When I ask clients about their experience with the storytelling process, they inevitably say how much they love the chance to reflect, to take a moment in their busy lives to look at where they’ve been and where they are headed. The start of a new year is a wonderful time for reflection, to look at the year past and to imagine adventures for the year ahead, and ultimately to consider the lessons learned.

My husband and I have a New Year’s Eve tradition where we go through the year and remember one fabulous moment from each month. (And yes, as we get older, we sometimes need to cheat and look at our calendars to remember just what happened in February!) This past year was particularly difficult, and it became all the more important to reflect on the good amongst the challenges.

I begin 2015 with a renewed energy and excitement, and I am thankful for the chance to learn from my experiences in 2014. So just what have I learned?

The right time is now.

This past year I lost my mother, faced a health scare of my own, and watched my ridiculously fit husband (his happy place is on a bike) undergo two heart surgeries. Carpe Diem has now become the motto in our home. Whether it’s taking the steps to record a life story or booking that trip to Italy, the right time is now!

Trust your gut.

I started 11stories with two main goals – first, to engage a diverse range of clients, and second, to bring a fresh approach to the design of personal history books. Admittedly, some people thought I was crazy to leave a successful career in academia to start a business that most folks still don’t understand. I had curious looks from friends and family who did not believe that a thirty-something entrepreneur would be interested in recording a life story, or that a couple would want to record their love story after only 5 years of marriage. Nor did they believe that folks would care as much as I did about typography and layout, about paper quality and foil stamping.

I followed my passion.  I had a strong belief that there was a need for such a business, and this year has happily proven me right. I am continually surprised and excited by the range of clients who come to 11stories, by their passion for storytelling and their appreciation for a custom book that is beautiful now and for many years to come.

Our stories, our knowledge, and our experiences are our most important legacy.

My mother greatest legacy to me was not a possession, but rather her love of words. Our Scrabble games were epic, settled in her bed for hours, dictionary at the ready for any challenges (it was here that I learned the word “id” could get you out of any jam.) She shared with me her love of books, including the timeless tales of Winnie the Pooh and the adventures of Nancy Drew, and drove me to the great public library near our house so I could spend hours exploring the stacks and planning my future. She took me to live in France, where I learned the beauty of words across languages.  Our legacy is not in our possessions; our legacy is in the life experiences, the values, and the stories that we share with others.

Here’s to taking more time for reflection, my glass is definitely raised to 2015!