180. My 2020 Recap: A year of firsts, rather than a year of lasts

This isn’t a first, but when it comes to pictures of Saga, I tend to bend the rules a bit… :-)

Today is the 31st of December 2020.

Rarely has there been such a moment for retrospection.

New Year’s Eve is always a time for looking back and looking forward.

This year, the date is auspicious in itself.

And what a year it has been.

I don’t think there’s a single person on this planet who hasn’t been touched by COVID-19, even if only a little. And for many of us, it has been more than “only a little”.

So what does a 2020 retrospective look like for me? What to include? What to focus on? Which story to tell? Where to even start?

An illustration for a book I had to postpone due to COVID. By Robert Laszlo Kiss.

When looking back at it, I realised that for me, 2020 was not so much a year where I did things for the last time, but a year where I did them for the first.

  • I’ve left life in the big city behind, trading a three-room apartment in Copenhagen (1.6m) to a two story house in Nexø (0.037m). We now have a garden, a garage and the Baltic Sea is a couple of hundred meters from our front door. There are quite a number of firsts involved in that move, and while it also comes at a price, I am overjoyed that we took the leap.
  • I’ve shifted my business to being truly digital and global, from being event-focused, travel-based and in-person. This year, I’ve coached people in 17 different time zones. I’ve taught University classes from California to Bangkok. I’ve made most of my money remotely and I’ve gotten a glimpse of what a truly digital career can look like.
  • I’ve formed friendships with people, I’ve only seen on screen and I’ve founded organizations with virtual companions whose names I didn’t even know when the year started. For an old community builder like myself, it’s been invigorating to dive into a bunch of firsts in this way, making it clear that purely digital relationships can be deep as well. I’ve met people online before, but forming so many strong bonds digitally — both professionally and personally — has been a first for me, and I suspect I’m not alone in this one.
  • I have spent more time with those closest to me than ever before. For all of my adult life, I’ve been a creator of tribes and have always had a huge network. But if I count the hours of this year and who I’ve been with for most of them, Siv and Saga reign supreme. Working from home and being isolated due to corona has skewed my ratios like never before, and having that much time together has been a new experience for me.
  • I have found my way again. When my old company (Dziobak Larp Studios) crashed in March 2019, I was left with not only a million-dollar-plus personal debt, but also without a clear career focus. For fifteen years, I had been a live action role play pioneer, but now that was over, who was I? For twenty months, I’ve struggled to find my new path, while trying to navigate the tricky waters of paying off massive amounts of debt and learning how to be a father. But a few weeks ago, some encouraging words from my new friend Todd Cherches pushed me over the edge — and I suddenly knew who I was again. Being an Innovation Strategist seems like a natural continuation of what I’ve done so far, but for me, finding my way like that was definitely a first.

Along the way, there have been so many smaller “firsts” that a comprehensive list would be just as exhausting to make as it would be to read. It includes not just mundane actions like “buying lighting for home studio” and “delivering first keynote virtually”, but also more serious stuff like “ride in ambulance with injured daughter”.

Don’t worry, though. She was lucky and after a week was just fine and none the worse for wear!

The reason I write of firsts is that so much talk this year has been about the things we have lost. Normality was flushed down the drain this year and the world as we knew it was gone. It would be easy (and fair) to talk of 2020 as a year of “lasts” and look at all the things we took for granted in 2019 that now are no more.

I’ve chosen to look at it from a different perspective.

Because while none of us knows what the future will look like, there is a good chance that many of those things will come again and not be lasts at all. Travel, hugs and festivals. Conferences, Christmas and city walks without masks. We will see these again — some of them in a changed form and others just like they used to be.

But all the firsts… all the things 2020 has shown us that we’re capable of — as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a global band — many of those will stay with us, even as the world starts to stabilise. Remote work exploded this year, and so did keeping in touch via digital channels. The world is changed and while part of that is for the worse, it’s also clear that this crisis has already brought amazing things with it.

Using this image for a presentation was definitely a first, but definitely not a last!

So no matter who you are, no matter what you do and no matter what 2020 has looked like when it comes to things that have been lost or done for the last time…

I wish you a happy New Year and want to strike a blow for all the wonderful firsts that 2020 (also) brought with it.

And I dearly hope that 2020 is a year where some of those terrible things become lasts and that our lovely firsts keep coming in a steady stream!

Claus Raasted is an Innovation Strategist, and recently wrote “The Innovation Cycle”. He serves as the Director of the College of Extraordinary Experiences, is a Coach at McKinsey & Company and is a founding partner at the Global Institute For Thought Leadership. He also has a past in reality TV, but these days, who hasn’t?

www.clausraasted.com

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.