I can scarcely believe it’s already time for my annual “Things I Learned” blog entry. I started writing these back in 2012, and I’ve written them every year since (2013 & 2014). These posts are definitely a bit of a departure from what I usually write about, but I really enjoy the reflection involved in the writing of them, and the discussion the comes from them is fantastic. So, without further ado—what I learned in 2015:

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The photos are mostly from my travels this year; a month in Costa Rica, 10 days in New York City, and some trips around the Rockies and the Canadian prairies, plus a few shots from my work with Tekoa this year.

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You can encourage truthfulness and openness in your relationships. That is, the way you react to the things people share with you heavily influences whether or not they’ll continue to share things with you in the future. Nobody has a perfect past or present, and if you are judgmental or unkind when people share things with you, they’ll stop. If they sense that you are passing judgement on them when they share, they won’t. Maybe they’ll outright lie, maybe they’ll lie by omission, or maybe they’ll remove you from their life. I definitely know a few people who only ever get the abridged version of my life because they have a history of over reacting, judging, lecturing, or brushing off things that are important to me. They probably don’t even know that I wouldn’t tell them about the vast majority of important things that happen in my life, and they’d be hurt if they did, but I feel no obligation to subject myself to their poor reaction, whatever it may be.

Also, it’s ok to simply thank somebody for sharing something with you. You don’t need a brilliant, earth-shattering response.

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Sometimes the qualities you admire in somebody turn out to be masking qualities. A great sense of humour can be covering up a seriously discriminatory mean streak. A confident, independent appearance can be masking a habit of making continuous poor decisions.

Being helpless is not an attractive quality. Being a damsel in distress is a choice; do not make it. Figure it out. At least try to figure it out. Make an effort, do some research, exhaust your options. Google it. Do not ask for help until you’re certain you need it (and then try to ask only once—don’t ask for help and then ignore the person offering it). You’ll learn more, and the people in your life will respect you far more.

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Be wary of people who say everybody always leaves them or lets them down. All those people who left might have been right. It’s not that being let down by loved ones can’t happen to good people—it’s that it can’t happen exclusively to good people. I once knew somebody who was of the “woe is me, everybody lets me down” ilk. That was a sad story until they did something dumb and fraudulent and included me in the scheme without my knowledge or consent. Once I found out (by accident) and shut it down, they got mad at me, quickly outing themselves as the kind of person that’s always disappointed by their friends because they have ridiculous (and possibly illegal) expectations of them.

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Decent people with good intentions who constantly make poor decisions can be just as harmful to you as bad people with bad intentions.

Smokey soaps need to age in isolation. Their smokiness will spread to all your other non-smokey soaps.

An unwillingness or defensive reaction to adopting new responsibilities can be masking a fear of failure.

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There’s some things I learned. What did you learn this year?

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