Hello again. I thought it would be good to do a short summary of the year. I’ve enjoyed writing weeknotes and blogs. Its been a very helpful discipline and I have got better with some practice. Writing as a process helps me get clear on what I truly think about a topic. This kind of reflection becomes even more important as of course 2020 has made it much harder to talk in person.
It certainly has been a year of change. I’ll leave some of the 2020 cliches to others better informed than me. But I do think the adage that 2020 has not created change but accelerated existing change has some truth to it. And, as we already know, the future is already here but not evenly distributed (William Gibson, who wrote the amazing and complex Neuromancer thirty years ago). There has been something strange this year. It has been endless change, complexity and drama on the one hand. I still haven’t recovered from US election doomscrolling tbh! And yet at the same time the odd feeling of groundhog day, one day much feeling like another, safely ensconced at home. It has been useful to connect to nature and the heavens, this year like no other. The rhythm of the passing seasons has helped. I have appreciated nature to give structure to daily life and set some context and perspective.
Here are four principles, carved out from 2020, which I am hoping to take into 2021.
Principle 1: The Signal and the Noise
I read a very good book on this topic ages ago, but I guess its taken some time to sink in! I talk fast and my novel written years ago is still proving a nightmare to hone to a publishable length. Its much easier to write 140,000 words than edit them I find. Just five minutes ago, I had to stop myself from digressing on the brilliance of Neuromancer btw, which threatened to last many paragraphs. I am fond of fancy words and looping clause after clause in long, meandering sentences. I add in too many concepts — I hate to leave anything out!
These weeknotes are great for distilling out what is noise and what is the signal — the important stuff. Using tools like grammarly and the hemingwayapp can be irksome for the author’s ego but definitely improves the writing. Which is rather the point really. This has had the by-product of improving Board papers and other projects too. I have started using both this year and will carry on doing that next year. I will definitely do another series of weeknotes — champing at the bit! But I will try not to write them as late as 1am next time — I don’t think that helped the inner editor.
Next year I will also re-read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book — Make it Stick. I read late this year but perhaps rather got lost in a spate of other stuff. Worth learning some more of its lessons. Thanks to @pollyrt for the suggestion!
Principle 2: Build your emotional awareness
Working remotely for the first time is a bit like working through a veil. Its harder to interpret and understand what’s going on in a virtual room. At times I have felt like I am working in a non-native language. True understanding seems annoying out of reach. With the brain fog and slight discombobulation which accompanies that. But the need for emotional awareness and intelligence has increased as a result of Covid-19. People are emotional creatures, as ever. They are often under more emotional strain at the moment. But we now have fewer signals and indicators to work with.
My premise is that leaders with more emotional awareness are coping better with the demands of 2020. We need not fear that. Emotional awareness is a set of skills which can be acquired, and I am a work in progress. With this in mind, I have valued Daniel Golman and Brene Brown (especially her podcasts) this year. Expect more in 2021.
Principle 3: Follow your passions
It took me some time to truly understand that lockdown was going on for a while. I don’t think I was the only one. I tolerated a rickety desk in my study for over a month before I did anything about it. (Recognise this makes me vastly privileged in lots of ways btw, at least I had a study!) I’m grateful to my husband for installing a cheap repurposed kitchen worktop as a desk, and general-sprawling-about area, as a result. It’s made an incalculable difference — and helped my kid study too. Not only did that transform how I felt about working from home it did make me come to terms with the fact it was my new base. It took some time to come to terms with. And I don’t think I am the only one who needed that time.
I found it really helpful to recast it as an opportunity to learn new skills. I have definitely improved my videos and expect more of those in 2020. I did a great 30-day creativity challenge which taught me a lot about communication. Thank you @helreynolds! I think I have become marginally more accomplished at photography. Fewer heads cut out of photos. I’ve read a heck of a lot and learned a lot from podcasts. I’ve done a few online craft courses. And finally my telescope is here…
Maybe all of that is a distraction. Yes, possibly. But don’t discount the value of achievement and mastery. But it helped me stay sane. It gave me a sense of agency back in a weird world. Ahh finally this is the time to get that creative stuff — yes the novel — and all of the non-fiction — out of me. I may even do some visual art. The LRB reported yesterday that Hornby (the model railway company) has had a bumper year after several years of severe losses. People rediscovering their passions. Which is why I had to wait months for my telescope! Following the passion is not a frivolous thing. Its even more essential to wellbeing in this strange new world.
Principle 4 — The value of connection
It has been interesting to watch relationships wax and wane as they port to the online world. Some of mine have dissipated, which I regret but understand, as they were built on a certain kind of connection. Others are carrying on as before, and I have made some new connections in unexpected ways too. This is good. Conferences are not quite as good, but a virtual version is something at least. And I have heard from a wider range and more high profile speakers this year. I really hope we leave 2020 valuing the people in our lives more, and valuing connections more. I certainly will.
I read a book this year, The Ethical Business Book by Sarah Duncan @sleepinglion888. I picked it up thinking it was about the environment, which it is, but it also talked about leadership styles. A fully mature leadership style is about eco-leadership. So not being the controller, the messiah or the therapist, she contends. Enlightened leaders build networks, create agency for others and distribute leadership everywhere. Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with this but 2020 has borne this out. I’ve read this short book again and again. I expect to be reading and more importantly implementing it next year.
So to end, I think it is about the connections and the links you create and build in life. I guess I end 2020 grateful for the many friends and connections I have. For those of you who have suffered loss in 2020, I hope 2021 brings you solace and healing.
Wishing all of you a very happy new year.