213: 11 Things I Learned This Past Year


“Create your moments.”
Nick Onken

Hello, my fellow alchemists! Nick Onken here for our last solo episode of 2021 on ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the soul, mind, and body of the creative entrepreneur. Today, I’m going to recap 11 things that I learned this year.  2021 has been another crazy year,  but life is always a learning process. It’s important to keep on learning new things as we face the new year, and I think having that attitude of either winning or learning is essential.

Every year, we go through different pieces of our life’s journey, and this past year was quite a journey — it’s been a different space of life, a different space of creation for me. I’ve been diving into new modalities and new mediums, especially the medium of music, learning how to DJ, and now I’m learning music production. Just following where my joys and passions are and the things that I’m interested in is a huge piece of growth. That’s why I am sharing with you my stories and the lessons I’ve learned this year.

Eleven Things I Learned From the Past Year

Every day, we are exposed to new information, perspectives, and opportunities that can help us become a better version of ourselves. Sometimes these lessons come from our own experiences. Other times they come from the people and things around us. For 2021, these experiences served as lessons we can learn from, and I’m sharing with you the eleven things I’ve learned from this past year.

1. Health Optimization Is Important

There is no question that optimal health is important. After all, if we’re not healthy, we can’t enjoy life to the fullest extent possible. Fortunately, there are things we can do to keep ourselves in our best shape, from eating a healthy diet to getting enough exercise. Being able to dive into health and wellness has been something that’s become an actually bigger passion of mine over the last couple of years. I’ve learned that by taking steps to improve our health, we can boost our energy levels and feel better overall. So don’t wait — start optimizing your health, and you’ll be glad you did.

2.  Identity Alchemy Is Never Ending and Is a Personal Growth Process

We all have moments in life where we feel like we need to change but just don’t know how. We want to become something new but struggle with figuring out who that is and where to start. This is natural! It’s a sign that you’re growing, evolving, and becoming more yourself. Transformation is never easy, but it’s always worth it. 

The journey of self-discovery is an endless one, and there’s no wrong way to do it. So let go of your doubts and fears, and just dive in! Identity alchemy is a process that I’ve been developing over the last couple of years, primarily oriented toward creating a personal brand that aligns with who you are from the inside out. But the identity alchemy process deconstructs and curates, and it is becoming something that I continue to go through over and over in my life. As we grow, we let go of old identities and create new ones.

3. Uncomfortable Conversations Are Growth

Life is all about growth. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. It’s as simple as that. One of the best ways to grow is by having uncomfortable conversations. Yes, those conversations make your stomach churn and your heart race. However, if you want to grow, you have to face them head-on. So get out there and have those uncomfortable conversations! 

4. The Universe Has Bigger Plans

It’s easy to get bogged down by the small stuff. The day-to-day grind of work, bills, and household chores can be overwhelming at times. However, it’s important to remember that we’re all a part of something much bigger. The universe has big plans for us.

This is an interesting one because my mom passed away this year from cancer. She’s been battling it for a couple of years, and at a certain point, we knew this day would come. At one point, I went out to LA to visit my parents, and when I came back home, I ended up getting COVID. Then, I was supposed to go to Egypt the next week, but I decided that I needed a couple more days at home to rest and recuperate. While I was getting into a cab to go to Egypt, my mom called me on FaceTime and told me that she had a really bad night and she thought it was her time to transition. I was in shock. I wasn’t expecting that it would come at this at that point in time. I flew back home to Seattle, and I was able to be there for her last breath.

If I didn’t get COVID, I probably would’ve gotten stuck in Egypt by the time she called and had a hard time getting back home, but the universe had bigger plans, and it took me getting COVID to get me back home. I’m so grateful that I was able to be there and be a part of it because it was a profound experience to witness, —  to be there and to walk her home.

5. Relationships Are Complicated

Oftentimes, people seem to think that relationships should be easy — that once you find “the one” everything will be perfect and you’ll never have any problems. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Relationships can be complicated, messy, and downright frustrating at times. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it. If you’re willing to put in the work, relationships can be some of the most rewarding things in life. So don’t give up on them just because they’re not always perfect! There’s a lot to gain from being in a healthy relationship.

6. Life Is a Dance of the Masculine And Feminine

I did a workshop in Tulum, Mexico earlier this year on creating from the yin and yang, the masculine dynamic, and the masculine-feminine dynamics. This is something that I’ve often thought about before. The masculine is the force that creates the parameters. It creates the sandbox that we get to play in and let the feminine magic flow. For example, as a photographer, you intentionally bring in the masculine, which are the props, the styling, the models, the talents, the hair and makeup, and so on — these are the masculine energy. Subsequently, when we get on that set — in that sandbox — we can let our feminine energy flow. Through that feminine flow, we can make magic.

7. Money Is Energy

I grew up in a very scarcity-driven household. My parents worked regular jobs, my dad raised a family of four from a salary of $55,000, and we made it. We weren’t rich by any stretch, but my parents made it happen. However, we also developed a scarcity mindset that money doesn’t grow on trees and that money’s the root of all evil. All these different mindsets have rooted deeply into my subconscious world.

Money can be used to create positive or negative outcomes in our lives. When we learn how to manage our money wisely and use it for good, we can create powerful vibrations that help us attract more wealth and abundance into our lives. But when we misuse or mishandle our money, the opposite can happen, and we can find ourselves struggling financially. 

8. Managing an Extra Layer of Fear

Have you guys noticed the amount of paranoia and fear in the world right now, especially when it comes to health? People are scaring you with health concerns, and oftentimes, it’s just a mere media play. When your nervous system is pumped with fear, your immune system goes down.

There’s no getting around it — fear is a powerful emotion, and when it comes to our personal safety, that power can be downright paralyzing. What if you could channel that fear into something more positive? What if you could use it to help keep you safe? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what you can do by managing your fear wisely.

9. Creating From a Service Space Is a Subconscious Battle

For an artist like me, creating from a service space is a subconscious battle, and this is something I’ve battled for a long time. Oftentimes, we get so much external validation from what we’re creating and what we’re building in the world, and that external validation can be turned into empty neediness as you keep seeking external validation every time you create. External validation is usually praise for the work that you’ve created, and it’s a never-ending battle. We might start out creating from a service space, but before we know it, our ego has taken over. We’re no longer putting our work out there to serve others, we’re doing it to stroke our own egos. From there, the quality of our work quickly diminishes. 

So, it’s important to remain focused on service because when we operate from a service space, everything changes. Suddenly all of those doubts and fears fade away and we can focus on what’s important — helping others achieve their goals. That’s what ultimately fuels us as entrepreneurs and artists — knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of others. 

10. Your Joy Is Your Responsibility

In a world that is constantly trying to tell us what to do, it’s more important than ever to remember what makes you happy. It can be easy to get caught up in other people’s expectations, especially when it comes to our careers and relationships, but at the end of the day, you have to be happy with yourself first and foremost. So take some time for self-reflection and figure out what brings you joy. It may be something as simple as spending time outdoors or reading a good book, or it could be something more complex like traveling or learning new things. Whatever it is, make sure you make time for it in your schedule. After all, your joy is your responsibility! 

11. The Value of Detaching Your Self-Worth From Your Identity

Detachment from your identity is key to finding peace and happiness in life. When you learn to let go of who you think you are, you open yourself up to limitless possibilities. By detaching your self-worth from your identity, you can accept yourself for who you are without judgment or comparison. This allows you to be free to pursue your passions and live a life that is authentically you.

This is something that I’ve come to learn through the identity alchemy process — through the years of having different identities I’ve adopted at various points in time. One of those big moments was in the process of letting go of my identity as a commercial photographer. 

At a certain point, that’s where all my self-worth was coming from — who I was shooting, what I was shooting, and what I was creating in the world. And it goes back to that external validation of the artist in me that I was creating, and my identity was built in that. When that goes away, who am I? And so, I came crashing down because I didn’t know who I was without it, and letting go or detaching is part of the deconstruction process of identity. Alchemy is actually discovering that you need to let go of your identity, and that’s the way to play this game of life.

Your Identity Alchemy

Letting go and detaching is part of the deconstruction process of identity. Alchemy is actually discovering what you need to let go of. It is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be in order to realize who you want to become. Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you and shed them slowly. I believe that the deconstruction process of life and your inner world is such a huge piece of understanding who you are so that you can curate who you want to become. Generally, I noticed for myself that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes on the path of wholeness.

So with that, thank you for listening to this episode, guys! I hope you enjoyed it — if you did, please take a screenshot and post it to Instagram and tag me, @nickonken. And if you have time, leave me a review on Apple Podcasts! I’d really love to hear your feedback.

Do you know what time it is? — It’s time to create your life by creating every small moment. 

Thanks, everyone! I’ll see you next time!

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“We need the community.”
Nick Onken

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • What did Nick learn this year [1:00]
  • How to use identity alchemy [7:00]
  • What is the identity alchemy process [7:20]
  • How to understand the dynamics between masculine and feminine [14:00]
  • How to overcome a scarcity mindset [16:30]
  • What value does money have in our society [17:40]
  • How do stress and fear affect our health [19:00]
  • How to redefine your self-worth [24:30]

11 Things I Learned This Past Year

  1. Health optimization is of the utmost importance
  2. How to use identity alchemy
  3. Uncomfortable conversations are growth
  4. The universe has bigger plans, just trust
  5. Relationships are complicated
  6. Life is a dance of the masculine and feminine
  7. Money is energy and must stay in a flow cycle
  8. Managing an extra layer of fear narrative is like a second career
  9. Creating from a service space is a subconscious battle
  10. Your joy is your responsibility
  11. The power of detaching your self worth from your identity

Links Mentioned:

A FREE email series to create a personal visual brand authentic to who you are.

  • Accelerate your personal brand growth through the Identity Alchemy Method
  • Discover the authentic stories you want to share with your audience
  • Build your personal brand vision and crystallize it with a photoshoot
  • Learn how to ideate and create storytelling visual assets to enhance and up-level your personal brand
  • .. PLUS! You’ll get access my brand building book recs and favorite resources

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