March 12, 2020. It’s the day every person at Rapid7 was told to go home and start working remotely. At the time, I thought it would only be for a matter of weeks. How wrong I was.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about thriving through the pandemic, leaning into the challenge and the like. My outlook hasn’t changed; 2020 remains one of my favorite years of my career. Obviously, there have been plenty of challenges. I miss in-person interactions with my colleagues, friends, and extended family. I am saddened by how many lives have been lost. I empathize with the school children who have had to attempt to learn remotely, and for the teachers and parents who have had to find creative ways to keep those kids engaged. There are countless things that would cause any of us to categorize the past twelve months as a total dumpster fire. However, depending on how you choose to look at it, I could also claim that there are countless ways that suggest that the past year has been one of intense growth and opportunity for all of us. If you fancy yourself an entrepreneur or believe you have entrepreneurial tendencies, I’m guessing you might agree.
I’ve captured my top reflections that came out of a year of massively shifting the way I work and live.
- Health is everything. Forget politics, science matters. So does basic human kindness. I hate wearing a mask. I do it anyway. I don’t want to get sick, nor do I ever want to be responsible for making someone else sick. Bra burnings might have been big in the late 1960’s, but if there is a mask burning at some point when we are safe again, I’ll be the first to toss mine in the pyre. Until then, I’ll do my part to protect myself and others. And as soon as it's safe to do so, I’ll head back to the office to reconnect with the humans I love to collaborate with.
- Put your own oxygen mask on first. If the past year taught us anything, it’s that we all have different needs, and ways of taking care of ourselves. For every person that comforted themselves with food during this time, there is another who joined the Peloton tribe. In other words, each of us had to discover what would work best to keep ourselves sane, productive, and powering through. I’m inspired by the empathy people granted each other, understanding being offline so you could walk your dog or just stepping away from the computer worked for some, while others had to negotiate parenting duties with their partners so they could manage it all. I love that dogs and babies have become a part of meetings now. It’s human, it’s life, and we all got a collective opportunity to learn that together...and no longer make apologies for it.
- Appreciate your privilege. Even more fundamental than the “white privilege” many of us became woke to in the spring and summer of 2020 is an appreciation of our basic human privileges. A safe place to sleep. A job to pay our bills and keep us fed. Family and friends to keep us connected and our hearts full. For the first time in my life, I started the practice of reflecting on three things I am grateful for every single day. The realization that my problems are someone else’s dreams has really kept things in perspective for me.
- Transactional work can be soul sucking. I can’t imagine trying to be productive with my work even five years ago without the benefit of technology such as Zoom and Slack to rely on over the past year. With everyone behind a camera, the playing field became a great equalizer. And yet, with multiple back to back video calls everyday, and never being more than a few steps away from your work, we all began to get a little more transactional. We no longer had the benefit of things like taking a walk to get a cup of coffee and bumping into a colleague you could quickly whiteboard a topic with. With the future of work looking like it will be far more flexible for the majority of companies as we approach re-entry, finding ways to drive engagement, collaboration and relationship building will become imperative, no matter where you are in the world.
- We are all entrepreneurs. Not everyone has the desire to start a business. However, the entrepreneurial mindset is something nearly everyone who powered through the last year has had to embrace. Drive. Adaptability. Independence. Decisiveness. I have seen so many colleagues and friends grow and thrive during this time, because they tapped into those skills.
- Human connection is critical. Even my most introverted colleagues started to share that they missed people a few months into the pandemic. While raging extroverts likely suffered a harder time than those who don’t take their energy from engaging with others, I think many of us realized no matter where we fall on that spectrum, connections to others are really important in both our work and our lives.
- Expect the unexpected. Exactly no one could have ever predicted what we’ve been going through as a global community over the last year. Weddings got postponed, graduations went virtual, and a host of other plans came screeching to a halt in the face of the pandemic. No one could “make it go away” so people were forced to create Plan B, C, and D. And in many cases, those new plans might have been different, but were just as meaningful. The world isn’t black and white, and allowing ourselves to operate in the grey created a whole new set of opportunities we may never have imagined for ourselves, our teams, or our customers.
Each of us has a list of our takeaways from this period of epic change. And whether my reflections resonate with you or not, I think we can all agree the world - or the way each of us interacts within it - will never be exactly the same as it was prior to early March, 2020. And I for one am very ok with that.