Lessons Learned in 2016

Looking back on a wild year

This year was one for the history books. From the Rio Olympics, to heartbreaking terror attacks, to the most controversial political race in recent history, 2016 was a year of high highs and low lows.

Around this time of year, before looking forward to New Year's resolutions, it's a good idea to stop and look back, taking stock of all the incredible and difficult things that happened over the last 365 days.

The Internet is full of "Top 2016" lists that span the best books, movies, music, celebrity moments etc. to allow you to reflect on the past year.

But as we get ready for the new year, there's only one 2016 list that I care about: What did you learn in 2016?

Over the next two weeks, I'll look at the top lessons 2016 taught us, and then look forward to the top trends and predictions for 2017, and how you can position yourself to make it your best year yet.

Top Lessons Learned in 2016

At Rich Dad, we are all about continuing education. We believe you should always be learning, which is why we've devoted our lives and business to helping others grow their financial understanding.

One thing I truly believe is that in order to know where you are going, you have to know where you've been. In other words, before you start making your New Year's resolutions, you have to look back at your accomplishments and failures from the past year and glean all the lessons you learned.

So many people rush through the holidays, eager to get to the new year and set new goals and resolutions. It's nice to have a clean slate to start from, and a relief to say, "Out with the old and in with the new!"

But if you want to thrive in 2017, you have to take stock of what you learned from 2016. Use this holiday to celebrate accomplishments and understand where you are today, in order to know how you want to move forward next year.

Today, I want to lay out the top 3 lessons that we all learned from 2016, and identify some knowledge that we can take with us to build a solid foundation for 2017.

1) Expect the impossible

At the beginning of 2016, almost nobody thought it was possible for businessman Donald Trump to win the presidency. But with the recent confirmation vote from the electoral college, we are ending the year with a new kind of president ready to take the office.

But Trump's victory is not the only unexpected political moment of 2016. The world was shocked when Britain voted to leave the EU in the historic "Brexit" vote back in June.

Both political events were once deemed "impossible" by critics far and wide. But the political landscape of 2017 is now one of impossibilities.

Plenty of "impossible" things happened over the past year outside the political arena as well. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. A spacecraft landed on Jupiter. The impossible came true in 2016.

Robert and I have never liked the word "impossible." People told us our dream of being financially free by starting a financial education company was impossible. Our financial advisor told us it was impossible to invest in ourselves first and then pay our bills. But even when we were living on other people's couches, and didn't have enough money to pay our expenses, we never gave up.

If there's one lesson you can learn from 2016 it's that the impossible can, and does, happen. So as you get ready to set your 2017 goals, set them high. Plan for the impossible, and make it happen.

2) Technology reigns

2016 built on the trend of highly innovative technology, introducing a slew of technology advancements that astounded the world.

Some of the most amazing innovations entered the market, disrupting industries and paving the way to the future. Self-driving cars took to the streets all across the country, revolutionizing transportation. Amazon announced a new Amazon Go grocery store, with no checkout lines or cashiers. The iPhone7 hit stores, sending frenzied customers to the stores. Medical research in the treatment of the world's most prominent diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer's, made tremendous leaps and bounds.

Technological advancements have been the stuff of science fiction dreams this year. But that's just the beginning. On a micro level, technology has changed the way we create and run businesses. Thanks to technology, anyone with a computer can create an online business. Business owners have access to a larger and more talented pool of employees through online communication platforms. And technology has made investing easier and more accessible than ever.

I've written before about how you can take advantage of technology in your financial endeavors (click here to read that blog). Whether you are a happy spectator watching the first solar-powered flight, or an employer utilizing new platforms to achieve bigger returns, technology is the gift that keeps giving.

3) Financial education is still the best way to get ahead

This year was alarming for many people. The presence of disruptive technology led to extensive job cuts, not to mention a still recovering economy, political turmoil, higher interest rates, terrorism, and more.

But despite a less-than-ideal landscape, the people coming out of 2016 on top are the ones who have a strong base of financial education.

This year confirmed that financial education is more important than ever. With every twist and turn, every "impossible" act, every astounding technology that revolutionized the market, only those with a deeper financial understanding, and the right mindset, came out ahead.

While the masses were panicking over every setback, those on the path to financial freedom kept their eyes on the long journey ahead, never wavering or allowing the day-to-day challenges to deter them.

Education breeds confidence. And in these ever-changing times, confidence is more important than ever.

What did you learn this year?

I recommend you create your own "Top Lessons Learned in 2016" list unique to your own experiences, failures, and triumphs. This list will allow you to celebrate 2016, and begin looking ahead to 2017.

Start by making a list of all your accomplishments. These don't have to be big like awards won or honors received. It can be something small, like sticking to a workout plan, or finishing a project at work. It could be a savings goal you achieved or a milestone you reached.

Next, make a list of accomplishments you didn't reach. This might be hard, but it's important to do. Be honest with yourself. What did you not do well this year? Maybe you didn't stick to a healthy eating plan, or pay off your credit card debt. Maybe you lost a client, or a job. Don't be hard on yourself, this exercise is not meant to make you feel bad. But every failure carries a lesson, and only once you acknowledge that failure can you learn from it and move on.

Now, make a list of those lessons you learned from both your accomplishments and struggles. Make them clear and easy to understand. For example, "I learned that I need to budget for holiday shopping ahead of time, and not use my credit card to buy expensive gifts." Or, "I learned I need to communicate better with my team in order to accomplish tasks quickly." Let these lessons be your guide to setting your 2017 goals.

Every day brings a new lesson to learn. As we near the end of the year, and look forward to a new one, it's time to take what we've learned in 2016 to give us our best chance in 2017.

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