Our friend Abbie recently inspired us to set a Word of the Year. The purpose of this exercise is to keep the word in front of our minds, continually repeating it and thinking of ways we can come closer to achieving it over the course of several months—in our work, relationships, creative pursuits, and more. Readers may be surprised to hear that after several days of coffee-induced yakking, we (ironically) selected LISTEN as our 2016 Word of the Year.
What a direct, straightforward charge. Simply listen. But for a couple of extroverted, top-notch chatters like us, listening is far from simple. Truly and actively listening means opening ourselves up to self-discovery and most likely hearing a different perspective. It also means getting uncomfortable from time to time, and learning that we may not be the smartest people in the room, or on the conference call. It’s a humbling activity that we decided to put ourselves through more and more, not less.
One of our favorite quotes about listening is “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. If you listen, you may learn something new.” (Obviously this quote doesn’t come from any of the 2016 Presidential candidates.) It’s from the ever-wise, ever-listening Dalai Lama.
Listening forces us to literally slow down, prioritize, and think deeply about how we can be more helpful, where there might be misconceptions, and how we’re being judgmental. When we busy ourselves with the DOING—talking, writing, editing, emailing, calling, texting, tweeting—we’re not pushing ourselves to be quiet with our own thoughts, doubts, or questions. We’re moving forward and not pausing to see what lessons, or teachers, are flying by.
2015 was undoubtedly a year of doing over listening. We worked with 50 clients, held 60 book events, bought a house, welcomed a new niece, and much more. So earlier this month, we took two weeks to listen and not do much of anything else. Let’s just say it’s comparatively easy to listen in a wild, natural, tranquil setting like the lush Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Listening not just to one another or our friends, but also to our environment, our bodies, or our community isn’t, however, all that easy when we spend the majority of our day facing screens. So for the first time in Foxwell Digital history (!), we planned a trip with no other purpose other than relaxation, contemplation, and visioning. It was just the two of us—no other friends, family members, or clients—and zero meetings, scheduled calls, or conference sessions to attend. In the months leading up to the trip, we hired and trained a part-time employee to assist us with daily production, client check-ins, and reporting. It felt incredible to be offline and listening to everything, including our own inner voices, with more clarity and respect, on mountain hikes, beach strolls, bike rides, and afternoon swims. We set a few more ambitious goals for 2016, but our plan is to stop, collaborate, and LISTEN throughout the year.
We’ll see what other Vanilla Ice lyrics we can queue up for 2017 but in the meantime, mahalo!