Ten Decembers

Our past needn't dictate our future. Success is the product of persistence, sustained effort and being willing to change.

It's that time of year again. When we reflect on the year that's been, and what we want to change going forward.

Our social media feeds are full of catalogues of wins or losses. I too wanted to make one of these catalogues - but not of a year. Of a decade. But in the process I realised that my most important changes couldn't be captured in a series of photos.

In an age of instant gratification and constant striving it's so easy to narrow our focus to one moment or achievement. We get sucked into our New Year's post tidily summarizing our worth as a person (or lack thereof) this year.

This makes it so easy and tempting to define ourselves by deficiency. To give in to the voices that say 'you're not enough'. (Let's not even mention the beast of comparison!)

Letting ourselves off the hook

The idea of overnight success is equally seductive. We want to believe that success happens by magic or natural talent, not sustained effort.

Perhaps we might get lucky and one day be on the receiving end of that magic - like those other people. We might finally 'get picked' for the success lottery of life, career, romance, you name it - like those other people.

That would let us off the hook. We wouldn't have to do the work of showing up every day, especially when it's hard.

Or, more likely, we can label ourselves as not talented, gifted or natural enough to succeed. We're not like those other people.

That would let us off the hook. We wouldn't have to do the work of showing up every day, especially when it's hard.

Either way, the illusion of 'overnight success' removes our agency to work with what's in our control.

The Long Arc of Change

As I look back on memories of the last 10 years of Decembers I see incredible moments that make me want to pinch myself.

I also see all days and months in between, not captured here.

The long periods of loss of self belief, low worth and feeling stuck.

The times where I thought about giving up music altogether.

The times of wanting so desperately to be picked for that lottery of opportunities, and thinking I was entitled to that.

The most profound internal change I've experienced in these ten years

...is shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

I learned that I was trying to control things I couldn't - like getting picked. And that I was giving up control of things I could - doing the work, over and over.

Before, I used to seek others approval to validate my worth both in work and at home.

Now I'm learning to trust my own judgement, and act based on what success means to me.

It's not easy and I get it wrong all the time.

Wait up.

Stop press.

Five years ago I could never have said that. That I get things wrong. Not to myself, and certainly not in public.

From Achieving to Learning

I lived in a binary world - perfect or failure. Those labels were also directly attached to my self-worth. If I got something wrong, I was wrong.

Now I keep learning (often painfully) that I am not defined by my achievements.

I can choose what success looks and feels like for me in every moment.

This seismic internal shift started in 2020 amongst the trauma of lockdown.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

Looking back, I remember how I was so fixated on my own independence. Receiving help, let alone requesting it, was another direct threat to my value. If I needed help I must have been wrong.

I'm still working on this - just ask my wife!

It took a village of experts and other voices, many of whom I've never met, to get me from old fixed-mindset me to learning-to-have-a-growth-mindset me.


  • Confronting conducting lessons with Ben Zander unmasked what was holding me back. Ben's work was introduced to me by the late John Hopkins in 2009.
  • The Creative's Workshop with Seth Godin taught me the value of building up a body of work one day at a time over 100 days. I discovered Seth's work around 2017.
  • The book Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie helped me understand where some of my behavioural and relational patterns came from, growing up around alcoholism. Ross Wolf introduced me to the concept of co-dependence in early 2020.


  • Mindset by Carol Dweck gave me the language and framework for interrogating my own ways of thinking and how I could change them. I first heard about Carol on the Michael Gervais podcast.
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown helped me become more self-compassionate. I think I first discovered Brené's work via Seth Godin around 2018.
  • The Unlocking UsDare to Lead Podcasts by Brené Brown gave me language to live by like 'I'm here to get it right, not to be right'


  • Think Again by Adam Grant gave me evidence-based reasons for rethinking, and allowed me to understand why my past leadership decisions hadn't worked the way I wanted. I discovered Adam Grant via Brené's podcasts around 2021.

The dates here also reveal many arcs much longer than a decade. Ideas that took root long ago, that have taken time, patience and lots of missteps to cultivate into action and practice.

Once again, I'm reminded that myth of overnight success just doesn't hold water.

Drip by Drip the Work Transforms*

Why am I telling you this?

These are the bricks that build change.

Reading a book, one chapter at a time.

Listening to a podcast for 10 minutes at a time.

Change happens by putting one foot in front of the other.

Change happens when, after all that walking, you realise you've ended up somewhere you don't like - and you realise you could choose a new direction.

Change happens when you courageously step into that new direction, even when it feels scary.

And then take the next step.

What's your next step?

*with credit to Seth Godin, who makes ideas worth spreading

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