The Most Significant Year?

The year 2020 was unlike any other in living memory. The world stopped. Two million people are dead. Industries were decimated and industries flourished. Now we look ahead to 2021. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Are we going to slip back into the way things were? Or will we integrate the big lessons of 2020 into new ways of doing things, thinking and being?

Depending where you stood, 2020 revealed different insights. So to help all of us maximise our lessons-learned from the crisis, each month I convened a public global conversation (in affiliation with basecamp) to learn from each other in real-time.

Over 2,000 people from every continent met, listened deeply and reflected together. What emerged was a simple and profound framework to organise your own insights from 2020 and intentions for 2021:

Three Big Takeaways, Three Big Questions

1. Authenticity.

2020 revealed truths about ourselves: our real needs and wants, what we honestly feel energy to do, what we are ready to let go of. Do any of these words from people around the world resonate with you?

“Much of what I used to value is no longer what’s important to me.” (North America)

“Where do I go today? – I’m forced to learn the art of living in the now, instead of living ‘backwards’ from where I want to ‘get to’. I’m finding relief here. And joy.” (Europe)

“I’ve learned that vulnerability and empathy are two aspects of the same feeling: connection.”(South America)

The authenticity question: As the world gets moving again, how will I act on the new insights I’ve made into my own self?

2. Empathy.

In 2020, we spent a lot of time recognising people in ways we hadn’t done before. Abstract truths like “we are all connected” took on new, concrete meaning. We are all the heroes of our own story — no doubt about that. But this year, we also lived a collective story. That shared story often helped us to connect more, with more people. Which of these voices sound familiar?

“I learned that the intention to understand accomplishes more than the intention to save.” (North America)

“We fight the same storm, but we are in different boats.” (Australasia)

“The need to be heard has proven greater than the need to be right.” (Europe)

The empathy question: How will I hold onto this new empathy once this particular shared story ends?

3. Complexity.

2020 made plain that the real world is more complex than our models of it. Models are useful; they help us get the results we want. That’s why we adopt them. But in 2020, everything that our models miss came back to bite us. Very often, what we had considered “proven paths of success” in 2019 became “the ruts we’re stuck in” in 2020. What complexities became clearer for you?

“Technology alone doesn’t drive change. It took a pandemic to force culture to adopt technologies that were already available to make our lives better.” (Australia)

“The industrial mindset that still runs society like a machine clashed head-on with organic reality.”(Asia)

“‘Finding our tribe’ is not the same as ‘finding our community.’ To achieve genuine progress, we need to rediscover the ties that truly bind us together. (Africa)

The complexity question: How will I make more room in my life to explore what the models can’t see? Or will the relentless pressure to succeed, to optimize, force me to keep to the narrow paths of proven results that made 2020 such a shock?

Authenticity, Empathy, Complexity. The past year offered poignant lessons at every level of living, and confronted us with big questions about Self, Others, and the World we live in. We paid a steep price to get these questions. In the year ahead, what will your answers be?