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Lessons in Life & Business

Most of you know me as a custom homebuilder, and that’s a huge, important part of my identity. But it’s not all that I am. I’m also an entrepreneur, a public speaker, and an advocate for education, environmental preservation, and female empowerment. Those things are as much a part of my identity as my roots as a fifth generation builder. And while this blog will always be about home building, maintenance, and design, I also envision it being so much more – because we’re all so much more than we appear on the surface. And I can’t think of a better time of year than right now to open this blog up to all the things that make me me, in the hopes that some of them are what make you you, too.

For me, January is as much about reflection as it is about looking ahead: What did I accomplish over the last 365 days? What did I do well? Where could I have improved? What did my failures teach me? With the promise of a fresh start, the beginning of a new year is the time for learning from the past to do better in the future. It’s a time for goal-setting and recalibrating; for adjusting the sails for what lies ahead but never forgetting the storms and sunny skies not far behind.

2016 was a big year for me. My business continued to grow, we added more members to our team, I proudly received several awards and honors, I joined exciting organizations, and I filmed my first ever television show (which premieres this year – eek!). 2016 was a year I’ll never forget, but man, it was a tough one. I learned more this year than I have in long time, and here are just a few of the biggest lessons I’m taking with me into 2017:

Lesson #1: Go to the ball

See opportunities and go take them! I’m a born entrepreneur, and I’ve always been an outlier of sorts. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to use my differences in my favor, to go after things that others look past or don’t see at all – the opportunities that hide behind fear or lack of confidence or drive. When I played soccer as a kid, my dad used to always tell me to “go to the ball.” What he meant was to be aggressive instead of hanging back with the crowd. This is as true in life as it is in soccer. If you wait for the ball, someone will surely take it and score the goal that could have been yours. In my adult life, I try to look at all opportunities as that soccer ball – if I don’t take them, someone else certainly will.

What 2016 Taught Me: Lessons in Life & Business | Marnie's NotebookLesson #2: Build a good team

Having a strong team is vital to the success and longevity of your organization – and your sanity. For me, team begins outside of work with a supportive family and valued mentors. It also includes my clients, with whom I encourage a teamwork approach that allows for the open flow of feedback and ideas. Lastly, working with teammates that share the same values and vision as me is crucial. We’re busy. I have crazy ideas. I put a lot on everyone’s plates. And I push people to be better than they think they can be. But every person on my teams knows that I will be right there next to them in the trenches. We trust each other, and that trust is the strongest asset you can have in a company. Together we’ve tackled immense hardships and tough setbacks; sometimes we get frustrated and tired and worn down. But we always have that trust that each and every one of us will do whatever it takes to get through anything thrown our way. And only then can you and your team truly be successful.

What 2016 Taught Me: Lessons in Life & Business | Marnie's NotebookLesson #3: Be vulnerable

The most important thing I’ve learned about leading a team is to be vulnerable. Bring no ego to the table, learn from one another, and appreciate different opinions, because that’s how you grow. Allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable shows that you’re a real person, and breeds authenticity among the rest of your team and coworkers. Lead by example. This quote from Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, says it all: “Vulnerability is not weakness, but it is courage. You have to show up to be seen. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Vulnerability is what forms a deep connection within your team, and a sense of being in it together.

Lesson #4: Own your goals and never give up on them

Being vulnerable means putting yourself out there. And when you do, always bet on yourself! No one thought it was a good idea for me to buy my first home (lovingly called “the Wigwam”), or start a construction company during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and I faced a ton of skepticism when I decided to get an MBA when I already had a successful business. While there were certainly struggles, failures, sacrifices, and adjustments, I never gave up on these goals – I believe in them because they were mine. And that meant that the successes were mine too. Achieving those goals opened so many new doors for me and, best of all, enabled me to continue learning and growing.

What 2016 Taught Me: Lessons in Life & Business | Marnie's Notebook

Lesson #5: Don’t forget to laugh

In life – and in business – you can’t take yourself too seriously, or you’ll never get out alive. You will fail, so fail with a laugh. You will have to be resilient, so bounce back with a smile. You will have to adjust, so make adjustments that bring you happiness. All of these things will force you to step outside your comfort zone and learn things about yourself that you never knew – even if the things you learn aren’t always good. Learn anyway. Do things that frighten you. But don’t forget to laugh!

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and successful 2017!