2021: Lessons, Time, Challenges, Advice
On developing new skills
Thousands of years ago, humans domesticated wild wolves, which became very useful to them, especially as powerful protectors of their territory. Domesticated wolves, which developed the necessary skills to survive in their new environment, are the animals we now know as dogs. One recent study has shown how, by bonding and learning to work with humans, dogs may have actually become worse at working together as a species. But, according to Yale’s Laurie Santos, the animals have compensated in other interesting ways: they have learned to use humans to solve problems. The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. By understanding and tapping into our emotions, dogs have become our most empathetic friends. The skill of empathy has ensured not only the survival of dogs but also a life that many other animals would envy.
The value of developing new skills, just as our four-legged friends have done, was the biggest lesson for me in 2021. When borders were sealed, doors were closed and Safe-Passes were needed, those who were daring and able gained a bigger audience. The survival of my business depended on developing the skill to attract and serve customers in the online world as well as (or even better than) in person. I learned this lesson and, as a result, I enjoyed a very successful financial year.
Staying inside my Desire Zone
In May 2020, I was given the book Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt, as a present. In the book, the author talks about four zones of productivity and prompts us to discover and uncover our ‘Desire Zone’, which lies at the intersection of our passion and our proficiency. This, according to Hyatt, is where we should be spending valuable and uninterrupted time. When ‘in the zone’, we can unleash our unique gifts and abilities, make the most significant contribution to our business, family and probably to the world at large. I started thinking about this and concluded, for example, that I could have decided to spend time on learning how to code and doubtless be miserable in the process. Instead, by staying inside my Desire Zone, I chose to hire people like Sophia Shilimindri, whose skills are complementary to mine. This was a successful strategic decision that allowed me to perform at my very best.
0 Time to Waste
Two adorable babies joined the Virardi family this year: Hector and Marianda. Together with a lot of crying, they brought lots of joy to our family and made our life more meaningful. As the twins were settling in, sleep deprivation reached its peak and, for the first time in years, I sometimes had to go to work after having less than three hours’ sleep. This new reality certainly gave me a better perspective on time management. Time unexpectedly became a precious and limited resource and I decided to end all my not-so-essential activities, disappointing some of my friends and fans in the process. I was forced to prioritize and then re-focus all my energy on what was most important (80/20 rule). This is probably what delivered a very successful financial year.
Health and the pandemic went hand-in-hand in 2021. I am a year-round swimmer but, this year, I missed quite a few swim-workouts. After the birth of our twins, my priorities changed. Waking up four to five times every night for eight months put an end to my habit of waking up at 5.00 a.m. and heading straight to the sea for my daily exercise. You might think that I am complaining (and I probably am) but keeping healthy and on track is one of the things that, like all of us, I need to ensure in 2022. We may be forced to change our priorities from time to time but it is up to us to decide if something will be merely pause or brought to an abrupt halt.
2021 was probably the year that made most of us reconsider the value of freedom. We were reminded for the second year running that freedom is related to both choices and consequences. The release of vaccines and the various restrictions imposed due to the pandemic prompted us to choose between freedom of movement and the freedom to control our bodies. Working from home prompted us to consider our freedom to choose our place of work. The rise of social media, and the exploitation of our data by some companies, prompted us to consider our freedom from the standpoint of propaganda and exploitation.
Most of us, myself included, were obliged to weigh up the various pros and cons and to take decisions which, in one way or another, impacted our freedom.
1 Final Word of Advice
As you will have noticed, the numbers in the headings of this letter refer to 2021 but a year is much more than its 12 months. It is the accumulation of a lifetime of experiences. I felt this most strongly when some people whom I first met in Austria in 2016 — and I kept in touch with them — hired me for a series of webinars just a few weeks ago. By focusing on the long term instead of the short term, on planting and planning instead of reaping immediate rewards, and on relationships instead of sales, you will increase your chances of enjoying a fruitful year in 2022 and beyond.
You are your brand. The relationship you cultivate with your customers is the brand. More and more start-ups are chipping away at legacy brands. Don’t forget that as you head into 2022.
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2021 is coming to an end but we can always carry lessons into a new year. If this year was good, make the next one even better. If this year was bad, reflect on why, and make changes in 2022. Think positively and never stop learning. Wishing you all a Merry Xmas, a Happy New Year 2022 and thank you for all your support and loyalty. It means a lot to me.