What a year this has been. For millions of people around the world, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the most unusual 12 months of their lives, full of unpredictability, uncertainty and in the majority of cases, a loss of freedom.
As we approach the end of the year and the prospect of a vaccine becomes greater, we find ourselves looking back and taking stock of what we have lost, while trying to find positives from a truly unanticipated situation.
Even though I lost 70% of my business, due to cancelled or postponed seminars and keynote speaking engagements, I know that, compared to many others, I can consider myself lucky. In reality, I have learned and gained a great deal during these strange times, having been forced to improve certain skills and adapt to the new reality of lockdowns, online conferences, Zoom calls, and Mural visual workspace, a program that helps remote teams collaborate and work together.
2020 has been the year in which I discovered that (a) I can’t always make plans for the future and (b) that I needed to make 10 times the effort to gain at most, 30% of what I earned last year.
I would like to share eight of the most valuable lessons – personal and professional – that I learned during the year of COVID-19.
- The only constant in life is change: Be prepared. How? It’s all about reserves and you need more than you might think: more financial reserves, more mental reserves, more meaningful relationships, a bigger network, more skills. If you think you’re OK, you’re not. Work to improve your position all the time.
- We should always count our blessings: One of my favourite sayings is “If you want to feel rich, count the things you have that money can’t buy.” ‘Investing’ time in my family has always paid dividends and I will always feel grateful for my health, my family and the people I love. So, you won’t be surprised to know that I’m over the moon to announce that the Virardi family is growing and that we are expecting twins!
Priorities change: My late father once told me something that shocked me. We were passing by the cemetery (where he now lies) when he turned to me and said, “Do you see all these graves, son? Not one of those people managed to do everything they wanted before ‘departing’.” We all need to slow down, find what is really important to us and invest in it, even if we don’t get to do everything we want. Slowing down (and I confess that that I’m not the best example of this) has made me value the simpler things in life, like the sparkle in my son’s eyes when he understands something, or his happiness when he plays with our dog, Lucky. During lockdown, with only one small window of time in which we can get out and about, there’s no doubt who I want to be with.
Keep ‘toxic’ people out of your life: In difficult times like these, I’ve taken the decision to surround myself only with people who have a positive approach to life. I’ve heard it said that each of us is the average of the five closest people we choose to surround ourselves with so we need to choose wisely.
Hold on to your dreams: Almost 30 years ago, I travelled thousands of miles to attend a seminar by Jeffrey Gitomer, one of the best sales consultants in the world. Afterwards, I asked him what I needed to do in order to become as successful as him on stage and he told me that I should invest 10,000 hours in whatever it was I wanted to achieve. I did so, and this year it felt as if I’d finally come full circle when I was honoured to host him on “The Customer Experience Show” and exchange views with him, not as a novice but as an experienced business consultant. We always need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone, to push ourselves and believe in the beauty and attainability of our dreams.
Be resilient and adaptable: Another favourite saying of mine is this: “When the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of changing; you will change”. In times of crisis, people are clearly more willing and able to find a solution to their problems. When COVID-19 began to spread, the Chinese authorities built a new hospital in Wuhan from scratch in just 10 days. Many physical businesses quickly moved online. In the same spirit, my team and I have turned our seminars into webinars and made our services available to companies around the globe. In my case, the ‘pain’ of learning how to host webinars was trivial compared to the potential loss of my livelihood.
Our Business Development Manager, Sophia Shilimindri, who is stationed in Lausanne Switzerland, running a strategy session online.
Don’t sell, serve: There’s no escaping it; this year hasn’t been great in terms of sales for the vast majority of us. However, as Robert Louis Stevenson famously wrote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant” and, as a business, I believe that we have planted seeds that will bear fruit in the years to come. We’ve served people through complimentary webinars, given away over 300 e-books, started our ‘On Air Mentoring’ to freely dispense ideas and information to professionals, and we’re doing more. We are serving. And as every tennis player knows, a good first serve gives you a great chance to win the point!
Build a team, work together: I am a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse! I focus on the details (which is good), but I sometimes fail to see the bigger picture (which is obviously bad). This year I took a conscious decision to build a team and refocus on what is most important to my business. My team has offered me a different perspective on all sorts of issues and provided me with a lot of ideas. Team members challenge me to be more creative and generally better, which has proved invaluable when it comes to thinking up new ideas for content. As I said in a recent presentation, “If you have one euro and I have one euro and we exchange them, we both still end up with one euro. However, if you have one idea and I have one idea, and we exchange them, we each end up with two ideas.”
I would love to hear your own 2020 stories, especially if, against all odds, they have led to something positive. And remember, there is truth contained in one of my favourite statements: “Every crisis brings opportunity”. Let one of our mottos for 2021 be this: The only way is up.