Every week I meet with Anna on my team to talk about the blog for the week. This past week we were laughing that the first blog I wrote in 2020 (and this is dead serious) was called It’s 2020 — Bring on the Problems. It was a blog all about how I planned to handle the problems that came my way this year, the final line being a paradox where I said — “Here’s to more and more problems coming our way in 2020.” — And that came true more than we could have possibly imagined.
As Anna and I were talking on the phone about the final blog of the year, I started to tear up. I was fairly overwhelmed thinking about what all that just happened over the past 12 months. But I wasn’t tearing up about all of the pain and sadness. I was tearing up about all we can be proud of. As I was talking about 2020, I couldn’t believe all of the things that we actually made it through this year. So, before we go into 2021, I’d love to invite you to stop and realize what we all just did, being thankful for what we’ve learned, and using those learnings to help others as we move into 2021.
Here’s what you did in 2020.
You Completely Changed Your Job
What you thought you were going to do going into 2020 did not happen. Instead, you had to change your job. Whether a big or small change, every single one of us had to write a new “Coronavirus Job Description” for ourselves. Most of you had to change all or some of your product and features, leading you to change what your job was going to look like. Even if your core product didn’t change, something about your job was different than what you expected this year. So, let’s celebrate the fact that we adapted and changed our jobs mid-way through the year and made it through.
You Created New Rhythms Overnight
You went from working in an office or alongside a team that worked in the office at least on some regular basis to a world where your home became your workplace. Because of that, your daily life completely changed. You changed what your morning routine looked like. You created a makeshift home office. You downloaded new tools to connect with your team and get your work done. You learned how to work alongside a spouse or roommate. You homeschooled your kids. You house trained a new puppy. All in the same physical place that you eat, sleep, and rest. Let’s celebrate that we all found a way to make working from home happen, even though it wasn’t at all easy.
You Didn’t Travel
I love traveling, and I’m sure the same is true of most of you. There is even a study published by Harvard Business Review which found that CEOs find most of their inspiration (and rest) while being on the road away from the office. But that didn’t happen this year. But the good news is that many of you still found the time to connect, reset, and recover, even though it didn’t look like what you did before. You were able to talk to more potential partners and clients by removing travel time from your calendar. You had lingering evenings around the table, played games with family and friends, made your homes into an inviting space, and maybe found out that slowing down isn’t so bad.
You Handled Your Cash Flows
You made sure that you had enough cash, which was really, really hard to do, especially in Q2 and into the beginning part of Q3 2020. But you did it. You found ways to ensure that you a) tracked all of your revenue and expenses well and b) generated enough to keep the lights on. This is no small feat, and you can be proud of the fact that you stayed afloat.
You Pitched Differently
How you talked to investors changed dramatically. You had to share what you’re doing with them amidst this crisis. You had to prove that you adjusted your company enough to remain relevant and also pitch virtually. You learned the right questions to ask, and continued to build relationships with investors in a very tough climate. And, many of you were able to raise significant capital in this season, with the stats showing that $129B was raised globally in 1H 2020 — only slightly down from previous years. It’s impressive and should be celebrated.
You (and I…) Learned About Equity
You rose to the occasion, fighting for racial justice. This year, systemic injustices were unveiled in the United States, and all over the world, and we saw you make an impact in your spheres of influence by adopting new hiring practices, building inclusive programming, supporting Black-owned businesses, and investing in BIPOC founders. In solidarity, we continue to learn and strive towards a more equitable world.
You Slowed Down
You found new ways to regain your energy outside of work. Without a commute, you had time for an evening walk after work. Without travel, the time you used to spend on planes became a time where you were at home and able to rest with your families. For all of those times before when you wished things were “slower”, you finally got your wish. Things were quiet. And, you took advantage of it. You cooked more, did house projects, played puzzles with your kids, and learned new skills. This quiet connectedness is worth celebrating.
You Learned the Preciousness of Human Life
My wife’s grandma died of COVID. Almost all of us know someone who was sick or even passed away this year. We came face to face with our own mortality, and continue to mourn the incalculable loss of human life at the hands of the pandemic and other tragedies this year.
You Became More Resilient
Every generation has its moment. With the generation before me, it was 9/11, for me it was the Great Recession of 2009, and for today’s generation, it’s the pandemic. Yet, looking back, each of these crises leads us to realize that, no matter what happens, we’re ultimately going to make it through. And, as talked about repeatedly in the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas, the more that things are torn apart and broken down, the more that we will come back stronger as humans and businesses. The year’s crises were an opportunity for us to become more resilient. Through the hardship of this year, you stayed engaged. You didn’t check out or let victim-ness and anger rule the day. You kept moving, doing what you needed to, and becoming more resilient one day at a time.
And you made it through. YOU MADE IT THROUGH. You adapted to what felt impossible and chaotic just a few months ago, and are better for it. 2020 is behind us, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. And we made it. It’s impressive and should be celebrated.
Now, as we go into 2021, let’s all realize that we can do this. We’ve got this. But, I can tell you this, my first blog of 2021 is definitely going to be:
It’s 2021 — Please Bring On Fewer Problems