2020 was a difficult year for many people. However, I almost hate to say it, 2020 was a good year for me in many ways. Looking honestly at why this year was good, teaches me many POSITIVE life lessons.
First of all, I need to give you a bit of background.
The pandemic in Thailand
I was living this year in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, where we didn’t have many problems with Covid-19 as such.
We had a very strict lockdown which started in March although the Thai people had been voluntarily socially distancing, wearing masks, and taking precautions long before the government imposed restrictions. And since they started lifting the restrictions throughout the May, June and July period, there really haven’t been any problems with Coronavirus (although there is a little bit of an outbreak at the moment (29th December 2020) which actually looks quite worrying).
However, the Thai economy has taken a massive hit. As much as 17% of Thailand’s GDP is tourism and, not only that, Thailand’s exports (cars, for example) have been badly hit.
But, from my perspective, everything’s good right now! Once things started getting back to “normal” in May, I could pretty much do what I wanted. I could see my friends, I could play my guitar in restaurants and bars, I could take exercise in gyms and I could travel all around the country.
OMG, I’m so lucky! And this is why …
So, the first thing I’ve learned (or re-learned) from 2020 is how unbelievably lucky I am.
Why am I so lucky?
I have to conclude that where I was born, the year I was born in,the region and the country I was born in, the parents I was bought up by, my general environment growing up – all these things affected my life more than my own efforts and hard work. I have to concede I’m in an extremely privileged position.
I was born in a relatively prosperous area of western Europe, and had a good education. I got further education for free, before student loans come in. In 1992, it was still just about possible for a single person with a decent salary and a 20-30% deposit to buy an apartment in London. Now, it’s impossibly expensive for all but the extremely wealthy.
Then I started an online business in 2005 when the internet was in its infancy. It was easier for me to rank on Google, get YouTube views, etc., than it is now. My parent’s property rose in value throughout their life and that then benefitted me.
People in their 20s and 30s now wouldn’t inherit such wealth from their parents, be able to afford the property I was able to buy, and they wouldn’t be able to start an online business in the way I was able to start one, without a penny in initial investment.
I’m not saying that people who are less privileged are unable to improve their lives. But I am saying that privilege plays an even more important role that I’d previously thought. This year of all years you can see how those who have money invested are at a huge advantage over those who don’t. And inequalities and therefore privilege have worsened in recent decades and will continue to get worse.
It’s OK to be on your own
The things that people tell you, the “consensus”, the “moral majority”, the “conventional wisdom”, the “unquestioning beliefs” within society … they might not always be true. And I think this is the case with living on your own.
Everyone would say that if you don’t have a life partner then you’re going to be lonely and unhappy. I’ve lived on my own for most of my life and 2020 has again confirmed this for me: just because you’re on your own, doesn’t mean that you’re going to be lonely or unhappy.
There were difficult times during lockdown, for sure. However, there was always light at the end of the tunnel – it wasn’t going to last forever.
I’m grateful for the experience. I’ve learned in 2020 that, really, it’s OK to be on your own. Don’t worry about it. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m quite happy with it. 🙂
Your life doesn’t have to have meaning
Another thing that “conventional wisdom” tells you, maybe more in the west, is that you have to have burning desire to do a job or have meaning in your life.
2020 has taught me that’s not necessarily true. This year has shown me that it’s OK to have a little bit of space in your life, or a little bit of vacancy where you don’t know what you’re doing.
My business is doing OK. It’s not doing great. It’s not doing bad. So, I think I need a bit of time to step back and see what I want to do in the future. I think that would be a good thing as well. It’s OK to have nothing to do sometimes. We don’t always have to spend every minute of our lives occupied.
More obvious life lessons from 2020
Here are some of my habits and things that I have been doing for years that have been reinforced in 2020.
Every morning I try and meditate for 30 minutes. I’ve been meditating, on and off, for about 20 years.
A couple of years ago I had an emotionally challenging time when I fell out with some family members. During this period I resolved to meditate for 30 minutes everyday.
If I don’t manage 30 minutes, I won’t beat myself up about it. Sometimes I’ll spend the whole 30 minutes thinking about something but I won’t chastise myself for wasting time. Then sometimes, I manage 30 minutes of what I would call good meditation. And I think it’s those times that help me throughout the rest of my life. So 2020 is reinforced my belief that meditation is important in my life.
During lockdown it was difficult to exercise: the gyms were closed and normal temperatures in Thailand during March/April are 40ºC and you don’t really want to go running around in that!
So I put a bit of weight on during lockdown (who didn’t!) However, after lockdown I went back in the gym. I almost got back to where I was in terms of health and exercise routines. I’m continuing my exercise routine and even stepping it up a bit. The importance to me of continued physical exercise was reinforced in 2020.
You’re not an island. You’ve got to have friends. I found friends (old friends and new friends) in 2020, very important. It’s good to be able to talk things through sometimes or just to see a familiar face in the morning. We probably had an experience together that we won’t forget in a while and we’ll be talking and thinking about it for a few years to come.
Another reason that you are not an island, and this is a reason not for altruism, it is to help yourself to help other people. Helping other people makes you feel better about yourself. I found that helpful, this year as well. And hopefully I’ll be able to continue that into the future as well.
Don’t drink and don’t take drugs!
During lockdown my alcohol intake increased. Maybe I indulged in other recreational substances that may or may not be legal in certain countries. and it was important to stop that at the end of lockdown.
You have to moderate your behaviour and your intake on certain mind controlling substances that might make you feel better in the moment but won’t make you feel better in the long term.
I’ve read in a lot of self help books that gratitude is important at the end of my 30 minute meditation session or however long it lasts. I do my affirmations and I think what I was grateful for in the last 24 hours. Generally throughout the day i just think “Oh, isn’t it nice, I live this nice apartment here in Chiang Mai! Isn’t it a nice view out the window! Isn’t this food nice!” etc. And I try not to forget to do that everyday during my meditation session as well as throughout the day and I think that helped me as well.
So, what do you think?
So there are few personal development type things that I learned or re-learned in 2020.
But, what about you? What are some of the life lessons you learned in 2020?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Good insights especially on being privileged. It’s good to be reminded how fortunate so many of us are.
Rob Cubbon says
Thank you, Charlie
Nicky Sutton says
Great article Rob! This ‘privilege’ was something I was talking about with my 15 year old son last night. How we in the UK could largely all be sure of a roof over our heads because unless we were really unfortunate there was plenty of affordable housing around and education wasn’t anywhere near as expensive!
It also interested me with what you said about recreational substances. This resonates with me as I have picked up a habit I thought I had long ago left behind (smoking the occasional cigarette! which is shocking to me at this stage but there you go) and I wonder how many of us have found ourselves back to old ways during this lock down crisis. I overheard some teens smoking dope saying there is nothing else to do but get stoned and drunk as there is simply nothing open here for the youth to entertain themselves with. Strange times!
Rob Cubbon says
Hello Nicky. Yes, I think I was fortunate to have been born in the UK. However, I’m not so sure if I would say that about some twenty-somethings NOW who have been born in the UK. I think generation has a lot to do with it – as well as the times. Maybe those twenty-somethings will be very fortunate when they’re forty-somethings? We just don’t know.
I hope you manage to contain your smoking habit. I know how damaging that is as I smoked cigarettes for 20 years or so and very glad I managed to kick that habit. But, I have other habits!
All the best, anyway. 🙂
Thanks Rob for sharing your insights and your journey. I am currently reading your book “How to sell online courses” and looking forward to learning from it and to your continued guidance.
Warm wishes for a great year 2021.
Rob Cubbon says
Hey, Moby, I’m so glad you have bought that book! Selling courses online was definitely one of my better business decisions. Please feel free to ask me any questions about selling courses online. And, good luck!
I am grateful for my life’s experiences.
I think 2020 has provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the value of relationships, friendships, and independence.
I have learned the importance of continuous learning.
Rob Cubbon says
Hey Ron, that’s great that you had that positive experience. And, it’s so cool you have spent your time constructively by continuing your education and by realising that that process never stops. All the best to you!
Thanks for this post!
I’ve just listened/relistened to your audio books and found them very motivating and useful, especially Mind Freedom.
Any plans to write any more? Maybe covering what you’ve leaned over the last few years? I found the stuff on working on your thoughts, nlp and coaching very interesting. Plus the location independent/travel stories are highly motivating too.
I’m trying to kick myself into action to start work on something more passive this year now I’ve been doing the freelance thing for a while and feel it’s pretty well established.
Rob Cubbon says
Hello Joe, thank you so much for your message and it’s great to hear from you again.
“Mind Freedom” was something I put a lot of effort into. It was my first “personal development” book. It contained all the “tools” I’d used in my 30s to become happier.
It’s funny because now I find I need to kick myself into action as well! I’m older now, 53, and my hopes, dreams, goals, etc., are all a bit different. I need to re-write that book for those with a mid-life crisis!
Also, another book I need to re-write is “The New Freedom”, it’s about location independence. It’s out of date because of the pandemic. We need to wait another year to see how this “digital nomad” thing is going to play out.
I understand where you’re coming from. I used to freelance for a long time. I managed to set up passive income because I started blogging 15 years ago and I think it was easier to start an audience that way.
To answer your question, what am I doing now, I have to say, “wait and see!” I’m pivoting my business at the moment and I’m going to tell all soon.
Thanks for your reply, glad to hear you are well!
I’d definitely read the book for those having a mid-life crisis! I’m not quite there yet but will be soon I’m sure.
Rob Cubbon says
Thanks, Joe. Actually the book was born out of a “quarter-life crisis”. I found my late-twenties and early-thirties a difficult time. I need to write another book!
I actually meant I’d read the updated version of Mind Freedom for a mid-life crisis.
I’ve read New Freedom and thought it was good too!
Rob Cubbon says
Well, both books need looking at again. I’ll definitely be writing more. Re-reading your earlier comment just now was really helpful. Thank you.
John Ravi says
Great post! You gave us a new and fresh perspective about 2020. Seriously, I have heard people talking about how last years set them back, and they lost everything. Reading something positive about 2020 is not only refreshing but oddly satisfying. Thanks a lot for sharing positivity. We all need it. I am glad you learned from 2020, and I also picked up some good habits. Hopefully, I will be able to practice these habits, moving in the future.
Rob Cubbon says
Well, John, I was less positive at the end of 2021 than I was at the end of 2020. But, never mind! Anyway, the important thing to realise is that this is just my perspective. There are good reasons why I found 2020 to be a good year for me. I have been very fortunate in my life. Hopefully I can continue to learn from these experiences.