2020 – you’ve been a hell of a year. Untamed, weird and challenging. Throwing us back on ourselves. Showing us what is means to not take anything for granted. Digging up so much hate and love in mankind, forcing us to show our true colors, values and vulnerability.
Those of you who read my review of 2019 know that I had set two focus areas for myself in 2020:
- Holism: Digging deeper into how everything in life is connected.
- Detoxing: letting go of beliefs and habits (maybe also people) that are not fueling my energy and matching my values.
Looking back, I am happy that I managed to integrate both topics into my learning journey this year, although partly in other ways than I had anticipated.
Holism is a concept that continues to fascinate me. Finding ways to combine my ambitions at work with my role as mother has been one of my focus areas ever since I became a mother. This year, I moved beyond those roles and started exploring which other parts of myself I had neglected in the past couple of years. I felt like I was being stretched thin between my role as mother and business woman, neglecting other talents and areas of my life. Digging deeper into the inner workings of my brain and soul, I found a lot of emotions covered in dust (like anger and sadness which we too often suppress), behavioral patterns that no longer serve me, a new spark of creativity and a lot of gratitude and humility.
Here are my key learnings in 2020:
- Running a Company of One paid off. Building up Product Academy as a company of one has proven to be a wise business decision. Working from home with a loosely coupled, but strongly united network of product experts means I literally don’t have any sort of overhead that drags down my cashflow during a crisis like this. But more importantly, I really feel how this way of running my business is in line with my personal values and my lifestyle. I deliberately chose this form for my company long before COVID-19 hit us, because I love working in a fluid organization that expands or retracts according to the energy I invest, that grows organically and without need for external investment.
- How to stay in the driver’s seat in times of uncertainty: I strongly believe in entrepreneurial drive and proactive decisions. For me, the most dreadful part of this year has been being dependent on rapidly changing regulations and waiting for government decisions. After the first lock-down in Switzerland, I decided to proactively cancel several events (that I was personally looking forward to, like our leadership retreat). That way, I was able to free up energy to concentrate on a few events I was betting on, mainly my mentoring program LevelUp! in Berlin and Switzerland. I came up with three different fallback scenarios for 16 workshops involving over thirty trainers to increase our chances to be able to meet in person for as many of them as possible while keeping everyone safe. IMHO, staying in the driver’s seat as much as possible instead of complaining about the status quo is a big part of what makes an entrepreneur successful. Our fallback schedule allowed us to instantly react once it was possible to meet in person again. We enjoyed celebrating the graduation of our Spring Edition and kicking off our Summer and Berlin Edition in person in summer. This is yet another benefit of keeping our classes small 😊 and made it easier to maintain the personal connection in class throughout the following remote workshop days.
- When work feels like family: Those of you who know me are aware that “family first” has been my mantra ever since I became a mom. This usually meant prioritizing my kids, my marriage and the rest of my inner circle over work whenever in doubt. This mantra has helped me take a lot of tough decisions like rejecting conference invites, turning down additional clients or keeping my professional ambition in check. This year, however, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my business strategy. The sirens of growth kept calling me, urging me to overcome any limitations that were hindering the expansion of my business. On more than one occasion, I felt small and insignificant next to my competitors. I felt the urge to push for more followers, hire employees, grow the business exponentially because – let’s face it – growth is still the number one currency a startup is measured by. But whenever I thought about what makes me really happy, I realized that it is the personal connection to our students, the trust I experience in our Product Academy leadership circle, exchanging voice messages with my trainers and receiving thank you notes from my mentoring students who successfully fought the imposter syndrome and found their next dream job. So I decided to stop chasing others. I no longer believe that you have to either choose growth or staying small. I really believe that there is a way to keep an organization fluid, to deliberately choose phases of stagnation in order to re-calibrate and re-energize, followed by phases where you stretch far and beyond. To me, Product Academy is like a vibrant organism that follows its very own rhythm, fueled by anyone who is a part of this journey. It’s not a robot company, driven by linear growth formulas in an excel business plan 😊 Taking the time to reflect on my company strategy showed me that there was an opportunity to align both on my personal and business values by putting the “family spirit” at the center of Product Academy. Being a small company by design turned out to be my greatest strength and not by weakness; and I really enjoy putting everything I am into everything I do at work, always looking for ways to create intimate moments of trust and support into our slowly but steadily growing Product Academy family. I really want to take a moment to thank everyone involved in creating and fueling this spirit and making my work so much fun.
- Resilience goes a long way: For me, resilience was one of the most valuable skills in 2020. And resilience is fueled by energy, trust and empathy. This year has taught me a lot about what drains my energy and how I recharge my batteries. I did not get to spend enough time in the mountains, but whenever I did it gave me a huge boost in energy. Not just because I love hiking, but because I realized how much I enjoy silence. With two toddlers at home, silence is one of the biggest treats I can give myself. That is why I realized that I am not even willing to share both my workdays with my husband. I really need some me-time every week where I work, live and breathe in my very own rhythm – at least between dropping off and picking up the kids at daycare 😊 That is why Tobias and me had quite a few very honest conversations. We now put much more emphasis on talking about ways to recharge our energy and on teaching the kids how to strengthen their resilience. We encourage everyone in our family to talk about their needs and make room for joyful me-moments. We even designated different areas around the house to different use cases. Guess who loves the Quiet Area, the only room in the house that is always tidy. This is where I hide when I am overwhelmed by the kids or anything else 😉 Even though this means we sometimes spend less time as a couple or family, the moments when we do get together turned out to be so much more fulfilling.
- A journey inward instead of traveling the world: I really miss traveling. My backpack is getting dusty and my entire being is longing for fresh inspiration from the most remote parts of our beautiful earth. However, by reducing the external noise, the amount of visitors and events, this year has provided me with much more opportunities to look inside, to slow down and to reflect. It also provided much more friction within the family, inducted by constant home office, less opportunities for distraction and less possibilities to drop off the kids at our families or at the gym daycare. My stress level varied tremendously throughout the year: I discovered that I love living in the moment, making less plans and spending entire days in my pajamas much more than I thought. The best days with the kids are usually the ones that unfold spontaneously, without fixed appointments. This holds especially true since my daughter is a very spirited and highly sensitive child. While this can be very challenging, it is the greatest gift for me. With her finetuned antennas she constantly acts as stress seismograph and detects any level of tension and unauthentic behavior in me. This keeps pushing me towards a more genuine me, constantly looking for ways to reduce stress within our family. By reading up on literature about highly sensitive children, I discovered that I, too, share many of their characteristics. Actually, did you know that about one in seven children seems to be highly sensitive? By the time we become adults many of us have lost the connection to our full range of emotions and been trained to adapt to what society labels as “normal” behavior. Exploring different aspects of sensitivity and reading up on it has made me much more attentive and mindful when it comes to my own needs and those of my family. If you are looking for literature on spirited children and sensitivity, feel free to get in touch and I am happy to point you to some books I found useful.
- Awakening my inner child: In the past years, my kids have acted as catalysts for my own journey towards my inner child – a concept that I dove deeper into this year. I can only recommend reading books like “Das Kind in dir muss Heimat finden”. I devoured it on my solo trip to Saas-Fee where I spent a mindful weekend by myself for the very first (but definitely not the last) time. Understanding our inner workings, recognizing patterns in our behavior, finding closure – this enables us to gain a split second between action and reaction and provides us with an opportunity to heal, let go of what no longer serves us and find more joy in our relationships.
- Your second brain needs attention: Did you know that our digestive system is a sort of a “brain in the gut”? Scientists call it the enteric nervous system (ENS). It consists of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells, and it is starting to revolutionize medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way we think. And yet, we often do not give enough care and attention to this crucial organ that contributes so much to how we feel. After Matteo stopped breastfeeding at about 19 months, I knew it was time to treat myself to a detox experience. I am a chocoholic, and while I really care about what my children eat, I often forget to give myself the same kind of attention and care when it comes to nutrition. In fall, motivated by a dear friend of mine, I finally found the time and drive to do a “Basenfasten” detox cure for three weeks. This has been such a wonderful experience, leaving me with a much better feeling for what my body really craves. I started cooking for myself and finding ways to serve both my own taste without starving my family 😊 At the same time, the physical detox has been a real catalyst for bubbling up old emotions and cleansing myself from a lot of unneeded weight (less physically, but more emotionally speaking). I even combined this with the very intense (and exhausting) experience of a holotropic breathwork session that brought up a lot of emotions and insights as well. I am definitely going to repeat this experience (the fasting, maybe not the breathwork…) on a regular basis and was able to change a couple of my habits in a good and sustainable way, like drinking more water and starting my day with a green smoothie.
2021: Chasing butterflies
By letting go of a lot of negative energy and starting to listen to myself, I can now feel that there is a new spark of creativity, slowly and steadily carving its way up to the top. I started writing again and am really curious on which channels my creativity might become tangible for myself and maybe for others next year. In any case, I used my last quarter’s OKRs to make sure that Q1 is awaiting me with a feasible workload, leaving room for whatever may come my way.
My goal for 2021 is to start chasing more “butterfly moments”. This is what I call the sparks of joy where I feel light and at peace with myself, where I feel connected to myself and the world, where I don’t take everything so seriously and am fully immersed in the moment.
May 2021 be the year of awakening my creativity and continuing my journey towards leading a holistic life. I wish all of you a lot of butterfly moments in 2021, too, and hope our paths are going to cross again along the way!
Big hug and stay healthy and joyful
Photo Credit: Unsplash – Jude Beck