Why 2020 wasn’t all bad, and moving forward

So, we are at the end of 2020 – or the beginning of 2021, depending on how you look at it. I will be ringing in the New Year bells by watching my favourite movie, Trois couleurs: Bleu. It’s the story of personal liberty, and how life can creep in even if you don’t expect it or don’t want it to creep in. The film tells the story of Julie, of a successful woman thrown into a world of loneliness by tragedy. Grief blooms throughout the film, telling a story that individual freedom is nothing without hope, purpose and empathy.

The movie also shows us that people are often not given time to grieve due to economic issues. In the movie, there is a sharp contrast between Julie’s comfort in the Mouffetard in Paris (a few streets from my old apartment on Rue St Jacques, Paris, incidentally) and Lucille’s life participating in sex shows in Pigalle. For Lucille, grieving is a luxury that she has never had the time or money to experience, and, in keeping with her situation, her story is not told.

Juliette Binoche, Trois Couleurs: Blue.

I’ve hit rock bottom a few times in my life; divorce, nearly being homeless (twice) and hitting an unexpected financial crisis. I know what it means to be poor in modern day Britain, having lived through miners strikes and the consequences. The thing with hitting rock bottom is that it gives you a strong foundation to build on. It strips away the inessential, the distractions, and the toxic people and situations that are not helping you to be directed towards your goals. It also gives you more empathy, and it forces you to have faith in your own resourcefulness and abilities. For people who appear not to be grieving, perhaps it is due to the economic requirement to keep moving forward and it’s a luxury that cannot be afforded.

So, 2020 was a good year in that it was a stripping back of the inessential. It made us all think about what is important. If you know Eisenhower decision matrix, time at home helped us to see the long-term outcomes of your tasks and focusing on what will make us most effective, not just most productive. We have thought about more than data; we have thought about having lots of information, a certain amount of knowledge, some wisdom, too much judgement and not enough purpose. 2020 meant stepping back from activities, people and situations that were not good for me. ‘Because COVID’ became a ‘get out of jail’ card to get away from activities, people and situations. It also killed some organisations that were on their way out, such as PASS. 2020 ripped off sticking plasters, exposing weaknesses.

I lost a few family members to COVID-19, along with other family members who suffered from other conditions and didn’t make it. So yes, for sure, it was a difficult year for many people, including myself. However, to move forward, we have to start thinking with at least a little positivity and try to find the collateral beauty in what’s left.

I have to say that I survived 2020 reasonably well, possibly because I’ve had a harder life than a lot of people around me and it builds resiliency and faith that you can survive this, too. Fortunately, my company didn’t need to take grants or other tax breaks because I stuck to our strategy of Make Your Data Work and aiming to finish what we start. It’s not a well-thought-out strategy to chase after grants in lieu of a vision and a successful business plan which fulfils a customer need. The vision can be pretty flimsy and there are some situations where it’s better to walk away, and you can smell grant-addicted companies a mile away.

As a business, we stuck to our vision and sought marketing advice to do better. I’m delighted to say that we are pretty much booked out until July 2021. I have only had Christmas Day off for vacation this holiday season, and I had about four days off this year in total (same number as last year, incidentally) and that includes weekends. I love what I do and I’m very driven to focus on success of my customers as well as my own company.

I don’t believe that things will necessarily get better in 2021, but I hope that we will have more tools to control a virus that should never have been allowed to get a grip. History will judge leaders for their indecision, and hopefully shape a sense of leadership that is more than collecting ‘likes’.

We can use our individual freedom to bring some light to others.

Be Kind to others as well as yourself. Practising empathy will make your day brighter, too.

Decide what your goals are; know your own talents and work to enhance them.

Do the person that you want to be.

Reach out to other people. I joined in an online cookery meetup with some other data fanatics. We had fun in our cook-a-long. Even mini projects can build a sense of achievement and you even end up with candied orange chocolate peel at the end. What’s not to like?

Devise a productivity routine that works for you. I use GTD and I write down everything I tend to do that day. At the end of the day, I wrap up by writig up what I did today, what I will do tomorrow, and a note of gratitude or a ‘win’. It’s important to log successes as well as failures so it helps to keep you on an even keel.

Read. I have subscriptions to The Economist and The New York Times. I do swap around my subscriptions. We need high quality journalism more than ever.

What are your tips for surviving 2021 and beyond? Please leave them in the comments.

I wish you all every success for 2020. Oh, and watch the Trois couleurs: bleu movie. It’s a remarkable piece of art and one of my favourite films. I hope you love it, too.

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