Ten Lessons 2020 Taught Me About Life
Welcome back to Self-Mastery — a place of exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I hope you have had a lustrous Christmas and New Years. It may not have been the festive period we once knew, but hopefully, you were able to have an excellent time.
For us, the beginning of 2021 feels like a time to refresh. To build upon what went wrong (or right) in ourselves this year and focus on better growth ahead.
And so, this is a sound time for self-reflection. Sometimes, it may feel as though we haven’t achieved much in 2020. We have. We all have accomplished many things by this point—even if we can’t see it. For one, you made it through the year. You may have learnt and maybe drawn closer to mastering what is in your control, and accepting what is not. You may have discovered real friendships—or forgone dishonest ones. And I’m sure you have found plenty of new insight about yourself.
Those alone are a success. And there will be much more on the way for you.
I want to share with you some of the key things I learnt in 2020. Perhaps we share the same findings? But if not, I’d love to see if it helps you through 2021 and beyond.
Lesson 1: You can’t get better until you get started.
It’s almost been a year now since I started writing, and thank God I did.
I was once someone who loved to talk about my goals. Doing so felt gratifying and validating. But what did I achieve? Nothing. My two years after graduating from university became a blur; I became completely lost and tired of myself. To end this, I committed to being direct in 2020. I spoke less about my goals and focused more on getting them done. Caring less about who knew what I was doing changed my life in less than a year—I don’t even recognise myself from just a year ago. I’m more confident in my capabilities and future, and things will only improve. I just need to get on with it.
Lesson 2: Rest more, it works.
As an athlete, my greatest improvements don’t happen while I train and work. It happens while I rest.
True hard work is an arduous thing to withstand, let alone day after day. To work hard is taxing and we don’t give ourselves enough credit for it. The more rest you give yourself—be it through sleep, meditation, walks, or simply sitting in silence—the more time you give your body to absorb the things you learn or do. And the stronger, smarter, and more productive you become.
Purposeful rest is a wonderful thing. Active Laziness is okay when done right. I used to feel bad for playing my Xbox after a day of writing and work. But in truth, we probably need more time to switch off this way, not less.
Lesson 3: The information you take in is equally important to your diet, your sleep, and your fitness routine.
We’re only human. Which means we’re easily capable of being influenced by our environment and persuaded by its inhabitants. And in this information age, the things we listen to, or read, is vital to our well-being.
I had to make cuts on my social media feed this year. Much of what I saw on Instagram and Twitter were outspoken individuals and falsehoods that incentivise us to copy; people who make you dream of a life they themselves are not living. So, I reset my Twitter and Reddit accounts. Unfollowing or blocking negative content on all platforms I used. I also reduced my usage; making time for myself, positive thoughts, reframing, and unlearning negative ways of thinking.
And now, social media is something completely different to me. No longer is it a toxic or self-absorbing place. It’s inspiring. Colourful. I do obviously see negativity here and there—that cannot be helped. But it’s now where I can go to embrace positivity, learn better things that compliment my work, and speak to good people. Not a place to escape from reality.
Lesson 4: Progress is not linear
Mr Beast is one of the most successful YouTubers with 50 million subscribers and 4 billion views each year.
When he began YouTube at age 12, he started a journey spanning years of being unnoticed. He didn’t see any success with videos of him playing COD and Minecraft, but he was committed to going all-or-nothing on this dream. He dropped out of college to pursue YouTube full time, and found success in a new category of content: stunts. And in the first six years of posting, he amassed over 6 million views. The second year? 122 million views.
Mr Beast, like many of us, fluctuated constantly when pursuing his dream. He spent years not knowing if he would be successful. In fact, in a video to himself, he implored to himself to have 1 million subscribers in five years time. By the time the video came out, he had 44 million subscribers.
His growth model is known as “The Balloon Effect”, which many of us may also experience: you bear the long unsexy slog, until almost spontaneously, you reach an exponential tipping point. The balloon pops. Life changes. And your rate of growth and success becomes incomprehensible.
With whatever your dream is, keep going, because your balloon is swelling, and you will never know when it will pop.
Lesson 5: Relationships = everything
Especially this year, good relationships have helped me get through this year like nothing else.
Here in the UK, many people I know have been separated from others for quite a long time. It’s bearing a heavy load on people’s mental health, without much sign of a change anytime soon. As I have been working on my dream as a writer, having great friendships and a closer-knit bond with my partner has helped me float through this year, and look after myself mentally and physically. And I would stress that this is important for all of us.
Lesson 6: The four components of an ideal life
These components are: physical health, mental health/happiness/well-being, relationships, and money/work.
There is little much else to say than you must make time for optimising each of these aspects. They are the keys to a good life.
Lesson 7: Lean into fear
I have leant into my fears with more strength than ever this year. There were so many things I did in 2020 which you would not have seen me do before. I spoke to more new people online. I found the work I love and worked hard on it. I grew as a person and learnt to say no to many things. And I finally started to love and be more confident in who I am.
Fear means only what we accept it as. The only time it matters is when you allow it to.
Lesson 8: Be accountable
This is my biggest challenge, and one I’m still not 100% on. Accountability matters in this world, and I encourage myself to focus on this every single morning. Taking more responsibility for not only your actions, but your mindset; the way you think, and your ability to change, pays massive dividends to your rate of success and growth. Accountability is less about owning up to your faults, and more about accepting what is and committing to making yourself better in every way.
Lesson 9: Clarity
This is the base of what Joxen stands for. The reason I now love minimalistic and simple designs and pieces of work is because clarity helps many more people understand things faster, so they can focus more on what’s important: how they can be better and happier. My goal is to share what I love, to people who want to hear it, so they can think, move, and live better. And the way I want to communicate my ideas is through simple and satisfying architecture. Clarity breeds honesty, and honesty creates respect. That is what I live by.
Lesson 10: I was wrong — goals are fantastic
I’m happy to be wrong here. I used to think goals didn’t matter, and that it was all about the systems in place to guide our daily actions. But what is a journey without a great destination?
We are motivated by action and constant improvement. But also purpose. We need goals. We are inspired by outcomes and results that make us believe we are also capable of doing great things. Goals are amazing—but they do have their place. Once we set a goal, we should set it aside to focus on the journey towards it. Every now and then, we should pick up the paper with our goal written on it, and remind ourselves of what’s to come. Then we should put it back down and carry on. Deeply focused on the daily stepping stones.
A short quote from James Clear: “If you genuinely care about the goal, you’ll focus on the systems”.
What’s on My Mind
The main story today was pretty long. So I’ll keep this section short. (if you liked it, however, please leave a like so I know.)
Here’s one question to ask yourself:
What is a mistake you seem to repeat each year? What can you do to prevent it this time?
One book I’ve been reading recently — The Rational Optimist. It’s a great book which gives you quite a few reasons to be happy and optimistic about the times you live in today.
I’ll have many more articles out going into various topics this week, but feel free to let me know if you’d like me to cover anything.
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