Let’s not sugarcoat it. This has certainly been a tough year for us all in many ways. From the pandemic to layoffs, businesses closing for good, Kobe’s untimely death, Murder Hornets, the election and many more, 2020 will certainly not go down as a boring year. However, I’m a firm believer in the fact that there’s a lesson in every experience if you’re willing to look.
While I faced challenges of my own, I totally understand one simple truth; it could all be so much worse. As of this writing, I haven’t lost anyone due to COVID-19, nor have I contracted it (knock on wood). Below are the 9 lessons I learned from the year 2020.
- Change is constant and nothing is absolute. Let’s be honest. I don’t care how mentally nimble you are, I don’t think anyone (except maybe Matt Groening…) saw this Pandemic coming (unless you believe the conspiracy theories, but that’s for another day). It’s time to totally accept that change is the only constant in the universe. Instead of wishing for things to get better, take a page out of the stoics’ book and deal with reality as it is. Make the most out of a tough situation.
- Chaos creates opportunity. Before the shutdown, who the hell had heard of Zoom? Honestly, I thought Skype was still a thing…. Within a month of the shutdown, their name had become a verb, solidifying them as a powerhouse in the marketplace. Their stocks soared as people started hopping on the platform for work globally across all industries. Breweries started canning and upped distribution while offering curbside pickup. Personal trainers started running virtual classes. Fine dining restaurants started offering carry out with bottles of wine. Gyms rented-out fitness equipment to their members since they were closed. To quote Sun Tzu in The Art of War: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
- Don’t stress over externals. I dove into reading Stoic philosophy during the shutdown, and they constantly spoke of a concept called “externals.” These are factors and situations that are completely external from us. Basically, they are completely out of our control. The Stoics argue that if we use logic and reason, we can navigate our way through any life-altering event. We cannot control the weather, the markets or what other people do. Focus only on what you can control. You’ll find that while it is very little, you’re capable of more than you think.
- Habits, habits, habits. When the gym shutdown and I was laid-off, I found myself with a lot more free time than I’d had in quite some time. I decided to run an experiment with myself. I wanted to see how many good habits I could create. I wanted to test Charles Duhigg’s theory and see if I could put some game-changing behaviors on auto-pilot. The results were better than I expected. I was able to increase productivity and decrease my anxiety levels as a result. I was also finally able to start some projects that I’d been meaning to for years. Plus, the apartment has been cleaner as a result, which keeps my pregnant wife happier. She watches a lot of true crime, so I prefer to keep it that way…
- Value the present moment. Let’s face it. We have no idea how long we have left. This year was a cruel reminder of our impermanence. Hold your loved ones close, make the time count. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
- Use the tough times as fuel. I’m going to be totally honest with you. Like everyone else, I was caught with my pants down this year. The shutdown forced me out of my comfort zone in many ways. Ultimately, it’s what led to me building “Strength with Purpose.” I vowed that if this ever happened again, I wouldn’t just be okay. I’d be ready.
- Ideas mean nothing without action. It’s tough love time. If you have a dream, you have to work for it. We all know that. It’s fun to have a great idea. Playing the “what if” game is all fun and games until it’s time to do some real work. Make no mistake. The grander your vision, the more work it will take. Be ready to put that work in, or face this dark truth. Your great idea means nothing if you do not act.
- Get clear on what you want. Quarantine provided me with plenty of time for reflection. Between reading philosophy, meditating and training my body, I mentally put together a vision for my future self. Through deep introspection, I was able to face a harsh truth; my short-term actions were not aligning with my long-term goals.
- Laugh often. At some point, we have to realize the absurdity of our existence. Life is only going to get stranger, so strap in, folks. Laugh as much as you can and enjoy this wild ride called life. To quote Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park: “Hold onto your butts.”
Train your body. Feed your mind.
Here’s the latest episode of our fitness YouTube series “Beers & Bells.”