April is a particularly special month for me, as I will be welcoming my 35th birthday. To celebrate, I thought I would curate a collection of personal content to share with all of you throughout the month.
Each Friday, I will be sharing the various ideas and perspectives that have helped shape and refine me. Everything from life lessons, edifying quotes, must-have business tools, the books I have relied on, and even outside-of-the-box marketing strategies.
This mini-series of blog posts is one of those times where “personal meets professional.” You should know that my faith and spirituality are a core part of who I am, and it’s going to shine through in some of these thoughts. If you think differently than I do–great! My only ask of you is to have an open mind; consider a different perspective, even if it is just for today.
I am Lindsey Underwood, owner, and CEO of Raine Digital. Entrepreneur. Believer. Christ-follower. Dreamer. Doer. Perpetual work-in-progress.
I invite you to join me in this next year of life and follow along as I share the first seven lessons for week one of this series.
Lesson #1: The world is much bigger than our daily lives lead us to believe.
When I made this note in my journal in 2016, it was after I’d taken a three-week vacation on which I went on a solo 8000-mile road trip. At the time, I couldn’t afford to travel “abroad,” so my alternative was to travel throughout our beautiful country. I rented a car, downloaded my trusty Priceline app to book hotel rooms, and hit the road with very little planned for the following three weeks.
What sparked this adventure? I had been working a job that made me grow more miserable every single day. It wasn’t a bad job. It was a good one, one that I was doing good work in. It turns out that my misery stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t doing all I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t doing all I was created to be doing. I was capping. I was working hard, long hours, but I had stopped growing. I was no longer tapping into my untapped potential. So, I took some time away to tune into why I was feeling like this.
One of the greatest takeaways from this journey was the reminder that the world is so much bigger than our daily routines can trick us into thinking. We tend to get so caught up in what we do every day that we forget there is an entire world out there. There are people, ideas, perspectives, and experiences to learn from. When we explore these things, it has the potential to stretch us out of our comfort zones. When we take heed to the lessons others have to teach us, we grow. We become capable of more.
I had become trapped in my day-to-day. You know how it goes–get up, get ready, drink all the coffee, put in your hours, head home, and work on the freelance gig I’m side-hustling. Then, try to find some time for sleep. Rinse, and repeat.
But this trip granted me a fresh perspective. By venturing about different cities and towns, meeting the people who made up these communities and local economies, it revealed that there is so much more than what my “every day” led me to believe.
There was more for me to go out there and learn. More for me to go out and do. And perhaps most importantly–there was more for me to go out there and give.
Lesson #2: We, as individuals, get to write our own stories in life.
The beauty of this life is perspective. Although we can’t prevent circumstances from happening to us, we do have a choice in how we respond. As individuals, we can choose to be happy and fulfilled, simple and mediocre, or sad and miserable. The outcome of each of our lives is left almost entirely up to each of us, and the determining factors lie within our daily decisions. I genuinely believe that all of those microdecisions we make each day add up and ultimately create the circumstances and lifestyles we live within.
Because of this, I believe it’s important we ask ourselves the following question each day:
Are the things I have planned today working towards or against the ____ (insert life, relationships, career, business, family, etc.) I’m trying to build?
If the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, it may be time to pivot. Sometimes we might even need to ask ourselves the same question at the end of each day in the past tense:
“Did the things I focused on today support the ____ I’m trying to build?”
Again, if the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, try harder tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up–acknowledge that you can do better, learn from it, and apply it the next day.
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” – Tuesdays with Morrie
Lesson #3: Food and exercise are so much more important than you think.
As a child born in the 80s into a family of five, I grew up on my fair share of microwave TV dinners, hot pockets, and fast food. I was blessed with parents that worked hard, and we never went without. But with busy schedules, we did eat a lot of processed junk foods which were often paired with a dessert following dinner.
If I’m being honest, this put me on an unhealthy path regarding my relationship with food throughout high school, into college, and throughout most of my 20s. By the time I got into my late 20s, I was feeling the effects. I was overweight, my energy levels were always low, and my body was starting to hurt. Random injuries, back pain, and joint pain were becoming very real issues. I remember sitting on the floor one day working on sorting some paperwork and groaning like an unwell 80-year-old trying to stand up. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m far too young to feel this way and be making these noises when I try to get up from sitting on the floor.” That day, I began to pursue learning more about what nutrition really is.
I’m by no means where I’d like to be when it comes to my health and fitness goals at this point in my life (remember–I’m a perpetual work in progress). Still, I have learned that when I eat well and exercise every day, I feel amazing, I lose weight, my body feels good, and I have enough energy to take on the world. And those rare times that I allow myself to eat less than healthy, whole foods, I feel the effects in a negative way.
It’s been a journey of learning what foods my body does well with and which it doesn’t, along with eliminating processed junk from my life. I feel much better at 35 than I ever did at 25. And at this rate, as I continue to commit to new fitness levels, I presume I’ll feel better at 40 than I do at 35. It’s not just about looking great (though that does matter); it’s about feeling great!
It’s so much easier to get up, show up, put in the work, invest in your learning, manage your personal life, build a business, and take on all the aspects of life each day when you feel good.
Lesson #4: There are three threats to reaching our potential and achieving success.
Anyone who’s found success will tell you it didn’t just fall into their lap. It takes discipline, commitment, and avoidance of what keeps us from achieving what we want in life.
Things that keep us from reaching our potential?
- Limiting choices.
Every decision has a consequence–some rewarding, some damaging. The good news is, each new day equals new opportunities for choices that move us in the right direction. No doubt, they will be hard and have to be managed every single day–but they’re worth it.
- The desire for instant gratification.
In a world of two-hour deliveries, drive-thru options, and constant fast-paced culture, we’re conditioned for instant gratification. But some things just can’t be rushed. Reaching goals is a process that’s often more challenging, takes longer, or costs more than we expected initially. But, trying to speed the process, take shortcuts, or abandon it altogether limits us. It takes patience, self-discipline, and hard work.
“When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.” – Charles Schwab
- Being reactive instead of proactive.
Problems and challenges will always arise. After all, anything worth accomplishing doesn’t come easy, right? Anticipating this allows us to better prepare. Then we’re in a better position to approach potential problems proactively rather than reactively with a stressed or emotionally charged response.
We should often consider why we do what we do, keeping our eyes on the prize. The more significant reasons we have for pursuing a dream, going after a goal, or growing into who we were created to be, the more likely we are to achieve it.
The good news is, I don’t believe we don’t have to go at figuring it all out. One of the scriptures that has helped shape my beliefs and kept me moving forward through some of my biggest challenges with wisdom is this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
Lesson #5: Rest and downtime are vital.
I’m a person who likes to do things, accomplish things, build things, and learn things. I sometimes feel as though I may be addicted to progress on my goals. That sense of accomplishment is a significant motivator for me. At times, it has come at the expense of much-needed downtime.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” There’s much value in this statement, especially for entrepreneurs. Our passion for what we do can sometimes push us to the point of burnout.
The deal is, I’ve learned that I require downtime and rest to function at my optimal level. I’ve learned that I need time to think, time to process the work, events, interactions, and ideas that occurred during that day or week. I require downtime to imagine, dream, and plan. If I work every waking hour, constantly putting out fires or chasing the next accomplishment, I begin to sacrifice that much-needed time that keeps me mentally well, keeps me creative, keeps me innovative.
My best and most profitable ideas come during that downtime. Sometimes, downtime is spent with a loved one or a friend that I can soundboard and bounce ideas off of. Sometimes that downtime is spent while I’m getting a jog in at the park. Sometimes that downtime is while I’m lying in bed in the morning before I start my day.
The bottom line is I’ve found that my creativity and genius flourish when they are allowed that breathing room and time to do so. To be honest, when I realized this, the Biblical commandment regarding a day of rest made a lot more sense. We are wired to require downtime–it keeps us well.
Lesson #6: Work and life should be harmonious.
I don’t know at what point in American culture we became slaves to our jobs. While I haven’t experienced this extensively because I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I have had a few jobs along the way with more control over my life than they deserved.
I believe no one should have to sacrifice their soul for a paycheck. There are numerous reasons people fall into this trap. They might feel stuck (that’s why I did the few times I experienced this trap), they might not believe they can do better, or perhaps they may not see another way out. Living paycheck to paycheck at a crap job with no financial margin for change is no way to live.
Cameron Herold once said, “If you work for a company that offers you less than five weeks paid vacation, you work for a shitty company.” I don’t disagree.
Companies that have figured out that the overall wellness of their team members has a direct impact on morale have also established that positive morale has a positive effect on the bottom line. Employees stay around longer, reducing turnover rates. They’re usually much more excited to come to work, making them more productive when they are there.
I believe in work-life harmony. Not just balance, but harmony. It’s why I allow my team members to manage their own schedules (our rule is they have to make deadlines, show up to meetings that are on their calendars, be available during business hours, and get their job done). This has only become easier since my current team is remote and will likely stay that way post-covid.
I don’t care if you need to take some personal time in the middle of the day. I don’t care if it’s to go to the doctor, the grocery store because your in-laws are coming over for dinner, or to take your dog for a walk because you need a mental break and your dog needs a walk. I care about progress and that the job they were hired to do gets done. If we need to collaborate (and we often do), we put it on the calendar.
My point is, work and life should be harmonious, not divisive. Sometimes work requires more of you (big projects, tight deadlines). Sometimes friends and family need more of you (sick children or significant other, life milestones and celebrations, etc.). Sometimes you require more of yourself (furthering education, health endeavors, etc.) The ideal is when all aspects can be accommodating within reason, creating a harmonious life.
This harmonious work and life relationship isn’t just about work. It requires a clear set of priorities. I believe that our work is very important, but it’s not the most important.
Lesson #7: Integrity first–always.
Warren Buffett said it best: “We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”
In building a team, I’ve unfortunately experienced some of this firsthand. It is so important to hire for these three things: intelligence, energy, and integrity. I can absolutely attest to the fact that if a team hire has intelligence and energy but lacks integrity, they will absolutely kill you in some capacity. They will kill healthy team culture. They will kill morale. They will kill your brand image. They will kill creativity. They will kill innovation. And if they’re allowed to stick around, they will cause other, good team members to leave.
Please, if you’re someone who is scaling your business, building a team, or hiring help, learn from my experience. I can 100% guarantee that allowing people without integrity into the culture will do nothing but damage. If you’re like me and always look for the good in people, you must look for red flags. Here’s why integrity is so crucial in the people you make part of your team, especially your future managers, leaders, and executives.
- People with integrity won’t flat out lie.
Unfortunately, a survey revealed that a shocking 78% of candidates admitted to lying about their credentials in an interview. This is why you should interview thoroughly. Ask questions that will help determine whether the candidate will be a good fit for your culture. Talk about challenging scenarios your company has faced and ask the candidate what they would do in the situation. Check their references. Confirm credentials. Don’t just take them at their word.
- People with integrity won’t steal from their co-workers, clients, or the company.
People who lack integrity are the ones that will take things that are not theirs, they will lie to get what they want from those around them, and they will give away proprietary information to competitors. If you keep them around for too long, it’s a guarantee they will lose more business than they ever brought in.
Unfortunately, in my experience, sometimes you don’t find out about these things until it’s too late. For me, this lesson came after terminating someone. After I let them go, the feedback and gratefulness started coming at me from all sides. This only further confirmed that I should have had a better handle and more quickly investigated the red flags that had begun to creep up.
- People with integrity follow through on their word and own their mistakes.
I remember the first time I encountered an issue with an employee who had messed up a client account. They were searching for ways to manipulate data to cover their tracks. I happened to overhear the conversation between two team members and immediately inserted myself into their talk. I couldn’t believe I had to coach them on the fact that we always own our mistakes, and we do what we can to make it right with the client. It was at that moment Warren Buffett’s quote sounded off in my head loud and clear.
Well, that’s a wrap for this first round of lessons. Check back next Friday for the next 7!