After a quiet couple of weeks around the holidays, I’m eager to be reconnecting with you. I’m excited and hopeful for the year ahead — for vaccine rollouts, for new leadership in Washington, and for the daylight hours to keep getting longer and longer — here in the northern hemisphere, at least!

At the New Year, I usually write to you to ask what your words of the year will be.

But this year, I’m really eager to share my own.

Below, I’ll tell you which three words I’m selecting to build my proverbial “house” in 2021 — because they have a lot to do with how we will connect throughout the year together.

If you’d like to select your own words for 2021 but could use some guidance, check out these two posts, in particular, from last year:

And if the New Year vibe around choosing your words doesn’t light you up, pop over and sign up for the 3-Day Story Reset, instead.

The 3-Day Story Reset is a free micro-journaling program that I made in 2020 and that hundreds of folks have used to help them unpack, understand, and recalibrate the story they’ve been living lately.

It’s a great time to reset the story that you’ve been living lately, and it will help you find the words, sentiments, and feelings that you’re craving, deep down, for your 2021.

Lessons and prompts arrive in your inbox starting tomorrow.

Why “Words” for the Year?

When we select words to represent our goals, dreams, or desires for a year, we begin a process of guiding the very stories that we will live throughout the year.

Our words begin to build the proverbial “house” in which we intend to emotionally live and thoughtfully reside in the year ahead.

Last year, my words were “elevated” and “expanding.”

They represented a very large swath of goals that I had for my year — in everything from business to personal growth, relationships, creativity, and travel… basically, everything. Looking back at all of my goals for 2020 is actually a bit embarrassing: I wanted every aspect of my year to be bigger, better, and stronger than ever.

(What can I say… I guess I’m not one for settling!)

But, to be honest, I didn’t think about my words for 2020 very much after the pandemic hit.

After all,  about a quarter of the way into the year, life had ground to a halt.

From quarantines to lockdowns and restricted socializing and the added weight of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty swirling about life on our globe, very little about 2020 felt “elevated” or “expanded”.

If anything, 2020 felt “constricted” and “contracting.”

But by last summer — when I checked in with you on the status of your words for the year, and prompted you to consider refining or revising your chosen words for the second half of the year — I was surprised to recognize that my words had had a bigger influence than I had initially realized.

I started 2 new personal practices in 2020 — distance running and Wim Hoff Method breathwork. It was mostly coincidental that these practices revolved around breath and cardiovascular health during a year in which a respiratory virus threatened to take the breath from us. To me, breath and breathing represent qualities of elevation and expansion.

I also held myself accountable to my “elevated” standards around my most meaningful personal relationships, and either ended or changed those that no longer honored my expectations.

I also expanded my coaching business, growing by 70%(!) in 2020, and invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars expanding my skillsets as a coach — with results in my clients to show for it.

Someday, I’ll be able to look back on 2020 and say that my words, elevated and expanding, really did build the house in which I lived that year.

This brings us to 2021.

My words for 2021 are “Lead Without Followers.”

Lead Without Followers, LLC. is the name of my business. Lead Without Followers is also the name of the first book that I published in 2011. “Lead Without Followers” are the guiding words that started my journey 12 years ago, this May, when I began to build the proverbial house of writing and authorship in which you and I are now meeting.

When I quit my job to share my writing with others in 2009, I was guided not only by a desire to become a professional writer, but by the deep and unwavering belief within me that I could make the quiet calling of my heart something real in the world.

I wanted to bridge the subtle feeling and intuition that I sensed was possible — a vision for “what could be” — with the real world, all around me. It wasn’t enough to dream the dream; I felt overcome with urgency and desperation to fulfill it.

I wanted to make the calling of my heart real, and live the experience every day, and revolve all of my professional work around it, and create it with my hands.

That calling told me to shepherd, protect, and speak for that which I understood to be good and just; to show others toward the truth of who they are, so they may be unapologetically themselves; to awaken a loving form of leadership in a world that had seemed to forget the true meaning of the word.

But I was naïve, back then. I didn’t realize how long and how challenging the journey would be to make these dreams real.

While I have never really let that first, earliest calling go — to lead without followers, and inspire others to become leaders without followers, unto themselves — for many reasons, I knew that I had to let go of my guiding words for a while.

I did for many years.

I had to leave behind those words and the story that they told because I could not fully understand what they meant yet.

I wasn’t ready for it 12 years ago, nor when I published my first book a couple of years later.

So I laid them down for a while. And I set off to learn what they meant through trial and error, lots of practice, and much hard-earned experience.

I pivoted and evolved. I dodged bankruptcy twice, reinvented my work a dozen times, and began to travel hundreds of thousands of miles around the world, mostly alone, to understand the true and lasting heart of people, everywhere. I built communities, worked with over 300 creative entrepreneurs and professionals and aspiring authors, taught classes and workshops for over 4,000 students, published 4 more books, and kept writing all the while.

Today, I’m coming home to that calling — and owning those words, again.

Intentions for 2021… for you and me.

Throughout 2021, I will be guiding you into and through the heart of what it means to be “a leader” in today’s world — because we are living in a world that is alarmingly absent of good, unifying, and responsible leadership.

My writing and my newsletters to you will largely revolve around these themes and others closely attached to them, with which you’re already familiar: personal development and self-knowledge, the power of storytelling, how we express ourselves creatively and otherwise in the world, and the like.

But, more specifically, my coaching work will be following these shifts and now directly support clients in their expressions of personal, professional, and creative leadership.

I am building a new coaching collective for emergent thought leaders.

As this will be the centerpiece of my work moving forward, it will be price-prohibitive, around $650/month to begin, and be available to a limited number of people at any given time, starting with just six.

I am designing the containers of this new coaching program to support the personal growth and professional development of writers and artists, conduits and messengers, healer-teachers and aspiring authors, creative entrepreneurs, change-agents, community leaders, nonprofit founders, and mid-career professionals.

Focusing on everything from refining your personal practices to clarifying your direction and setting deliberate goals, this collective will help you develop your voice, birth your book, build a body of work, refine your programs or service offerings, and keep you standing in the space of your leadership by giving you opportunities to practice your leadership, out loud.

This is for anyone who is answering their calling of leadership in the world — and who feel like they could use some special support along the way.

I’ll be sharing more about what I’m building with you soon.

For now, dear reader, I ask you to remember this:

Our world is desperate for leaders.

We are being summoned to fill the void.

And, leadership is a quality of the heart.

You are not “qualified” or “only able to” lead based on the amount of money you have, the status you have attained, or the number of followers you have.

Leadership is born within… and made real among others.

Will you join me in 2021 in redefining the very meaning of the word — and taking the label of “leader” back for ourselves?