2023 Reflections: How Structure, Leadership, and Homemade Wisdom Defined The Year
Looking back at the year puts you in a better place as you step into the coming months.
There is value in taking stock of the lessons learned in the journey of 2023.
We don’t need to be involved in the art of predicting an unknown future when the pearls of wisdom drawn from our own experiences can be shared.
We can all shout what we believe will happen, but there is a depth by standing up and saying ‘I now know.’ Predicting a future that mirrors the past few years is worthless.
At the end of each year, I share what I have learned from the previous 12 months. For all of us, this is where the true gold lies in the roadblocks, challenges, and reflective moments.
My main lessons from 2023 have been:
1) Giving structure and meaning to your work
2) The role of servant leadership (in community)
3) Homemade triumphs the machine
Giving structure and meaning to your work
2023 was the year YATM had its role to play for others.
For many years this was considered my side project. The words ‘side project’ meant it was almost underscored as a pastime. Yet, a side project can manifest into something much more meaningful. It wears two hats, one driven by fun, the other by curiosity and belief.
At the end of 2023, there is far more structure than any previous year. For instance, heading into 2024 we have a full schedule of events, including YATM Creator Day on 25th April. Balanced with this has been the introduction of YATM Club. This is our online member space where geography has no boundary and we can all learn, work, and share together. My goal is 150 people in YATM Club by the end of 2024.
Today, YATM doesn’t have that haphazard approach it once had and is now defined as a place that represents how we can be self-sufficient in promoting ourselves and our work. It’s how creativity drives us and the people who are around to support us and stick with us. We don’t need to live our lives overly reliant on a middleman, deciding who gets to see our work.
You can reach your audience directly (relationship-driven) or use someone else’s platform to bring people back to you (distribution-based). YATM is all about relationships.
When I began YATM, in 2013, it was initially perceived as a project to tinker with, but turned out to be my anchor in the storms.
Reaching a decade of this project, the role YATM plays today is more than just a content space; it’s a community where challenges are recognised, ideas are shared, and a supportive environment is fostered.
LESSON FOR BOTH OF US:
If you possess an approach or belief that can resonate with others, you have to know the point where the side project progresses. A hobby transforms into a belief, and your work becomes more than just a project — it becomes a movement.
The role of servant leadership (in community)
Servant leadership is an approach where the leader’s primary goal is to serve and support others, helping them to grow and do well.
Handing the reins over to other people strengthens the entire endeavour. Servant leadership isn’t about a singular direction but the collective accountability of many. Ignoring people, whether subscribers or event attendees, is a cardinal sin. To foster a sense of involvement, provide avenues for contribution.
2023 was the year when the YATM community stood up and took their own glory. I made the decision to step back from hosting the live YATM Lunch Club events and they are now delivered by others from the community.
It makes me realise the talent and skillsets that are within the community. This needs to be magnified as it’s the people who join in with you that help to give it a new life and to be continually relevant. Plus, the opportunity to host live events can unlock abilities people didn’t know they had.
People who led the gatherings in 2023 included, Catherine Adams, Lee Taylor, Christophe Stourton and Liam Toms.
I understand that the time you invest in an initiative, the identity naturally evolves.
What began as a personal venture now thrives on others stepping up. A diverse set of perspectives strengthens the collective. The longer you are invested in an initiative, the more inevitable it becomes that the identity changes.
Another lesson I learned from servant leadership is that it extends beyond just serving those around you; it involves serving each other. Allowing others to step up and ‘have a go’ provides opportunities for them to share their talents, form stronger connections, practice their presentation skills, experiment, and expand their own network. I look forward to progressing this in 2024.
LESSON FOR BOTH OF US:
A messy or unorganised build-up is a natural part of the process. A healthy democracy must be able to show a path where others feel comfortable and motivated to join in and make it even better. The beauty lies in the diversity of perspectives that emerge when people support each other.
Crafted by Hand, Triumphs The Machine
The pursuit of perfection sometimes obscures the essence of our work. AI makes us look smarter and more accomplished than we ever thought possible
Embracing a homemade approach acknowledges that our quirks and rough edges are what make our work stand out. It also helps to define who we are. The danger with AI is the premature assumption of flawlessness.
Was speed always meant to be our goal? You can have a fantastic-looking pic to accompany an article via Midjourney in a moment, then again, is the real you and your world living in your phone and the experiences you’ve captured over the years?
2023 was the year we all became spoilt and ChatGPT could do the work for us. It also made me realise we must not forget the joy of the creative process and the communal spirit it fosters. For instance, I like replying back to people who send me an email with a comment from the weekly newsletter. I’d never want to outsource that to a standardised, ‘dear friend, thanks for the comment.’
Let’s shift from flawless to progressive.
A lot of my work is made up of this homemade approach. By this I mean creativity, practice, honesty, and originality—a celebration of glitches and messiness.
The pursuit of genuine connection and meaningful work requires a homemade touch. For instance, in 2023 I moved the YATM newsletter over to ConvertKit. New subscribers will receive three emails, one on the day they subscribe, one at the end of the first week they receive the newsletter and a third with a present. I’m trying to find ways for people to still know I recognise them and the welcome videos I send help achieve that. I am trying to find that balance of personality and presence in an automated world.
Overthinking and believing that you have to look smarter, with all the tools elevating you is fine, but let’s never forget the momentum that builds when you lean into a space that you can put your own stamp on, where you hone your skills at the same time. This is what makes you comfortable, relevant and sharing the right message to the audience that needs you.
It makes me realise that the journey, learning, curiosity, and personal drive beat the quest for a faultless output.
LESSON FOR BOTH OF US:
Infusing personality into our work encourages others to join us. Avoid overthinking, embrace a space where your uniqueness shines, and share the message where people know it feels right for them.
The power of knowing surpasses mere belief. The insights gained from the evolution of YATM, the principles of servant leadership, and the acknowledgment that a homemade approach triumphs over AI are valuable beacons guiding us forward.
The allure of predicting the future often overshadows the richness of the present, these lessons serve as reminders of the authentic, the human, and the nuanced aspects of our endeavors. As we move towards an unknown future, armed with the wisdom of our experiences, we stride with a deeper understanding of what it means to truly know.
If you have any involvement with YATM during 2023 thank you very much. From subscribing to the newsletter to coming to the events, to making YATM a part of your week, it means a lot. There is power in the ability to keep going. It’s a privilege to be able to do this with you.