The Top Lessons that I Learned in 2023

At the end of each year, I conduct a year-end review and try to extract as many lessons as possible from the year I just lived. Every January, I take time to share some of the top lessons I learned in the previous year in hopes that the lessons I learned will help you.

That said, here were some of the top lessons that I learned by category in 2023:

Leadership Lessons

1.) Lead with Curiosity

When I took on my new role at Light of Life, my Executive Director, Jerrel T. Gilliam, said, “Doug, as you step into this new role, lead with curiosity. Here are three beautiful words for you: “Help me understand…”

As I’ve endeavored to meet with all of our staff throughout the last year, I’ve used those three words countless times. It’s helped me learn more about our team members, their roles, their teams, and what they see in our organization.

2.) Candor and Clarity are Extremely Important

At lunch, a mentor told me, “If my manager ever thought I was in the wrong position, I wish they would tell me right away.”

As leaders, it is critically important that we are honest and direct with the people that we lead. They need clarity on where they stand, how they are doing, where we are headed as an organization, and what part they will play in our future.

As a recovering people pleaser, this has been an area of growth for me. One piece of advice that has helped me immensely is something John Maxwell told me once. He said, “Doug, you have to make the decision that you will always love people, but you won’t depend on their love.”

You have to make the decision to always love people, but to not depend on their love. -John Maxwell

Reminding myself that I’m not dependent on the love and approval of the people I’m being candid with has helped me be more direct.

The great thing is that I have learned that people prefer and are grateful when you are candid and clear with them.

3.) Be Careful Whom You Partner With

A mentor told me the importance of selecting who I partner with on different endeavors. He said, “Your values have to line up. When I think about partnering with someone, the only question I ask is, “Would I tell my kids that I want them to grow up and be like this person?

Ask, “Would I tell my kids that I want them to grow up and be like this person?”

4.) Don’t Be Surprised

As leaders, we often naively believe that if we grow enough, we will one day no longer face difficult issues in our leadership.

Wouldn’t that be nice!

A mentor challenged me this year, saying, “Do not be surprised. Something is always falling behind, someone is always leaving, there will always be systems that need to be updated, etc. The sooner you realize this, the less often you’ll find yourself surprised by the issues you have to face daily.”

I’ve found myself being surprised a lot less often after adopting this mentality.

5.) You Need an Operating System for Your Organization

This year, we hired an EOS Implementer, Tim Tannert, ACC, to help us implement EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) into our organization.

We are six months into that journey, and it’s incredible to see how much better we’ve become as a leadership team. As we roll out EOS to our organization over the next year, I expect we will go to an entirely new level.

Your organization needs one operating system to ensure everyone is on the same page and rowing in the same direction. I have yet to find a better system than EOS. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to Tim!

6.) Structure your life in a way that allows you to be successful in the long run.

Making it to my finish line as a leader is one of my top priorities in life. To do that, I recognize that I must structure my life to enable me to get there.

That means that I need to take time off to rest, I need to pace myself, I need to prioritize my family, and.I need to prioritize my health and fitness.

Too often, as leaders, we get short-sighted and forget that leadership is an infinite game! We’ll be doing this for a long time. Let’s make sure we set ourselves up to go the distance!


7.) People are Always Watching You and Will Make Decisions About You When You are not in the Room

As I got promoted last year, I recognized that for me to get that promotion, it took a lot of other people believing that putting me in the position was the right move for the organization.

What caused them to make the decision? Ultimately, it was their experience working with me and watching me do my job for days, weeks, months, and years prior.

The lesson here is that people watch you long before they follow you or allow you to lead at another level. How you lead everyday matters. Your ability to be teachable and grow at each level you are at matters immensely. Remember this!


8.) Character Development is the Most Important Development

Nothing will steal our confidence more than a guilty conscience. As leaders, we have to keep our conscience clear. We are the only ones that can do that. To do that, we must make our character development our top priority for personal growth.

9.) You don’t have to tell everybody, but you have to tell somebody.

If you’re struggling with something or have made a bad decision, please don’t isolate and hold it in. That will only make things worse. You need to tell someone. I’d recommend your spouse if you have one or a close group of friends who know you, love you, and are willing to challenge you.

You’re only as sick or healthy as your secrets. Bring things into the light as soon as possible with people.

Here is a really simple three-step process that will help you with your struggles: Admit it. Quit it. Forget it!

Admit it. Quit it. Forget it!

10.) Be You

When I was preparing for meeting with someone that I was nervous to meet with, my friend, Jenni Schlieper, said, “You don’t have to be someone else. You have to be Doug.”

We must always be reminded that we just need to be who we are.

Be you. That’s always enough! 🙂

Content Creation & Platform Building

11.) Let the Ball Come to You

I finished my first draft of my first book this year. When I asked a mentor who has published several books and has a large platform for his advice, he said, “Doug, let the ball come to you. Don’t try to force it.”

That helped me immensely. In life, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to make things happen, and we end up stressed, frustrated, and discouraged.

Instead, we should take the pressure off and let the ball come to us. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to work hard. Of course, we do. However, we don’t have to endure all the stress, pressure, and frustration of trying to force things to happen.

12.) It’s all about the One

Mother Theresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.

In a world where many of us are wrapped up in numbers and always trying to grow our platforms to reach MORE people, we often lose sight of the one person right in front of us that we can impact deeply.

I need to be reminded of this daily. Every day, there are people who are going to come across my path that I can help. I hope and pray that I’m never so focused on the masses that I miss the opportunity to make an even bigger difference with those right before me.

13.) My Voice Matters (and so does Yours)

Someone encouraged me this year by saying, “You have a lot to say, Doug. Your voice matters and will only matter more as you grow and develop. Your posts matter. Your writing matters. Your speaking matters. Your leadership matters. Everything you do matters.”

I would say the same thing to you.

We all have much to say that could make the world better, but we often shrink from sharing it because we’re insecure and afraid of what people will think or say.

I’ve made a habit of trying to post content online every single day. If something I create impacts one person, then it is worth it.

My voice matters, and so does yours. What are you doing with it?

14.) Always remember how far you’ve come and the impact you’ve made.

Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy wrote a great book called, “The Gap and the Gain”. The book’s premise is that rather than measuring our progress by comparing where we are to where we want to be, we should only measure our progress by looking back and seeing how far we’ve come.

I’ve noticed that in my life, I get the most frustrated or discouraged when I compare where I am to where I want to be.

When I think about and journal where I used to be and how far I have come, I am always filled with joy and gratitude.

If you’ve never measured your progress that way, I suggest you take some time in the next few days and do it and see what it does for you.


Those were some of the top lessons that I learned in 2023.

Which ones resonated the most with you?

What is one of the top lessons that you learned last year?

Remember: Don’t quit. Keep leading. The world desperately needs YOUR leadership!


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