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A few lessons learned from 2020

December 21, 2020

What a year it’s been! A global pandemic, social unrest, and a contentious election have underscored a truly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous year. Recently, I read a life lessons article by Dr. Lee J. Colan from The Leadership Group and, as I read these 14 life lessons, I began to think about the lessons that I’ve learned this year. Here are some of the lessons I learned from 2020, in no particular order.

Maintain a Positive Mindset

This year has shown us that there is so much that is out of our control. While I may not be able to control life’s circumstances, I can control how I choose to handle them by maintaining a positive mindset. I can choose to become bitter or better, the difference is “I.”

Practice empathy

This year more than ever before, people have had to deal with uncertainty around their jobs, their finances, and their overall well-being. By exercising empathy, you are able to better understand and be more sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others. Doing so also provides for stronger relationships and allows for a better customer experience.

Think outside the box

In the book The Whole Brain Business Book, the authors define the “box” as the self-built walls that constrain our everyday thinking. The box is so well-defined, it becomes comfortable. It is the known. This year I’ve learned that thinking outside the box has allowed me to use my time more effectively by coming up with creative ways to do things better, quicker, and more efficiently. Here are some of the ways that thinking outside the box can unleash your creativity:

  • Daydreaming
  • Asking questions
  • Questioning the answers
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Trying something new
  • Thinking like a child
  • Coloring outside the lines, writing outside the margins


I have been involved in volunteer work for the majority of my adult life. I like to call it “Paying it Forward.” Even before the pandemic, I had looked for ways to volunteer each year. But this year, in particular, volunteering has become much more important to me because it has been a way for me to take my focus off all that’s happening in the world and turn it towards others. Since March, twice monthly, I drop off food at my church food pantry because hunger does not take a break. If anything, it has increased since the pandemic. I also mentor two young ladies who are just beginning their professional careers.

As financial professionals, you are in a unique position to make a positive impact by increasing financial literacy through volunteering. For more information about volunteering, refer to my blog titled Benefits of Volunteering for Financial Professionals. When it comes to volunteering, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “it is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.”

Build Habits

Building good habits into your life provides a real sense of stability and comfort. In his book Make Your Bed, Admiral William H. McRaven talks about how the simple habit of starting your day by making your bed leads to other positive habits. This positive chain reaction is referred to as keystone habits.

Another keystone habit is planning your day. Taking even a few minutes to plan your day will result in the greater likelihood that you will accomplish what you scheduled. For more information about habits, revisit my blog Positive Change Starts with Good Habits.

What habits and rituals can you create in the new year that will allow you to perform at your highest level?

Do – Know – Be

I borrowed this life lesson from Nadja West, LTG, retired U.S. Army Surgeon General and former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command. West was a keynote speaker at the recent AdvisorHub virtual summit, where she spoke about leadership in crisis and how to be an influencing leader in three simple steps:

Do – invest time in nurturing relationships based on trust, listening, and empathy.

Know – we already know what to do. The key is doing what we know.

Be – Be a person of character by embracing and living your values.

Focus on building and strengthening relationships

During a recent coaching webinar, Dr. Michael L. Platt, director of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative spoke about building connections in a virtual world. Platt said humans are wired to connect with each other and while it may be more challenging due to the pandemic, relationships can still be built, nurtured and sustained in a virtual world. Here are a few ways in how to do so virtually:

  • Make frequent eye contact with the camera
  • Use more gestures
  • Limit the number of people on the call
  • Deepen your conversations

As 2020 comes to an end, think about the lessons you’ve learned this year and what you’ll do differently in the coming year.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season!


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