What a year. It’s been amazing to see what the SPI community has accomplished in 2021. We’re grateful to have been able to serve our audience and help thousands of business owners make a greater impact for the people they serve.
We’ve had some internal highlights, too. Ourcommunity grew in leaps and bounds. We launched a new course ( ) and several , plus a couple new podcasts ( and ). We even got to for a week of work and fun!
As we round out 2021, several of us decided to reflect on the biggest lessons we’ve learned this year—about work, and about ourselves and the things that matter to us.
And in case you’re one of those procrastinators, we thought we’d help you out with a few last-minute gift ideas. Let’s hit those first!
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The Gifts We Think You Should Give
From microlans to writing implements, and even a gift-giving meta-strategy that might blow your mind a little,’s got you covered when it comes to those last-minute holiday presents.
Companies Doing Good
A couple of SPIers want you to direct your gift $$ to companies making positive change in the world.
Jillian recommends, which allow you to make loans to entrepreneurs across the world. They’re a great way, as Jill says, to “learn about the power of microloans, make a difference to real business owners, and do some good in the world.”
Jonathan grew his appreciation forwhen they made intentional efforts to remove their presence from platforms like Facebook (resulting in a loss of ad revenue), and the way they’ve “used the brand’s name and reach to move forward on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Grab some Patagonia gear, and/or support, which connects individuals with environmental action groups in their communities.
Good Old Ink and Lead
Mindy loves writing with—so much so that she rarely uses pens anymore.
They are so well made that she uses them down to the very end, and a box of twelve pencils will last her over a year. Oh, and they add to the delight by satisfying her need to fidget by constantly sharpening them.
Pro tip: “You definitely want to invest in the two-step sharpener, which gets you a most fantastic point.”
David wants entrepreneurs and nonentrepreneurs alike to embrace the helpful practice of journaling—and enhance the experience with a fountain pen.
“The experience of writing with one can be an art unto itself, and because fountain pens are refillable, they’re much greener and more likely to stand the test of time. Plus the user can change inks/colors to suit their preferences.” His recommended model?is $25 on Amazon and has stellar reviews.
We Can Always Use More Books
If you’re on the hunt for a gift to satisfy a book lover in your life (or you’re just a book lover yourself), Nōn wants you to meet.
“It’s not just a book subscription—it’s a book club!” he says, one that makes it easy to “give the gift of a year of hand-selected books from your favorite humans, like Stephen Curry, Roxane Gay, and Malala Yousafzai.”
Speaking of books, Alex wants you to take a peek at two of them.
The first is, which is “a great guide to principles and tactics for taking responsibility for everything in your life and business.”
The other is, “a really great tactical guide on negotiation that has broader application to all sorts of communications.”
One of Alex’s favorite techniques from Voss’s book: “Label negative emotions with phrases starting with ‘It looks like/seems like/sounds like.’ If you’re wrong about what the other person is feeling, they’re not likely to feel judged.”
Upgrade Your Gift-Giving Skills
Jay has a creative and versatile strategy that applies to just about any category of physical gift. Here’s the scoop.
“A lot of people tend to use the same items for years and years without upgrading. Whether it’s a pair of gloves, a frying pan, or a computer. What I try to do is think about the person I’m purchasing a gift for, look for an item they use a lot but it’s not super high quality, and get them the elevated version of that thing.”
I mean, how can you go wrong?
Team SPI’s 2021 Lessons Learned
Whether it’s taking on a new sport, unlocking artistic progress, or relating to the body’s intelligence, the members of Team SPI learned a few things this year that we’ll be carrying into 2022.
Here are the biggest lessons 2021 has gifted us.
Dialing In Habits and Mindset
Both David and Jonathan found this year, as David says, that “is everything.”
Jonathan’s big mindset shift was about embracing challenges and trusting his abilities.
He discovered that he “can actually accomplish anything, even if I start out unsure or insecure. Outside of stepping into a new role at work, I began playing a sport with zero experience or training and immediately jumped two feet (or two skates) into it all.
“While I may not be a prolific scorer for the team, there’s not a single person on the team that out-hustles me.”
And for David, the key to unlocking the right mindset has been meditation.
“I realize as I grow older that living in a wise relationship with each situation has less to do with the situation itself and more to do with my mindset. To that end, I’ve found ato be irreplaceable in terms of priming my headspace and increasing my chances of responding to challenges positively.”
Mindy spent much of 2021 focusing on the habits that drive her actions, so she can build more structure into the way she works.
The biggest example? “Being diligent with creating checklists and documentation for my work, so the next time I do the job, I don’t have to remember or reinvent the process. The more I can free up my mind from relearning tasks, the more processing power I have for new thoughts and projects.”
Likewise, David has found that habits and consistency—and not “sudden inspirations, four am routines, or waiting for my schedule to magically clear”—are what unlock progress.
“In my artistic pursuits—the film I’m working on, the music I compose, etc.—I’ve found that it’s all too easy to make excuses for not making progress each day. ‘I don’t have the time’ seems to be the usual excuse.
“But the flywheel effect is real. Even fifteen to twenty minutes spent on one of these projects increases the likelihood that I’ll come back to it the next day. Or that I’ll find the time, regardless of how busy my day is.”
Learning to Trust Yourself
Nōn had a powerful experience in a therapy session that’s going to be guiding him in 2022 and beyond.
“One lesson I learned this year happened in an eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy session. I’ve been to a regular talk therapist for many years, I host a podcast on mental health, I lead workshops on empathy and emotional curiosity. This stuff is my jam.
“So when I was asked by my EMDR therapist, ‘What does that really feel like?’ and I didn’t know the answer, I was sort of shook. And excited for what was to come next.
“I can talk about my feelings all day long. I can use eloquent language to describe them. But I realized then that there’s a very clear distinction between the intellectual understanding of feelings and what the body is doing with your feelings. Like, what does it really feel like in my body? I don’t know, and I’m working on that.”
In a similar vein, Jillian has been learning the importance of trusting her inner knowing lately. And she’s appreciating the wisdom of restraint and empathy in her interactions with others.
“Trust your instincts, but don’t assume you need to act on them immediately,” is Jill’s biggest lesson from 2021. “Meet people where they are and assume the best intentions.”
Doing Less to Do More
We’ve all been there before: disengaged and unexcited by work. So what’s the best way out of this trap?
“We’ve all heard a lot of advice about finding and refinding inspiration and motivation, resting and recharging,” says Alex. “We’ve also all read a lot about productivity hacks, tips and tricks for working smarter.”
“Sometimes, though, you’re just not doing the right work anymore.”
That’s why he recommends using leverage instead.
“Is there anything you’re finding you’re really resistant to doing lately? What tasks do you repeatedly do that aren’t the thing you’re best at? Find tools or people to help you accomplish those things, then use the time you save to do more!”
Speaking of resting and recharging, Jonathan found this year that there’s a limit to the work he can take on.
“I always assumed I could say ‘yes’ to everything because I tend to have unlimited energy. In 2022, I plan on truly evaluating my work capacity and making intentional decisions about the projects I work on. Even if it’s not an immediate ‘Yes,’ it could be a ‘Not right now.’”
Jay’s biggest lesson from 2021 was along the same lines: that it’s “so challenging to do multiple projects effectively.
“Not only does dividing your focus rob every project of some of its potential,” Jay says, “but it also makes it challenging for people to understand who you are and what you offer. I’ve heard a friend describe it as, ‘You get six kicks of the ball every day… would you rather kick six balls one time, or kick one ball six times?’”
To Jay, it’s immediately obvious how much further you can go when you’re focused on kicking one ball six times. So next year, he’ll be reducing the number of projects he’s working on—and hopefully being more effective with all of them.
Jonathan also has one final, related bit of insight that applies to all of us next year.
“Time off is important. I assumed that I could coast by with taking next to no days off each year aside from company holidays. That will definitely not be the case in 2022.”
What did you learn this year that you’ll be taking with you into 2022? Let us know!