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From a Position of (God’s) Strength — 2021 Reflections & Lessons Learned

It’s the time of year where I reflect on the year, before entering into my annual blogging break. This annual reflection point blog post is my last post for 2021. Also, I don’t plan to start back up the blog or podcast until I get the book mostly done. Visit the blog archives or past podcast episodes to hold you over during my upcoming break.
2020 was disruptive.

2021 was a year of not allowing the distractions of disruption to consume me. It was about getting back on track after the train partially derailed unnecessarily. And, it was a season to tap into the opportunities that arose through the disruption.

My paid consulting work was more than steady, and for that, I continue to be grateful. This stability enables me to continue working my second job — or in other words — building the business of blogging, book writing, course creating, and podcasting.

On the home front, all but one of our kiddos are now in school. Cait’s working with the church. I added 22 new episodes to the podcast and got back on the greeting team with church Sunday services opening back up earlier this year.

Run Forest, Run!

It’s also been a year of growth; as I suppose every year should be for us all — unless we need a year of rest instead.

In the movie, Forest Gump, Jenny leaves Forest and he doesn’t know how to deal with it so he just starts running; that’s what he knows. In several ways, I can relate to this with my catalytic event being the shut down of my marketing company in 2014. The crisis of that event and transition has had me doing, doing, doing. And with a wife and five kiddos, there was an appropriate amount of responsibility to embrace.

But as time has passed and I’ve got more space and margin between that season and the harshest aspects of life, I’ve realized how much that metaphorical explosion has fueled me and how much that fuel source has diminished. When I look back at these last seven years, I’m amazed and confused as to how much I accomplished compared to now, where I’m only able to do a fraction of that level.  Plus, I’ve got my own wounds and trauma to work out as I get further away from that explosion.

In Kate Bowler’s book, No Cure For Being Human (affiliate link), she recalls some words spoken to her during her tumultuous cancer journey.

“You have been left in this heightened present forever… fear has helped keep you alive… but you can’t stay in this state of extreme vigilance.”

Simply put, it’s highly motivating to run away from a chasing bear. With the bear gone, and me far away from it, that motivation must be swapped with a more sustainable source. Thankfully, I’ve taken steps and been given opportunities over these years to swap out this motivation. And the cushion gives me room to reflect as God works out my issues related to it.

But, a pushing survival motivation is different than an aspirational pulling motivation. It’s a shift from reactively fighting an enemy to proactively moving towards a cast vision; from running away from something to running towards it. The shift also necessitates getting more emotionally healthy — Which is true of our country's citizens as well!).

Anyway, that's the transitioning I’ve undertaken since 2014. And this year, more than any other during the transition is most aligned with moving towards the vision and filling out life in line with my desired future; one which anchors me to a position of strength (outsourced to God) regardless of circumstances. It's also aspirational, that I'm allowing and seeking to participate in God working out in me, Christ crucified. While dying to self is the last thing I want to do, I pray that God would change that in me, day by day.

The above passage highlights some of what’s come before. The remainder of this blog post will recap and reflect on the year. Where have I failed, succeeded, and interesting other tidbits along the way? I'll wrap it all up with a few final thoughts on the foundation on which we base our life.

Checking In On My 2021 Goals

At the beginning of each year, I reflect on what I want to accomplish by the year’s end. This annual reflection point is my moment to check-in and see how well I did (or not). At the beginning of 2021, I published my goals and aim for 2021, which you can go back and read here.

This post, in the below items, is me checking in on those things.

Next Book: From The Garden to The Cross

In a separate blog post, I wrote in detail about the progress of the book and the conclusion of the discovery process which I’m moving out of — now into the execution stage.  I share about the 13 discussions that played a part in my research, personal growth during the project, and theological lessons learned from studying the scriptures. Lastly, I shared the working book cover, who the book is written for, and a summary of what will be inside.

One other area of improvement that I don't mention in that recap blog post is how I've grown in my ability to facilitate group zoom conversations. I was experienced and practiced at facilitating live groups, but doing it digitally and while recorded added layers that required adapting my approach. Thanks to Len Wikberg for intervening and providing his feedback to help me make that shift.

share life podcast cover

Share Life Podcast Updates

If you have not noticed yet, I changed the name of my podcast from Grow Your Life  to Share Life while keeping the same subtitle, Systems & Stories to Live Better & Work Smarter.

Grow Your Life was originally an ad-hoc intuitive choice to name the podcast. While it worked and could continue to do so I was not the only one with that podcast name. So, it had me asking how important it was to keep the name. Sure, I could have the same name as another podcast, as my second book does with others, but the tension does illicit a questioning of that decision.

Much of what I write and podcast about is character development and growth (in our self, business, and others). My personal mission statement is to share life, which is a two-way street of giving and receiving from others (teaching and learning) and it piggybacks on my personal purpose statement, to embrace the life of Jesus — the life he gave and the life he lived.  As I reflected, it seemed appropriate to shift the name of the podcast to project my personal mission statement which also encompasses aspects of the podcast that have manifested in the various episode types.

The podcast contained a library of 37 episodes in January 2021. By year's end, I had planned to add an additional 12 episodes to the library. Because of my upcoming book project involving 13 episodes discussing Jesus’ passion, I ended up surpassing my goal for a total of 22 new episodes to the podcast! Now there are 59 shows available to watch or listen to. Catching up on these can hold you over while I take a break to work on the book!

I hadn’t planned to start the podcast until 2021 but the pandemic disruption led me to start it in 2020. I’m grateful that happened as it opened numerous doors of opportunity and outlets.

One example of this opportunity was with a favorite author, C. Kavin Rowe. In 2020, I read three of his books and so earlier this year I reached out to him asking if he would jump on the podcast for an interview. He agreed, and we discussed unique aspects of all three of his books. You can check out the interview here; Unpacking Human Tragedy & The Competing Responses — Christian, Stoic, & Liberal.

Other Minor Goal Updates

Here are some rapid-fire updates of my other goals.

  • Website Upgrades: I set out to migrate my website from the old template to the new one. This migration is done, but I’ve still got several pages that need some design updates. I still need to continue to move the subcategories and nested content into their appropriate places for better structure and SEO benefit. There are also additional actions required for me to upgrade the site to Joomla 4.
  • Paid Freelancing Work: Like I mentioned above, paid client work has continued. I’ve had more work than I’ve needed which has allowed me to refer a great deal of it to others as well as increase my rates quicker than I had originally planned. This helps move me so that I can work fewer hours and earn the same income: giving me more slack time to work on the book, blog, and podcast. I also updated my consulting services page to better reflect my focus going forward.
  • Health & Exercise: This year, I wanted to exercise regularly so I bought a small rowing machine. For about six months I kept this up, but then I fell off the wagon and have not picked it back up. With exercise, starting and abandoning has happened multiple times, and I suspect it may happen a few more times until it becomes a fixture in my life. Another shift I made a few months ago was pulling back on my simple sugar intake. I was drinking several cups of sugared tea and soda each day so I’ve pulled back to simply drinking one drink with sugar per day. This means I’m now drinking my black tea without sugar, which is an interesting new experience for me. An unexpected benefit of this shift is that I’m drinking a lot more water than I had been before.
  • Blogging: Excluding this post, I’ve only published three articles in 2021. This was well short of my goal for 12 new blogs. With more focus on the podcast and book, I wasn’t able to make this goal happen. Thankfully the podcasts kept things active around here.
  • Sustaining Existing Habits: I was able to mostly sustain my desired existing habits including a rotating one-on-one date night with the kids, reading the Bible and devotional, monthly days off, side work mostly happening during the workday, church volunteering, and long term investing. On the reading front, I surpassed my goal of reading 12 books by reading over thirty books in 2021, a personal best!
  • Experiments: I made some updates to Movie Shapes, gave some spontaneous gifts, kept a prayer journal, and continued to improve the website content archives here. I didn't do any more audio blog post readings, start a private paid community, build more comic strips, or integrate fasting into my life cadences. But, we did build in an upgrade to the one-on-one dates with the kids by doing duo vacations. Cait took three of the kids to Orlando at different times and I took David to the NASA space center and Universal Studios. Going to these places as a family is much harder with five kids, so breaking it up is another way to make it happen.
  • New Path of the Freelancer Skillshare Course: I picked up the AverMedia PW513 4k Webcam (affiliate link) for much better quality video streaming on the podcast and so I could start building and launching more courses on Skillshare. I was able to launch one new course about how freelancers can build a steady stream of paying clients. You can check it and my other two past courses on Skillshare here. I’d like to get courses on all the freelance achievements and also create a course based on my second book for small business owners.

Other Interesting & Noteworthy Tidbits

  • We got COVID the first time in the fall of 2020. Turns out in February, our immunity waned and we got it a second time in February 2021. Thankfully the second time around was mild and not much to fuss about. In fact, we probably wouldn't have known we had it had we not gotten tested because of some slight suspicions we had it (diminishing of taste).
  • Social Media Pull Back: I took Twitter and Facebook off my phone last year but the craziness of 2020 led me to put them back in. That’s certainly been a factor in my increased level of stress and poor sleep. So, I decided to take them both off and stick to using them on my computer. This means I use them much less and more appropriately.
  • In 2021, I've had two Atlanta magazine interviews and one on a podcast called the Morning Upgrade. You can check those and others out here.

Fun & Interesting Photos

A selection of interesting photos to remember.

Bizarre hair and face.

crazy hair

In a ponytail.

Still waiting for my Coca-Cola sponsorship.

Me and her.

jason and cait montoya

Working on the lawnmower with my dad.

 jason montoya lawn mower

Grandparent Family reunion.

montoya family

Crazy caricatures.

jason montoya caricatures

Korean BBQ.

jason montoya korean bbq atlanta

The following video and photos are from the last part of 2020, but since they were taken after my final 2020 reflections post, I didn't yet get a chance to share them here. So, here you go!

Fun with grandma. Introducing her to the new grandchild.

Grandma Montoya, Grogu, Baby Yoda, Star Wars

Posing for our Brawny sponsorship, haha.

Brawny Photo

Long time freeeeind. He introduced me to Korean BBQ.

Jason and Craig at Korean BBQ in Atlanta

New Content Highlights

Here’s a list of new blogs and the most popular podcast episodes. 

New Blog Posts

6 Most Popular 2021 Podcast Episodes

My Wall of Consulting Client Gratitude

I would not be successful without my many wonderful clients. Thank you all for choosing to work with me! 
  1. Openeye Scientific
  2. Bob Grant & Relationship HQ
  3. Trusted CFO Solutions
  4. Professional Roofing Technology
  5. Sobem Nwoko and the EBP Society
  6. Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C.
  7. Matt Hyatt & the Rocket IT Team
  8. Sherrie Esteep & BECA
  9. Cameron Schuette & PTX Tech
  10. Rutland Walker & UnionUp
  11. Richard Bembas & Curtis Gibbs of Ecotech Machine Tools
  12. Humphries Construction Products
  13. Angela Rainwater of Growers for Grace
  14. Laura Collier & Braselton Event Center
  15. David McLeroy & Concrete Replacement Specialists
  16. Deenie McKeever of McKeever's First Ride
  17. Bryant Cornett & DTSpade
  18. JW Outfitters
  19. Terry Green of eSports Insurance
  20. Barrett Sherrill & Fred Lemon & Associates
  21. Steve Gross & Gross Capital
  22. L & M Electric, Inc.
  23. Lauren Lowe of Lauren Elaine Interiors
  24. Dr. Donald Capoferri & Precision Pain Relief Center
  25. Rick Davenport & Roofing Atlanta Inc.
  26. Linda Bishop & Thought Transformation
  27. Susan Kanellos & the Midtown Rotary Club
  28. Henri Darby & Trinity Electronic Labs
  29. Casey Cavell of Legacy 4:12
  30. David Wittenberg of Wittenberg Law LLC.
  31. Jackie Cope

If you'd like to join this list of clients and work with me in 2022, contact me here.

Family Photos courtesy of The Mosaic Photo.

Wrapping Up 2021 - What Is Your Life's Foundation?

“If we serve the [God ordained] ends, rather than the Master of the ends, we put ourselves in the place of God, we take the shortcut and disaster will come.” — Diane Langberg, Suffering and The Heart Of God

There’s an interesting tension between taking responsibility, letting God carry the burden of outcomes, and our desire to artificially accelerate the process.

Part of what drives us to act morally responsible is because we want the benefits of that behavior. But sometimes we do the right thing and the outcome is wrong. Other times we do the wrong things but the outcome is good. The wires can cross rooting out our deep-seated motivations for what we do. Other times we do the right things, but too fast (or too slow).

Layered on this dynamic is the idea that much of our goodness can come from outside of us. And the weight and force of evil can drive us to dark things. How morally righteous or depraved is someone based on the much bigger forces at play?

We have a role to play, for sure. But we are finite and broken people, and thus ultimately unreliable. We need something to transcend even the best of us, and the worst of inside us all. We need someone to fill the gaps, to carry what we cannot, to solve the impossible problems that put us to shame.

Foundations are at the ground level. They are often invisible but the most important aspect of a stable structure.

At that level in your life, what would I find? What’s holding it all together? And is that something or someone that can sustain even the most terrible of storms?

Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders comes to mind as we reflect on these vital questions.

“I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” — Jesus of Nazareth, Luke‬ ‭6:47-49‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I'm certainly a mess, but latch on to the truth and hope given by Jesus. It is His foundation that sustains me. I hope to hear it does the same for you.

See you in 2022!

Annual Reflection Point

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