How to Use What You Learned in 2020 to Improve Your Life in 2021

Female writer, working on laptop at table

I know for many people 2020 was a terrible year.

But I like to quote my favorite historian, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling book, Sapiens, who has said repeatedly throughout 2020 that, over the course of human history, things have been a lot worse.

This is a fact I often remind myself and my clients of, so we keep everything, especially our own personal situations, in perspective.

Maybe that’s why I am so positive and optimistic about 2021. You see, although it was very challenging on many fronts, we have all learned so much.

Now we have to apply what we learned and do better in 2021.

Because, if nothing else, 2020 was an amazing setback.

Yet, I actually think it was also a gift. That’s how I choose to see it. And for almost everyone I know, the gift came in the form of time.

2020 gave us time to pause — that pause is actually what makes us human, what sets us apart from other animals. We have the capacity to take time to think before we act — even though we don’t always use that capacity.

What did you do with that gift of time?

I saw so many people using that time, for themselves finally.

They took time to think and to learn.

To think about what they wanted to do with their life. And to learn new skills, including copywriting and business-building skills. I saw people learning:

  • How to rise to the occasion. In 2020, we all got to see what we are made of — and we got to choose what we are made of. Would we crumble under the weight of it all or would we figure something out? In April, one client said to me, “[The pandemic] is forcing me to become the business owner I should have been all along.” Indeed! He was not the only one.
  • How to reframe what’s happening. We couldn’t change reality but we could (and still can) change how we see it. That’s the difference between the first reaction many of us had: “This pandemic is the worst thing that’s ever happened” and the second reaction, “Maybe this pandemic will be the best thing that’s ever happened,” which came after time and reflection.
  • How to invest in the future. When the world stopped, paralysis set in for some. But others needed to stay busy, for their own sanity. So they kept moving, intuitively understanding that everything they did, every action, every effort, every offer to help another was, and would be, an investment in their future and that of their business.

Some Were Lucky, Others Not So Much

The lucky ones got projects that never would have come along otherwise. They had clients whose pre-COVID marketing budgets used to go almost entirely to trade shows. When all the travel came to a halt, those companies promptly reallocated travel budgets to copywriting and content marketing. Bingo! They needed case studies and email marketing to reach the prospects they had planned to see at the trade shows. (That is still the case as we enter 2021, by the way.)

The not-so-lucky ones found themselves in niches that closed down, literally. So many of them “pivoted.” One in the restaurant industry saw an opportunity to expand her niche. She reached out to food manufacturers — themselves trying to pivot — that needed copywriters to help write those new e-commerce websites so they could reach consumers directly.

Lucky or not, many copywriters and designers doubled down on their marketing, planting seeds of awareness and cultivating new relationships, especially on LinkedIn, which has become a networking bonanza. Maybe you were one of those previously reluctant networkers who, almost overnight, became, dare I say, networking mavens!

One Thing I Didn’t Anticipate

What has surprised me most is how much confidence so many people have gained through this year, despite the challenges — perhaps because of them.

I have witnessed so many people rise to the occasion, change for the better, and grow professionally and personally. They (maybe you too) are now more resilient and capable than they thought they would be. They surprised even themselves with their resilience.

So it turns out that 2020 was a gift, indeed the best thing that ever could have happened for those who used it that way.

I can think of several examples but my favorite is Barbara, a presentation designer who, for years, traveled to live events around the country, working long, stressful hours on site. She dreamed about saying no to all that travel and all those all-nighters. But she couldn’t afford to, since she hadn’t yet laid the foundation for the next chapter of her business.

Then, in March 2020, all live events stopped — and Barbara got her wish.

She got the gift of time to think and plan. And now, 10 months later, here’s what Barbara told me, “Yes, it was really scary, but now that I’m on the other side of it — it was kind of magical. I’m not sure what’s coming next but I’m not feeling as panicky about it.”

I asked her why not. And that’s when she took my breath away.

“It won’t help or do any good. I know that for sure. I don’t know if my business will make it, but I’m not freaking out about it. Something in my brain clicked into ‘It’s gonna be okay.’

I’m not sure how, but I now understand that I do have value.

Before, I thought my value was what I was producing, the deliverable. But now I know that’s not where my value is. My value is in my years of experience, in my maturity, and especially in how I think. That all has value.

It’s 2021 and I’m ready for action. There are a lot of resources available that I haven’t been using — it’s time to start using them. I know what I want in my business and life. I know how to do this. I’m ready now.”

What about you? Are you ready to use what you learned and make 2021 better?

Please share in the comments what help you need to move forward.

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Published: January 14, 2021

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