Lessons (re)Learned in 2020 (or How to Make 2021 Soar!)

December 28th, 2020

lessons learned

I’m not a big goal setter, but I do like to reflect on the last year. Usually I do it at my birthday time, which is in early December, but I’m doing it now, as 2021 approaches. I’m sharing the top 10 lessons I learned in 2020. (There were more. Lots more. But I’m limiting this to ten. Remember: thin ruthlessly) 

We look back at lessons learned from the last year in order to look ahead at the next year, so I’ll use this post now to share the lessons for going forward. 

Lessons I learned (or re-learned) in 2020:

1. Urgency isn’t real: There’s plenty of time

For me this happened at lockdown. The first few weeks I was still scrambling to keep up with all the things I already had in place, but after a few weeks, I found myself with a rare commodity: extra time.

I could have been working non-stop, but chose not to. Something happened with time for me. It changed. What mattered was staying sane, staying healthy, staying connected, resting. So I did just that.

I lay in the hammock mid-afternoon and read. I lay in the grass every day just to connect with the earth. Lockdown showed me how busy I had been, and allowed me to unplug from the busy-ness and re-connect in a different, deeper way to my humanity.

I’m happy to say I’ve held on to some of that, and hope to keep ahold of it (lightly, of course) when things start opening back up again.

2. The time to take action is yesterday.

Yes, urgency is mostly a thing that capitalism invented to get us to think we need fixing and get us to Buy Stuff Now in an effort to fix it.

THAT SAID, fighting for racial justice has real urgency because lives are at stake. Fighting for climate justice has real urgency because the life of our planet is at stake.

As a white person who has the privilege of looking away from racism when I get too busy, I learned (again) that we white folks need to step up and out, get out of our comfort zones and take a stand. I’m still/always learning this. Messing up, forgetting, trying stuff…. I made this video in June, after George Floyd was murdered, and the invitation is still open.

Let’s keep the conversation alive. Black lives still matter. I want to keep talking. And keep taking action. You in?

3. Doing something scary is usually worth it.

One of the “scary” things I did was start the Race Stories project. It was scary because while I’ve been doing my own personal anti-racism work for many years, I’d never identified as a LEADER in anti-racism work.

(I talk about that in this podcast episode with Tara McMillon)

I was inviting BIPOC and white people together in a room to tell stories about race. Yikes. Most of the anti-racism work I’ve done has been with other white folks to do the work of cleaning up our racism, so facilitating a mixed race group felt like asking for trouble.

Even the most well-intentioned white folks can be pretty clueless, and I didn’t want to create a situation that caused more harm.

Stepping into that virtual room with the fantastic support of my collaborator, Darryl Piggot, and an amazing group of brave humans wanting to do this work, was scary and exhilarating.

And it was Worth It beyond my wildest dreams.

The relationships that were built and the stories that were told blew me away. We’re doing it again (learn more here if you’re interested in participating) and I’m gearing up for lots more scary things in 2021.

4. Why do anything alone when you can do it with someone else?

I don’t think I’m the only one who sometimes feels completely alone when I’m up against hard stuff. Or even when I’m up against not hard stuff. There’s a crazy story that got laid on some of us that makes us think we have to figure it all out alone.

We think we’re supposed to say “Yeah I got this. I’m cool. I don’t need help.” and we think that’s a win.

At lockdown, I could have gotten trapped in the isolation of me alone in front of my computer for days on end. Instead I leaned even more into my relationships with colleagues, family & friends.

My siblings, mom & niece have met on Zoom nearly weekly since lockdown in March. I have co-working buddies that I get together with regularly to set intentions and get work done. I leaned on my mastermind group to support me in thinking through business problems that need solving. I’ve also managed to dance outside in fields, play bocce ball regularly with a brave crew of pals, and take lots and lots of socially distant walks.

All in service of staying connected and getting all the support I need to make my way through this time with as much resource as I can.

In all of the distancing that COVID enforced, in many ways I feel more connected than ever before. And am reminded again that things pretty much always go better when you don’t do them alone.

5. What you think will never work probably will if you give it a try.

Pre-COVID I was married to the idea that Speakers’ Playground needed to happen in person, NOT online, and that the work I do to help people develop their message was going to be less valuable if I taught it virtually.

I was SO WRONG! I can’t wait to get back in the room with my Speaker’s Playground gang, and I look forward to the next in person retreat where I can guide a group of folks through the talk-crafting process.

BUT what a joy it has been to get to support folks in both programs ONLINE. I’ve had people from London, India, The Philippines and Sri Lanka (to name a few) and all over the US on my webinars and programs.

The virtual container has proved very intimate and equally as possible for deep work to happen. I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve in 2021!

6. You don’t have to save everyone.

I’m somebody who deeply holds that people are good. I believe humans want to be connected and will do what they can to make connection happen.

I believe that if you show up with open heart and a deep listening ear, conflict can be a doorway to more intimacy and a stronger relationship, no matter how uncomfortable it might get.

When you’re in with me, you’re in for life. I will fight hard for our connection and our humanity. I stick with my people.

That has been shaken over the last couple of years in conflicts that have not ended in deeper intimacy, but have ended in deeper divide.

This is very painful, especially given the divide that is deepening on a larger scale in the US. I’m definitely not giving up on doing everything I can to reach across that divide, but I’m also learning that walking away is sometimes the most loving choice.

7. Let go of your coins to continue on your path.

I’m not super woo, but I play in the woo realm from time to time. I was with my bocce ball crew just before the holidays, and in a white elephant gift exchange, I received a Tarot Deck. So we each drew a Tarot Card.

Mine said “Your obsession with possession is clouding your view. Let go of your coins to continue on your path.”

It was one of those moments when I could feel the earth and the sky vibrate with the YESness of it.

That was the seed of a BIG letting go decision I made for myself. I’m on the other side of that decision now, and it’s clear that indeed I needed to let go of some particular coins in order to continue on my path.

And yeah howdy the path is looking pretty good as a result of that letting go. 

8. Everyone’s doing their best in every moment. Including you.

Given the circumstances, and given everything that has led you to this moment, this is true.

There’s no comparison. No judgement. No person’s path is like anyone else’s. Each person has their own set of challenges, their own moments of genius, their own longings & desires, their own reasons for doing things one way and not another, their own story.

Sometimes it’s easy to think “I should be further along this path now” or “Things shouldn’t be so hard” or “I’m an idiot. If I weren’t such a _______ I would be way more successful.” Or to beat ourselves up for choices we’ve made in the past.

But no, in every moment, each one of us is doing our absolute best with what we got.

This is especially true of you.  And of me, of course.

9. When you meet discomfort, something will change.

One my my favorite coaching moments when I’m working with my clients is getting to hang out with them in the land of discomfort, encouraging them to feel the discomfort (rather than judge it or run from it) and keep moving in the direction of their goals.

This is thrilling territory. Something will be different on the other side of the discomfort.

Being willing & able to hang out with the discomfort when you want nothing more than to run is GOLD.

I’ve had my fair share of discomfort this year, as I know we all have, and the practice of staying present with it has helped me move through it. And indeed I’ve found some wondrous things on the other side of the discomfort.

10. When you make soup, make extra to freeze.

When COVID hit last Spring, I thought that COVID for my mom would be a death sentence. My family had lots of conversations, and weathered a few conflicts, to make decisions that would keep her safe.

In October, she got a positive COVID diagnosis. She was not sick enough to go to the hospital, but too sick to care for herself, so I raised my hand to go to Ohio to care for her.

I geared up, took all precautions, and hunkered down in her kitchen to cook vats of nourishing food. Then I had a stroke of genius! I decided to make DOUBLE of everything I cooked, and stocked her freezer with soups & pies for her to eat well after I was gone.

I still delight in getting texts from her with a photo of her enjoying the soup she just pulled out of the freezer.

So yeah. Make extra and freeze it. Someone will be glad you did.

As I wrap this up I can think of lots more lessons I learned that I want to share with you. I know the learning will continue into 2021, so I’ll keep sharing them.

What were the lessons you learned in 2020? How are you implementing them in 2021? Say them out loud. Write them. (Right here in the comments!) Sing them. Tell someone. That’s what will make them stick

And since we’re going to change the world together, we definitely want those lessons to stick! 

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