, and I missed her funeral by one day because I was on the other side of the world for work. However, 2017 has laid the groundwork for a lot of change within me.
With these learnings, I believe 2018 will be the best year yet.