It’s long overdue, and I’m cheating here a bit by publishing this in April instead of January, but here we are. I have always written these reflections for myself. This year, in light of being more vulnerable and open about my thoughts, I decided to make it public.
It can be difficult not to filter when you know people are going to read it, but I’ll do my best.
2020+ (a plus for the extra months we’re tacking on in 2020) was a wild ride for everyone including myself. From the death of Kobe 🐐, to COVID, to the 2020 election, 2020+ took the cake for everything I didn’t expect to happen becoming a reality.
But the beautiful thing?
I learned a lot. A year filled with a ton of unexpected turns and surprises is a year packed with learnings I likely would have never otherwise had. Here are my top ones:
Ignorance and hate hold hands. Learn to be less ignorant.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are amongst the many other Black lives taken from this world. Black Lives Matter.
Everybody (including myself) will run into instances where ignorance is shown. You simply cannot be educated on everything in the world. It’s what you choose to do when ignorance comes across that matters, as ignorance can easily become hate, and it is your responsibility to continue to learn.
For me, silence was no longer an option –– something I admittedly didn’t quite understand I benefited from as a model minority. Understanding how to be a better ally became even more imperative, as the luxury of silence you have is something others can’t afford, so where you stand and how you use that luxury matters.
Learning how to unlearn ignorant habits (including silence) I grew up with is a real thing. Choosing to be complacent with racism is a real thing (especially with loved ones).
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it's the only way forward.”
The fear you feel of standing up to a parent, friend, or significant other is 100 times worse for those actually facing racism on a daily basis. It’s not enough to be non-racist, you must actively be anti-racist.
I’m continuing to learn how to actively challenge these frames of thoughts/people and letting go of people (friends, coworkers, & relationships) unwilling to engage or earnestly learn to be anti-racist. It’s been long overdue for 2020+, and one learning that will continue to be ongoing for the rest of my life.
You can’t build a kingdom with someone who still wants attention from the village.
Dating can be rough. Relationships have their ebbs and flows. I wish there was a secret sauce at times, but 2020+ showed me people can be at very different stages of their lives. People grow at different rates. Growing at different rates means not everybody is on an equal playing field when it comes to having the capacity to take on a relationship, and there’s nothing you can forcibly do about it aside from understanding and recognizing the stage of life you are in.
It’s not a knock on anyone, more of a life truth. Some are ready to build out a kingdom, and some still need the nurturing of what a village can provide.
I’m not experienced in relationships per se, so it took me a hot second to learn and recognize how to handle this, but knowing where you are relative to another person is key to having conversations and taking action on the relationship accordingly. Without this, you’re bound to spin wheels and use up far more energy than you need to.
Tangentially, in regards to relationships, changing my mindset from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What can I learn from this?” was a game changer. Everything becomes a learning experience for the next, better thing as opposed to a tragedy.
Doubt is expensive. Curiosity can lead to passion.
Doubt and curiosity have been two driving forces behind big moves in my life from leaving consulting to move out to SF, to quitting an amazing PM job at FB to travel the world, to deciding I want to jump into the animated short space with a goal of winning an Oscar –– it’s now an MO I welcome and embody.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the expense caused by doubt can be taxing on your mental health and happiness. Curiosity tends to be much lighter.
Doubt and curiosity go hand-in-hand. Think of it as a scale. The deeper you fall into doubt, the more you live in regret. The deeper you lean on curiosity, the more you’ll learn about the world and yourself. Lately, I’ve been leading a life trying to hone in on those curiosities.
Ok great, by why such a fixation on curiosity? Where does that get you?
There’s a great quote from Elizabeth Gilbert that I stumbled upon a while back (thanks Kushaan) that I deeply relate with and has really put me at ease with practicing this mindset.
"I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it’s a very gentle friend, and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so forgiving, and sometimes, not so available. And so, when we live in a world that has come to fetishize passion above all, there’s a great deal of pressure around that. And I think if you don’t happen to have a passion that’s very clear, or if you have lost your passion, or if you’re in a change of life where your passions are shifting, or you’re not certain, and somebody says, “Well, it’s easy to solve your life. Just follow your passion,” - I do think that they have harmed you, because it just makes people feel more excluded and more exiled and, sometimes, like a failure. Sometimes, following your curiosity will lead you to your passion.
Sometimes it won’t; and then, guess what? That’s still totally fine. You’ve lived a life following your curiosity. You’ve created a life that is a very interesting thing, different from anybody else’s. And your life itself then becomes the work of art — not so much contingent upon what you produced, but about a certain spirit of being that, I think, is a lot more interesting, and also, a lot more sustainable."
Following your passion is overrated. Not everybody is built knowing exactly what they want, and following flutters of curiosity can get you to a place of passion. The second I realized that a life full of a million flutters of curiosities paints just as beautifully of a life canvas as a singly followed passion, I started living a happier personal and professional life. I’ve yet to find my passion, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring a broad spectrum of curiosities in 2020+.
“There is no such thing as perfect, just the relentless pursuit of perfection.”
Even though he delivered my Falcons a 28-3 halftime nightmare in 2017, Tom Brady dropped some knowledge with this quote, and Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, & Serena Williams all systemize it. While the people that appeal to me may be sports-oriented, it’s applicable across all aspects of life.
Realizing the manifestation of “perfect” doesn’t exist has been one of my biggest realizations of 2020+. The relentless pursuit of perfection is a divine place to find yourself. Whether it’s your career, personal growth, a relationship, or a craft –– it’s the people that understand they’ll never achieve “perfect,” but are still okay with pursuing perfection that find themselves in this sweet spot of being able to accomplish amazing things, but constantly striving for something better.
I don’t believe truly accepting perfection excites us to our core. Releasing the idea of something ever being perfect, but keeping the willingness to pursue perfection lifts a weight and creates space for striving for things with joy.
Love the process, they say.
There’s always something to be worked on, so perfect is impossible, but the relentless pursuit of perfection will naturally put you in a flywheel to consistently manifest great things while enjoying the journey, never actual perfection though.
Authenticity wins every time.
Every. Single. Time.
It seems obvious, but being authentic is far more difficult than people think.
Unapologetically expressing true feelings and thoughts. Truly listening to others instead of thinking about what you want to say. Being okay with not pleasing everyone. Surrounding yourself with great people and cutting those that are toxic.
These are some examples of what authentic people carry with themselves and some of what I have struggled with in the past.
People respect authenticity, even if it’s not what they want in their own life at the moment. There’s something deeply alluring about someone that has no qualms being themselves and expressing how they feel, surrounds themselves with amazing people, and is willing to lend an ear to hear what others have to say.
It’s incredible how things that can be abrasive and curt are understood as genuine truth when it’s done with good intent. There’s an art to being able to speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.
In 2020+, a large part of learning how to be more authentic came through therapy, surrounding myself with some of the best friends I could ask for, and cutting ties with those that were toxic.
The latter of the three was probably the toughest piece for me to do, as I try to enjoy every relationship, but as time went on in 2020+, I realized surrounding yourself with amazing people will always be diluted by those that are not.
Harsh. I know, but saying goodbye to those people made the world of difference.
Strong beliefs, loosely held.
If you know me, when it comes to certain things, a stroke of my ego or boost in confidence is the last thing I need. Forming opinions and debating to learn have naturally been things I do, but learning to be okay with changing those beliefs as people provide you with more information or prove you wrong has not always been easy for me.
Understanding that it’s important to have an opinion, but knowing it’s okay to rapidly evolve that opinion despite how strongly you feel is a super-power. I believe people who can do this well, learn the fastest and achieve the most.
In other words, it’s okay to admit you’re wrong, formulate a new thought, and move on. It’s okay to change your opinion when given new information. It supports personal growth vs. stubbornness and delusion. The people I surround myself allow for this, and it’s a beautiful environment to be in. The growth you feel is far more constructive and puts you in a happier place.
Where your confidence comes from determines when it runs out.
45 pounds. That’s what I lost in 2020 traveling and jump-roping my heart out during quarantine. I went from an all-time heavy of 215 pounds to 170 pounds. I still can’t decide if I love my friends for still loving me and saying nothing, or hating them for saying nothing.
All jokes aside, losing that much weight gave me some serious confidence.
The funny thing?
It didn’t last.
I had loads of confidence for a short period of time from losing weight, but it doesn’t build confidence holistically. Understanding there are no shortcuts to working on your mental health was a struggle for me. I started therapy in 2020, and it’s probably been the best use of money I’ve had since buying my Chemex.
IYKYK. The coffee addiction is real.
Switching my thought process from wanting to work solely on materialistic/visible things to working on mental health and self as a whole was a switch difficult to make in 2020+, but so rewarding. Finding self-love within vs. external materialistic things is always going to be a work in progress.
My friends are so extra, I called them etc. Nurture relationships with people.
All jokes aside, my friends are the best investment I’ve ever made, and I’ll continue to favor them in any way I can.
My friends are extra, but I love them for it. Despite everyone having their own quarter-life crises they were going through, they still managed to pull through for me in 2020+.
From flying to Atlanta and crashing at a friend’s house for 2 weeks because I couldn’t get my life together, to taking phone calls with the numerous relationship questions I was having, to taking me on as a contractor to help out with their startup (for real though, check out Lendtable), my friends are what keep the cogs in this machine oiled and greased.
Because of these things, I’ve learned time invested towards friends is almost always net positive. People are something I care deeply about, so I put forth the effort to let them know I’m thinking of them when I can. It’s probably what I spend the most time on –– FaceTiming friends, writing annual letters, bringing in new people to existing friend groups. Surrounding myself with some of the best people I know and investing in those friendships has hands down been the best decision I’ve made in 2020+.
2021 is going to see no shortage of this.
This is a chapter I have to get through in order to write a book worth reading.
But it’s worth noting. 2020+ hasn’t been easy, and I’m sure other years to come will be challenging. Understanding that this is something we must go through to create a complete story helps focus on the big picture and moving forward.
There’s nothing we can do to change the past, but our actions going forward can shape the future. Here’s to 2021 and onwards! ✊🏾