Warning: This post contains my experiences of 2020, they WILL differ from yours. Please note, these discoveries are written in no particular order
2020 started off differently than most other years. We had a New Year's Eve Party where a few of our friends came over. Not many people, but normally it's just the 4 of us. We were all drinking and dancing, and I thought “We'll have to have people over more often”. #SpoilerAlert… It was 9 months before we saw the same friends at the same time again!
Discovery #1 from 2020
You know your friends are important, but you don't realise how much until you cannot see them. Having family that live a considerable distance from, means you get used to not seeing them, but you make time to call them and catch up on their lives. So not seeing family for 9 months wasn't unusual. Our friends we see at martial arts training every week. We chat on Whatsapp and Messenger every day, our children are in and out of each other's houses all of the time. Until one day, they weren't. The girls are at home with us, and not allowed out, and unable to go to school.
We all adapted quickly
You're far more resilient than you probably give yourself credit for. I thought it would be hard to get used to being “cooped” up in the house all day. But my working day didn't change all that much. In fact, the business grew. Our audience knew that we created and launched courses, so they came for that content. Over the lockdown, we enrolled 900+ students all paying what they could afford. Yep, we didn't sell our courses at the normal rates, we invited people to pay what they could afford. Some paid $11 others paid £50 and others paid $90 for a course that we normally sell for $297. We adapted to the situation, and our audience did as well. They could see that we are small business owners who want to help, but not gouge them, or make them feel bad about their own circumstances. The majority of our work is done online and via Zoom, so there wasn't a lot of change for us.
Despite the fact we've used the paid version of Zoom daily since 2015, we do not consider ourselves Zoom Experts. This was a missed opportunity because we discovered that we have far more Zoom experience than the newly minted Zoom experts. In fact, everyone became so proficient at Zoom, that we no longer had to explain to new clients how to use it, because they knew already! Zoom parties were not all they were cracked up to be…
With the first lockdown looming, we thought we might need to invest in new tools for the business. An audit of our software and tools told us that we had everything we needed, and then some. Sadly, there were people in our communities who hadn't invested in their business prior to lockdown. They'd allocated their money elsewhere. One person told me he regretted the 4 holidays he had in 2019. Those holidays he now saw as frivolous. It meant he didn't have enough to fund his online transition fully. After we'd reassured him that holidays are good for you, we set about creating a strategy that ensures they'd never underfund their business again.
I didn't read as many books as I'd hoped to. As I mentioned, our work life was still the same. I just thought I'd get to read more books. I didn't. I read some really great ones, and re-read Nancy Duarte's Illuminate, but I barely broke the 100 books in a year barrier this year. As I speak this I'm just finishing book 102 “Pirata” by Simon Scarrow and T.J Andrews.
But, I did listen to the complete Repairman Jack series (The great F.Paul Wilson) on Audible. We started “The Tomb” in March, and by September we were ready to listen to “The Keep” and the books in the Adversary Cycle. None of the F.Paul Wilson books were new to me, but they were being listened to in order and not read over an 18 year time period, which meant I really enjoyed the listening experience. It also meant that Kevin “met” Jack and (finally?) understood what I was talking about when I said there were Rakoshi under the bed. As a treat, Kevin ordered me the Repairman Jack graphic novel. It takes pride of place on my bookshelf.
We wasted tonnes of food. Prior to the pandemic we ate out regularly, ordered in regularly, and sure we cooked from scratch twice a week… But we wasted a LOT of food. Not being able to go to the shops every day meant we had to reassess our bad eating habits and learn some better ones. And we did. We ordered more meat from Musclefoods (a lean meat supplier). Prior to lockdown, Musclefoods was a “treat” for us. Now it became essential. We also had to change our shopping habits. We couldn't get an online delivery slot, so we had to go and queue once a week to get our shopping. Our local Sainsbury's had queues with a 3-hour wait. I'll confess to mumbling (at times) that I felt like I was living in communist Russia rather than the UK, and I felt the queues were shorter there. Totally not true, but that was how I felt in the moment.
Our local store hardly ever had fresh fruit or vegetables. So we started to shop in Lidl where there's a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. And we stayed shopping at Lidls, which really surprised me. We also stopped visiting our local Co-Op. The staff there, the people we'd known for 3+ years, changed their attitude towards their customers. I understand people are under stress and worried, we all are, but the rudeness and the spite I found to be unacceptable. We stopped shopping there.
I like punching things. I didn't know this until we started emerging from lockdown and I booked a personal trainer to help me get fitter. I'm not easy to train, and I don't want a litany of “you can't eat that” or “Eat more lettuce”, I also know that weightloss is going to be very difficult because I have PCOS. Almost every person I meet online wants to cure me of this starting with telling me to quit caffeine (I did, 3 years ago) and when I tell them I've been caffeine-free for 3 years they don't believe me #Sigh. So, I needed a special kind of personal trainer, and I found that with Scott Mallon. Once he had a list of my injuries and what I point blank refused to do, he devised a routine for me. That's when I discovered I quite enjoyed hitting things. He also “cured” my carpal tunnel. Free of wrist pain, my writing passion returns.
I've always known I like to exercise. I just have to do what's right for me. From my early 20s I've had people tell me what I should do, and it's sucked the joy out of it for me. Training with Scott meant my confidence returned. Kevin bought me a “Bike-Desk”. This is a recumbent bike, with a desktop. You cycle as you type. I love it. I loved it so much I had the right pedal broken in less than 30 days. Kevin attempted to fix it, and it was out of action for 7 weeks. I really missed it. Cycling and punching things are my thing. It's what I enjoy the most. With that in mind, Kevin has said I can have a Liteboxer in 2021. I totally need one of these in my life.
I broke my elbow, and I didn't know I'd done it. In fact, I'd trained with a broken elbow for 2 weeks without realising it. As I mentioned earlier, I have PCOS. This means I have at times more testosterone than I should. The testosterone “suppressed” the pain. In fact, I had no pain at all in my arm. I did however fall out of the bed, smash my forearm and had incredible pain there. The doctor took one look at my x-ray and started asking about my elbow. That's when I found I had a broken elbow, that had been healing nicely for 2 weeks (2 weeks of punching, carrying, lifting and everything you should NOT do with a broken elbow) and just muscle pain in the forearm. I was put on rest for 12 weeks. It's week 10 as I talk this… 2 more weeks to go.
4 weeks in and I started to get bad shoulder pain. I had a swollen trapezius muscle and deferred pain from my elbow. The weeks between then and now have been a painkiller-filled haze of hurt. I learnt that you can still type and create content with a broken elbow (they don't put you in plaster these days), but what slew me was the deferred pain; it drained the energy from me.
Parties are always happy occasions. Until they're not. September arrives and we plan a party, outside, for our daughter. She's 16 and spent all summer cooped up. So have all her friends. We arrange a lovely party, with only 22 people invited even though 30 of us can gather together. The day before her birthday party they bring in the rule of 6 (no more than 6 people can meet up outside) to start in 3 days time. Which meant half her guests had last-minute family gatherings they HAD to attend. She was crushed that her friends let her down at the last minute. She sort of understood but didn't really. Her friends had planned the party over the summer with her. They all went shopping together for neon dresses. How come they had to go to the family at the last minute? Her boyfriend invited some friends, and suddenly she had guests at her party again. Our friends and neighbours came over and we drank mojitos as the sun set, watching our kids have a good time.
All too soon, the party was over, our guests gone and we were restricted in meeting up. Again.
TGI Fridays. I don't know how it became a thing, but it became a thing. In September and October, we visited TGI Fridays 4 times. We drank fruit cocktails, ate sesame chicken and ordered towers of food that left us feeling very full. We even managed to visit Firejacks once in the same time frame. Despite eating a lot better in lockdown, when restrictions eased we went a little nuts…
Even when you have no money, you have something else…
Our bank account was drained the weekend of our daughter's party. I felt numb. They'd emptied it £22 at a time. It didn't trip any alarms, and we woke up on Monday morning with no money at all. I cried. I'm not known for my crying. PCOS affects that too. But I sobbed. How could we get through? One vulnerable post in a FB group where I hardly knew anyone, and I felt a lot better. By the end of the week we'd recovered and gained 3 new clients. All of them for me doing my dream work – email sequences. And then my elbow broke…
Karma is real.
The day our bank account is drained we get an email from Appsumo. We can join their Marketplace! Yay! So we start the journey of getting our program “Launch and Market Your Online Course” into the Appsumo Marketplace. It took us a while as we had the bank drama to deal with, but we did it. Also, former clients came scurrying out of the woodwork when they heard about our bank drama, and before we knew it we'd had the best month ever. They joyfully recommended us to people, made introductions and booked us. We were worried about our direct debits bouncing and not being able to pay people on time, and all the many kindnesses to others over the years came home to roost. We got through a very tough month, and we're very grateful people helped us. Kevin and a few other people also pointed out this was karma. We'd helped thousands over the years, from homeless donations to gifting courses and a gazillion other things, and it came back. I never expected it to. I give without the expectation of return. I placed my trust in karma and that was the right thing to do.
I stopped using FB messenger for important conversations. So much gets lost in translation. If you want my attention, send an email. I barely look at the messages and those pesky little voice things? I hate them. I also started using WhatsApp more for business conversations. I have it installed on my desktop and I find it rather handy. We start to look at moving our communities off of FB. I wanted to do this in 2017 but I could never find the right tool. Until we discovered we had it already…
Kevin wins a brilliant consulting position with an online course company. He's doing incredible things with them and their community. They love his straight-talking. In November he walked 390 people through how to create their first online course. He delivered it live. The feedback was incredible. He also found his brand with the Rebel Business Academy. As soon as we started talking about this, another marketer suddenly declared he was a rebel marketer and rebranded too. Coincidence much? As Repairman Jack was told, “there are no coincidences”. We take a deep breath, block the person and carry on with the Rebel Business Academy.
No one knows where the homeless people went in lockdown. We spoke to several departments about them, and no one seemed to know what happened to them. Have all the homeless evaporated due to Covid-19? We spend hours finding out on the phone, and then we donate sleeping bags and coffee kits to rough sleepers in our area. They were being kept safe in local hotels and hostels. Yes, some did slip through the net, but most were cared for. Everyone counts.
What about those in care homes? With a mum and daughter that work in social care, I knew that staff had stepped up to help wherever possible. They were both determined that no one would get lonely, no one would be alone and everyone would be cared for. Neither of them caught Corona (as far as we know) and both of them took precautions. I'm proud that they were there caring for people when their own families couldn't. Neither of them are NHS staff, they both work for private companies. They never got any recognition, they were not allowed to shop in keyworker-only sessions, and yet they still stepped up and did what they had to do. Resilience runs in the family.
We might have to move in Lockdown… One of our neighbours lost it and set their dog on us. They've been petty and spiteful since we've moved in, but we try and ignore their behaviour. As we have a house full of martial artists and the law is tough on them as they know how to fight. We have to think about where we walk away, and where we say “enough”. We'd reached our breaking point with the dog incident. The neighbour was warned by the police and he now stays away. It's been hard for Kevin and our eldest daughter, as they both hate bullying with a passion and they've wanted to put him straight several times. CCTV and a few other security measures to record potential future incidents are now in place.
As I just mentioned, our daughter known as “Middle Chick” on social media hates bullying. She's already a world-class peacemaker. Behind the scenes of 2020 she was ironing out bullying issues. One of them was highlighted to her by her sensei. A young girl was being bullied and she had no one to turn to. Both my girls started looking out for her. And then the worst thing in the world happened; the young girl's grandmother died and no one at school believed her. She was taunted. She was hounded. She was on the brink. Middle Chick, with her resourceful mind was running out of options when she came to us with her plan. Her plan was simple. Despite the teachers ignoring the issue she was going to bring it up at every opportunity so it could not be ignored. Middle chick thought she might be expelled over her hassling of the teachers, so asked for our support, which was gladly given. Middle Chick feared for the safety of the young girl. It took 2 days of hustling the teachers to listen. When they did, the young one was given the adult support that was essential to stopping the bullying. Most of it stopped and the Middle Chick started to work with the girl on coping mechanisms and how she can control her environment.
There were another 10+ incidents that Middle Chick mediated throughout September, right up until December 2020. This isn't the job of a 16-year-old girl. But she did it anyway. But we didn't know how much she did, and how many young women she helped until the night of the lockdown tier changeover.
It was announced at 4.30pm that the next day we would be in tier 4. Tier 4 means no non-essential travel. Stay home. No one in your house. You're only allowed to meet one person, socially distanced outside.
At 5.oopm the doorbell rang, and it was a young girl with a little gift for Middle Chick. She left it on the doorstep and then waved from her car. There was a steady stream of young women leaving gifts for Middle Chick. The last one was at 10pm. There were little notes saying thank you. I asked Middle Chick what was going on. She'd always been popular at school, but had struggled in high school due to her no-nonsense approach and her refusal to participate in the social clique games. She had her core group of friends, and her Ju-Jitsu buddies, so I never worried about her. But a stream of girls breaking the rules to deliver a Christmas gift? That's when it all came out. Middle Chick had become peacemaker extraordinaire at school. She'd steadily resolved complicated situations and supported her peers through vulnerable moments. The Christmas gifts were their way of thanking her. She was quite humbled by the love shown to her by her friends. Sadly, none of this will appear in her GCSE grades in 2021. There's no GCSE for peacemaking. But if there was? She'd have a 10.
We've lost virtual friends in 2020. We socially distanced, and we didn't break lockdown rules. We didn't judge others, but we did make it clear that we would follow the law. We didn't support Trump. It turns out a lot of my virtual friends didn't like it. We didn't vote for Brexit. And we spoke up about Black Lives Matter and educated where we could, and advocated and amplified voices elsewhere.
I lost 2,000 email subscribers when I shared this post – Diversity in images. One person accused me of jumping on the bandwagon. So I shared 6 other instances prior to 2020 where I shared resources with diverse images. They blocked me everywhere.
I lost clients who felt me being British, and not an advocate of firearms to solve world problems was an issue. I wish them well.
Many “Spiritual” people blocked me as I live in fear when I wear a mask to go shopping.
I'd like to say I missed them… But I don't.
As a family, I'd say we hold modern-traditional values. We value family. We also advocate for those who are different from us. We have donated over 5,000 items of food to the food banks this year. We've supported rough sleepers. We've spoken up countless times. We've loved and supported each other in matters of health and wellbeing.
In 2021 we'd like to work with more people with similar values. I like to think at our core, we're all the same. We're all good human beings doing the best we can do with what we've got.
I don't care who you vote for, who you support, or what you believe, because in our hearts we're all good human beings. But if things like voting, and supporting people who don't have a platform bother you, then we're not your people. If you think trying to make our part of the world that bit easier on some is “do-gooding” then we're not your people.
And finally, this type of post is often viewed by the people who follow me as “bragging”. That says more about you than me. This is how 2020 was for us. I'm grateful it was so good. I'm grateful that we've all got through this. I'm especially grateful that the people who supported us when our bank accounts were drained did so, or this post would've been very different.
But I'm most grateful for the technology that transcribed a 40-minute video so that even with a broken elbow I'd have a post outlining 2020 for me to look back on in the years to come.
Here's to a better 2021 for everyone.