My personal challenge to you for the new year

new year

By Mark Schaefer

The first blog post of the new year has a lot of emotional power for me. Traditionally I use this post to set the tone for the year, to summarize a major theme that is likely to occupy this space in the coming months. But I’m setting that tradition aside (until tomorrow!), and instead offer a new year challenge to every one of you.

2016 was the most hate-filled year I’ve ever witnessed. There were certainly a lot of prompts for that hate, especially when it came to the U.S. election and its aftermath.

What makes my heart hurt is the continued hate I see in the social news stream, and sometimes among my own family and friends. There seems to be a deep resistance to moving on, a dogged stubbornness to forgive, heal, re-connect, and above all LISTEN to each other.

There is a lack of resilience. People seemed resigned to life in a world of verbal violence, political divisiveness, and unabridged animosity. I observe friends choosing to dwell in toxicity … and even encourage toxicity. This is healthy for no one.

There was a day I was far less calm and centered than I am now. I pursued money, climbed the corporate ladder, at times became self-absorbed with my own achievements.

Life has a way of normalizing your own crap and re-setting your values. You get knocked down, you experience loss, you suffer. And at some point, you realize the only thing that matters in the long-term is to find peace in your heart, and to make amends with everything that keeps you from achieving this.

Every time you choose hate and demonize a people, a religion, a lifestyle choice, or even a politician, you take a step away from achieving that peace in your heart.

In America, we have faced incredible horror. We watched brother kill brother in a Civil War. We sent millions of young people to die and defeat the Axis in World War II. We survived a depression, a nuclear threat, and thousands of innocent people dying in the 9-11 attacks on our own soil.

In every era of crisis, we face a choice. Do we let that horror claim our lives? Do we live in fear and devote our lives to revenge? Do we become toxic and lose that peace in our heart?

I have just completed a new book, KNOWN, which will be out in a few weeks. In my research, I interviewed dozens of people who have stood out among their peers and become known in their field of endeavor — construction, banking, real estate, fashion, education, and many others. At the end of each interview, I asked each person for a piece of advice they would impart to somebody looking to have breakout success, and each of them offered a variation of this word:


Perhaps that is not just a theme for a book, perhaps it should be our mantra for this new year.

Do not let hate rule your heart.

Do not choose to live a toxic life.

Be patient and civil in the face of intolerance.

Look for your chance to show compassion and helpfulness every single day.

Be resilient.

And above all, use this beautiful new year to find peace in your heart.

sxsw-2016-3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration: I took this shot in Florida a few years ago.

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