I CAN cook and other things

By Matt Hayes | 2nd February 2021

My top take-aways from 2020

I was watching a cooking show last night – an entirely new and recent experience.  Always a very competent food taster (and occasional critic), the art of culinary creation was formerly unchartered territory. While watching a dish being masterly crafted (I swear I could smell it through the TV), I thought, “I might try that.”

In the interest of transparency, I’m no Michel Roux Jr. What I have discovered is that I have a bit of a knack for culinary creation, and I ENJOY it. I was as surprised as my wife by this revelation.

All of this made me reflect on 2020, the personal discoveries and professional insights I have learned, that will, in a post-Covid world, continue to add value to my life and influence how I navigate future challenges.

Here are my top 5 learns

  1. The virtues of virtual

There is no doubt that virtual access has been instrumental in how we run our business. It has more than proven its value and demonstrated that a successful balance between remote and office-based work can be achieved, offering our employees greater flexibility and potentially expanding our future talent pool for both internal and customers’ hires.

It’s facilitated the necessary meetings to retain our already robust customer relationships and it’s enabled us to regularly check in, face to face, with our employees, to continue to monitor and manage their mental health and wellbeing. For that I am eternally grateful. Thank you Zoom, Teams and Hangouts for keeping us connected.

My initial scepticism regarding working from home productively has assuredly been addressed and virtual access will be a significant communication tool for us to leverage in our future. It will be ONE of the tools because I miss the human interaction and variety of office life. The water cooler moments, as my business partner, Chris mentioned in his recent blog. If you’re a music fan, it’s a great read.

Was it that in Spring, when lockdown (the word and activity) was still a novelty, the sun was shining and we were all due a bit of a break anyway, where remote working seemed like a blessing? For me, there is still no replacement for physical interaction. I underestimated the feel-good factor of human engagement by taking it for granted. This might be the February blues talking but I am just a bit fatigued by the relentless virtual calls.

  1. Comfort in the ‘everyday’

When you look up synonyms for routine you’ll find ‘everyday’, ‘normal’, ‘mundane’, ‘procedure’ and other variations. Never, did I ever… think I would miss the mundane. The daily commute for instance, a sentiment again echoed by Chris in his blog. But it makes sense. We’re creatures of habit and routines promote wellness simply by the structure and organisation it provides (and we crave).

Establishing routine, although significantly evolved from my routine of 2020, has been paramount to maintaining a positive outlook and a productive and happy me. I was lucky enough to welcome the arrival of our baby boy, Harry, into our family during lockdown. Implementing a routine is important with a new born (and might have been accelerated by his arrival). It’s equally important for the sanity of his parents.

Having a routine gives me clarity and focus so that I can direct my attention to where it is needed the most. Whatever your version of a routine, it has provided me with the structure I need to be the best version of myself for everyone around me.

  1. Be kind to yourself 

People are experiencing lockdown in different ways and the impact of the pandemic has brought mental health into sharp focus. I find that when you’re in a difficult situation, whatever that may be, the tension and anxiety you feel often make problems difficult to solve, particularly in these uncertain times.

I’ve found that if you’re able to allow yourself to feel those emotions, and share them, if you can, that things will seem clearer, almost immediately. That’s when a solution presents itself because you are viewing the situation clearly, without emotion clouding your ability to resolve it. It’s not something that comes easy to me, but it’s a lesson that has proved invaluable. Be kind to yourself.

If you’re finding maintaining good mental health challenging, the charity Mind and the NHS offer valuable resources to help you cope.

  1. We underestimate our resilience

Change has been thrust upon all of us, whether we were ready for it or not. I am naturally cautious when it comes to change. I would say quietly cautious, but Chris will probably disagree with the quietly bit. I don’t immediately dismiss change; I just find it challenging and will consider all options before prioritising change as the best solution.

Last year, I had plenty of opportunities to address my discomfort with change. And it’s paid off. I now look at change as an opportunity to innovate, improve and possibly re-invent myself and my business. And Chris and I have done quite a bit of that over the last 12 months and we’ve grown because of it.

By sharing the feelings fuelling my reticence to change (see point 3), what I have realised is that the quicker I learn to adapt, the better positioned I will be for the future, personally and professionally, to take on new challenges with greater flexibility and not be afraid of change when it comes. I no longer underestimate our resilience and I’m excited about what’s next.

Do I love change? I’m working on it. This is the best lesson I’ve learned and most definitely an approach that I will continue to challenge myself on in the future.

  1. The tiniest moments give me immense joy

When Harry smiled for the first time and I was there to experience it, I was overjoyed. This opportunity to reflect clarified that we need a lot less than we have and maybe what we think we wanted isn’t what we need.

A year ago, if Chris had floated the idea that everyone should work from home, it would have been one of those instances where I would have (previously) rejected that change. I didn’t think it was feasible.

And now, I can’t imagine not having experienced exactly that. Spending this time with my wife and two children is time that I will cherish forever. 2020 gave me the gift of time with the people that give me the most joy in my life.

2020 taught me to; focus on the relationships that matter the most, enjoy every moment, be kind to myself and consider all options, including change.

Does your washing machine do this?

The impact of 2020 was felt by everyone. It was a destructive and painful year for so many where for others, it was illuminating.

Outside of my big learns, there were loads of little ones too. I learned just how feral I can be. I learned that the washing machine is definitely shrinking my clothes. I learned that toilet paper, under certain circumstances, has the equivalent value of gold and that Netflix does have a finite amount of content.

Do any of these resonate with you? We’d love to hear your biggest learns of 2020 and how they helped you throughout an extraordinary year and likely beyond.

Stay positive.