Lessons of 2021

December might be just another month on the calendar, but perhaps this is the only time we take a pause from our hurried lives and reflect on the year gone by. This contemplation gives us a chance to relive the happy moments, feel proud about our accomplishments, regret the opportunities not taken and, of course, plan for the future.

For me, 2021 has been a  year of great significance— I have become a father and a district collector, both incredibly responsible roles.

Nothing teaches us like experience and these new responsibilities have taught me many lessons both professionally and personally. I still struggle to imbibe entirely some of the learnings I mention here. But I believe it’s a good idea to note them down and aspire to follow them. 

The following are part lessons, part self-reflections, and part observations. It’s a 2021 collection of my notes-to-self. 

Here goes:

1. Every once in a while, life gives you an opportunity you think you don’t quite deserve. Don’t get overwhelmed or fearful. Embrace it fully and make the most of it. 

2. In any new assignment, watch out when you tell yourself “I am new to this and I am still learning, so it’s okay if I don’t give my 100%.” It’s a slacker’s excuse to not perform. 

3. Even the best in their field haven’t figured it all out at the beginning. We all learn as we go along.

4. Life flows way too fast sometimes. Don’t become an aimless log in a flowing stream. Every once in a while, take a break, come on to the shore and observe the stream. Journaling is a great way to get a third person perspective on your day to day life. 

5. Under promise, over deliver. 

6. Progress is always small and imperceptible. The key is to keep going for a sustained period of time. Then you’d surprise yourself at how far you’ve come. 

7. Gratitude makes life beautiful. Be thankful for everything, especially your health. 

8. There is no ideal job. Every job, be it government or private, comes with unique challenges. Your goal must be to build a pocket of greatness within your sphere of influence. 

9. The voice in your head subconsciously shapes your behaviour and confidence. Control your negative self-talk. Don’t be your worst critic. (I fail at this a lot). 

10. People around you will rise or fall to the standards you expect from them. Tolerate mediocrity, it will become the norm. Set high standards, they will catch up. Benchmark yourself to excellence.

11. I didn’t believe when I read somewhere that infants love being sung to. Now I do. I am a horrible singer yet my son seems to love it when I sing and talk to him. 

12. Multitasking is counterproductive. You might have hundreds of things to do, but the most effective way to deal with them is one at a time. For any task, give it your 100%. The rest can wait. 

13. Criticise in private. Compliment in public .

14. Having a calendar and a task manager is an absolute must for every professional. As productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is for thinking  ideas not for storing a to-do list. 

15. Life is really short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Live in the present.

16. You can’t motivate people through fear. Personal touch and a win-win scenario will go a long way in helping you and your team achieve your goals. A true leader must empower the people around. 

17. Ability to focus for a sustained period of time is a critical life skill. You will get better or worse at it depending on how you train your mind. I have regressed horribly in this respect. Something to work on in 2022. 

18. Imposter syndrome is a real challenge for me and I fight it every day. I still haven’t figured a way to overcome it. 

19. If you want to dedicate time for personal projects, schedule them in the early mornings before the world wakes up and takes away your time and attention. 

20. Planting a tree is the most affordable and useful thing you can do today to leave a mark on this planet and the future generations. 

21.  Life consists of 3 pillars: self, family, and career— each fulfilling a critical role. Self sustains your physical and mental health. Family provides you love and happiness. Career gives you purpose and meaning. Take care of these three pillars, and the rest will take care of itself.

22. Competence is a great source of joy and fulfilment. If you are good at a skill, you will really enjoy doing it. Conversely, to enjoy doing something, persist till you become good at it.

23. Stop living in the hall of infinite choice. Don’t let too many options paralyse you into indecision. Rather than endlessly browsing on Netflix, just select a damn movie and watch it. 

24. To be a good boss, you need to be a good coach. 

25. Perfectionism is your enemy. For most things in life, don’t aim for perfection. Aim for good enough. 

26. Scheduling your day on a calendar app (I use ‘Fantastical’) is absolutely game changing. The moment you put something on your calendar, you do something critical— dedicate a certain time to the task and you are that much more likely to accomplish it. Unless it’s on your calendar, it’s just a wish. 

27. Focus on inputs (effort, planning, putting in the work), not outputs (results and success, etc) The moment you put your 100% on input, the output takes care of itself. This is my takeaway from the book ‘Working Backwards.’

28. Doing something is the fastest way of learning it. 

29. Catch early morning sunlight. It’s the best way to train your body to wake up at a certain time.

30. A favourite line that I keep repeating to myself: No hurry, no pause.

How was your 2021? What are your takeaways? Do let me know.