Not so ambitious 2022 goals
The end-of-year is the best time for entrepreneurs. The company slows down just enough to plan and reflect. I find comfort in cozying up and writing, as cold temperatures set in outside (yes, even in San Francisco),
2021 was an oddly short year. COVID continued to upend our social life in the year’s first half. The monotony of work-from-home made Monday feel like Friday … … wait… … was it Tuesday?
Then, in the middle of 2021, life started to accelerate. Stores, restaurants, and bars opened up. People stumbled outside of their house, looking like we collectively woke up from a long slumber. A resurrected social life challenged habits born during a hermitical 2020-pandemic-lifestyle. The last few months of 2021 flew by in an instant, punctuated by beers with friends and work back in the office. And, it felt so much better!
Good things of 2021
Writing & improving communications.
If the frequency of writings at the start of 2021 on this blog is a sign of anything, it is my failure to reach my writings goals. I was and remained a pathological essay starter. Forty-seven unfinished drafts sit on Evernote, most abandoned forever.
But among the headstones of half-written articles, a few writings bloomed. Better yet, every Monday, I spent two hours of my day writing a summary of events at Truework to share with the team.
In total, I wrote fifty-one professional updates. I made meaningful progress in finding the right words to explain complicated situations and ideas.
If you’re a leader, doing that exercise may be one of the most impactful things you can do for your team. Thoughts will stay locked away from your reports without a writing effort until mind-reading devices are invented. If you believe in leading by context, I have yet to find a better way than writing down your ideas.
Learning to play music
Musicians fascinated me from a young age. From the outside, piano players and guitarists looked like magicians. There was no way, in my mind, that I would ever be able to play an instrument. I thought I was pitch-deaf and rhythm blind. Boy, was I wrong.
Learning guitar taught me more than a way to make sounds. It brought about the demystification of music and playing an instrument.
Here are a few key learnings worth sharing more broadly.
- Our brain is the most incredible storytelling machine. When a skill has a steep learning curve, it’ll convince us that it’s entirely out of reach. I like to call it “magical thinking.” Don’t be fooled by your brain; most things around us are not the product of out-of-this-world talent. Instead, it’s the result of hard work, applied regularly. Whether you are a software engineer wondering how the Linux kernel work or an inspiring musician who can’t believe that you’ll understand music theory, put. in. the. work. Have faith; the mystic will disappear, and you’ll be able to do what you think is impossible.
- As powerful as learning on your own is, a (good) teacher will make you progress ten times faster. Learning from a mentor will force you to confront your weaknesses. You know, the gaps and difficulties you didn’t want to deal with. The first time the teacher asked me to play something I had learned, I felt embarrassed. My hands were shaking so hard that I could not press guitar strings. A few months later, I got over playing in front of people. Get a teacher/mentor; get it once a month if money is tight.
- Mindful learning. My Guitar progress was in a rut at the start of 2021. I would practice without paying attention. I discovered “mindful playing,” and it kicked me right out of this struggle. It’s the secret of achieving more by doing less. Instead of going through exercises, I would listen and pay attention to my fingers and buzzing sounds. Autopilot is a progress-killer. Learning will be a struggle whether you’re at work or doing something you love. The brain creates an “autopilot space,” it’s tempting to multitask and not dedicate your attention to the hard stuff. Focus.
Investing in mental health
2021 may have been the year of crypto-investments for many, but for me, it was the year I took mental health seriously. From therapists to executive coaches, having a partner to talk freely to is incredibly helpful.
Founder circles are not incredibly open about their issues. The fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset stops people from sharing stories and experiences relating to self-doubt, worries. If you’re in a bad headspace, you’ll have a false belief that it’s all rosy for others, pushing you even further in self-doubt.
If you’re a founder, don’t think twice; make the time and money investment to get help. Launching and growing a startup is a mentally taxing and stressful job. You will, at times, feel lonely, unable to speak to friends, exposed non-stop to bad news. Over time, it’ll take a toll on your happiness and productivity. That’s bad news for your business, colleagues, and yourself.
What to look forward to in 2022
Improving my clarity of thought
Despite my progress in improving writing in 2021, I’m still nowhere near where I’d like to be.
Writing is the best gateway into your thoughts for other people. Clarity of thought and writing doesn’t happen overnight; a good writer is trained, not born. If you see yourself blaming people around you (in-the-box thinking) for not understanding your strategy or decisions, it’s something you should take seriously.
Changing my relation to time
Modern society has an odd way of looking at Time (yes, with a capital t).
If you’re like me and constantly obsessing about getting the most of your time (small t), you may have a problem.
More and more, I’ve come to see time only as a resource—a resource I can use, but not necessarily much else. The insight that far from using time, that we, as individuals, are time came from reading Oliver Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.
The need to rethink Time is further fueled by having ADHD. I often fall into a spiral of aimless internet browsing. Time loses all substance when I’m in this state; hours slip, and dissatisfaction grows.
Changing my approach to time won’t be easy. Productivity geeks will continue to give me FOMO by pointing out all the things I could be doing. That question is what’s wrong with how we think of time. Undoubtedly, the question must be, what should I be doing? And to shock the productivity seekers, the answer is “nothing” or “whatever I want to do.” Instead of living in the interstices between activities, I’ll strive to inhabit the twenty-four hours of each day.
What are yours?