4 Lessons from 2020 I will Carry to 2021
2020 is over. Weird like it was, it taught many different lessons about the idea of safety, the role of governments, media propaganda, the importance of hanging out with nice people, and the burden of loneliness.
Without any further ado, here are 4 lessons I have learned in 2020 that I will carry with me to 2021.
1. Humans Are Emotional, Not Rational
Yes, I have learned that in 2020. No, I did not know that before.
The pandemic and its subsequent measures outlined a series of paradoxes people were ready to accept without ticking. As such, we have seen a disease that kills overweight people, and to fight it, we closed the gyms.
We forbade people to visit their family friends “for their health”, completely outlooking the mental aspect of it.
We restricted the hours at which people were allowed to shop, increasing the crowds in supermarkets. And we decreased the frequency of public transportation so that there would be more people on the bus than on the normal schedule.
What taught how emotional people were is that most simply abided by the rules while many others denounced their neighbors for not respecting them. To quote a French philosopher, “I was amazed to see how docile the population was in being ordered to stay home without further possibilities to discuss or at least, vote on the issue”.
The pandemic outlined how we have trouble thinking for ourselves, and how we make emotional decisions where a cold logical approach would be preferred for best results.
As someone who has always approached his relationships from a cold and logical approach (and failed hundreds of times), I know now that I need to befriend people from an emotional point of view, not a logical or transactional one, which leads to the next point.
2. Give Them What They Want
We all got much more free time when the pandemic hit. We could have used this time to learn a language, sort out paperwork, or fix these small problems that make life so uncomfortable sometimes.
We could have taken time to exercise more, try a new diet, or build an online business.
But we did none of that.
Those that used to work out regularly, stopped. Those that were on a diet, quit it. And those who were producing content online replaced it with playing video games.
As we said above, humans are emotional creatures, not rational ones. We don’t do what we need. We do what we want. And what we want depends a lot on the external consequences in which we find ourselves in.
While the pandemic offered us time, it killed our courage. We abandoned our will to lose weight and replaced it with the desire to feel good. We lost the appeal to build muscle and found that video games were maybe just as satisfying. Even seeing friends became a hassle when the couch was so damn comfortable.
When lockdowns hit, people started feeling bad. Porn, cigarettes, and alcohol were among the most popular ways to cope with the emptiness that our lives had become, while we should have instead doubled down on sport, meditation, and diet to keep our mind fresh, aware, and healthy.
These trends outline how people don’t consume what they need. They consume what they want. I have learned this year that it is useless to try to make people better through entrepreneurship because we have no say in what people do with their lives.
Yes, it would be great if everyone stopped smoking, watching porn, and eat sugar. But it will never happen because people are free to do what they want. And they want to watch porn, eat sugar, and smoke.
The job of entrepreneurs is not to change people. It is to give them what they desire.
Write they want to read.
Tell them what they want to hear.
Draw what they want to see.
Cook what they want to eat.
Produce what they want to consume.
Sell them what they want to buy.
3. Purchasing Power ≠ Standard of Living
I had to chance to work and live for four months in Poland. Coming from Belgium, I earned there half of the salary I would have earned in my country.
And yet, that did not bother me whatsoever as my life was much more comfortable in Poland than in Belgium.
First of all, Warsaw was an amazing city. It was flat, clean, safe, with a reliable and convenient public transportation system, there were cafes and restaurants everywhere, nightclubs, events, and dating were much easier than in Brussels. It was easy to find a room or a studio, and easy to find a job or an internship. The economy is booming, and people are friendly and speak English.
The city had everything Brussels didn’t. While employees make much more money in the capital of Europe, they have to wrestle with insecurity, terrorist attacks, overcrowded public transports, the worst traffic-jams of Europe, high pollution, daily protests, a 25% pre-pandemic unemployment level, ugly architecture, daily harassment and insults for women and a corrupt police force.
This experience taught me that money is far from being important as long as you can live. I am a simple guy and requires nothing but to pay my rent and food. I use public bikes to go around and don’t drink alcohol.
As such, I would take a €900 Warszawian salary over an €1800 Brussels salary every day because, at the end of the day, it’s not the brand of your phone that matters. It’s going to sleep with a smile.
4. People Is (Almost) Everything
Many people have found themselves increasingly isolated during the pandemic. While in normal times, one can always go to a bar or a mall for the sole sake of seeing people, even this right has been taken away from us.
It is when we lack something that we realize how important that thing was in our lives. In my case, that was people.
I found myself in Poland with almost no friends and the impossibility to make any. There days when I didn’t even use my voice as I had no one to direct it to.
It was brutal. I have known some depth of loneliness I wish no one will ever experience.
I used to be really into my work and projects and neglected my social life as a result. When I compare the life I lead at 26 with the life my parents used to live when they were 26, it’s damn pathetic. I have met thousands of people in my travels, kept in touch with none of them, and am now a stranger in my own city and country.
I have two or three friends left, and none of them share my interests which I discuss on forums because I have no other means to turn to.
The pandemic was a slap in the face. It showed me how lonely my life was, and that I could no longer keep it going this way. It showed me how badly I needed friends and I intend to make some in 2021.