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  • Writer's pictureJames Frater

What 2018 taught me?

I have finally been released from the shackles of exams, so I will be resuming my life again. This is the first order of business. It's a bit late and long overdue, but here it is: the lessons of 2018.

I started 2018 by sending a few of my friends messages about what I hoped the year would bring them. The advice I gave to all of them was the importance of being purposeful and deliberate in everything they do. I am of the belief that we make our own luck. The more you practice, the more time you put in something and the more deliberate you are; the luckier you will become.

So what did I learn this year?


We often underestimate the importance and the impact of doing the little things every day. I was first introduced to the concept of ‘marginal gains’ in 2012 when my head of sixth was giving us practical advice about how to best approach our learning during A-Levels. Marginal gains is the idea that if you were to strip back the different components of your life and improve them all by a tiny percentage, over time they would all amount to a large change. It took me six years to truly understand this idea.

I also sat down with a friend who said “life is all about building momentum” and then he went on to explain that every day we should be building on what we have done previously. It should get to a point that even when we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, the habits we’ve been practicing and the momentum we’ve gained will allow us to continue moving forward.

Personally, I have seen the most benefit in reading consistently. As some of you may know I am dyslexic and I have always struggled to read books (unless I had to for school). Last year I made the conscious effort to read a little everyday and by the end of the year I found that I was reading at every opportunity. I found that my vocabulary was increasing, I was able to form informed opinions about the things I had read, it made me more confident with my writing and I was having in depth conversations with strangers who had also read the book I was reading at the time. This is just a small example of what consistency can do for you.


I always thought I was a patient person …until I had my patience really tested. This (twenty ayy-teen) was a very hard year and very often I was facing obstacles I did not know how to overcome. I found I was getting frustrated, mostly with myself, about things that were not in my control.

It took different forms. I had to be patient when waiting for others to complete tasks (side note: this is why it is important to have contingency plans). I had to be patient when dealing with – in my opinion – unnecessary bureaucracy. I also had to be patient when I wasn’t improving at the rate I wanted to.

One day, I decided to trust in the process. I started doing all the little things correctly, I accepting that bad days were a part of the journey and I started to give myself a break. Doing so allowed me to start thinking about the things I could do to speed up processes that were not in my control; tasks that could be completed while I was waiting for other things to happen; or steps I could put in place to ensure I was making the progress I wanted to. I found I was becoming less frustrated and more productive as the year went by. win win *clink*

The value of relationships.

This has been my favourite lesson because I have been able to meet so many weird and wonderful people, while deepening the relationships that I already had.

 I got caught up in the false belief that if I have seen what someone is doing online then I do not need to check up on them or at least, I felt that it bought me some more time before I needed to reach out. This year I made the conscious effort to meet with more people, to have more conversations and to message people whenever I thought about them. And obviously, I found that the things I was reading online did not tell the whole story and there was so much more to explore, question and ponder on.


I am of the opinion that the more you have to do, the more time you make – however, I am not saying that you should sacrifice sleep or take on more than you can manage. If you want to take time to invest in new and existing relationships, then you will make the time to do so. Moreover, doing so also made me realise that there were some relationships I did not want to invest that much time and effort into. And that is okay!

On a final and more sombre note, we all have finite opportunities to connect with and express our gratitude for the people in our lives. It is better to try something than it is to live with regret and the question of what if?.


You cannot grow unless you are reflecting on and evaluating the things you have done. Especially in fast paced environments, we tend to move from one goal to next without really appreciating the things we learnt and the aspects we would improve. It is difficult to see how far you have come unless you take the time out to reflect.

I think this links in to my earlier point about marginal gains. Unless you are consciously and continually reflecting on the different parts of your life, you will not be able to identify the areas of your life in which you can marginally improve.

Let's conclude

Those are the 4 main lessons I learnt in 2018. I hope at least one of them can help you to have an even more prosperous 2019. Take care of your health first and don’t limit to your goals to what others expect of you.

Happy New Year all!


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