10 lessons I learned in 2020

Aksena Krykun
11 min readDec 30, 2020


2020 was hard. Actually, it sucks for the whole world — just watch this video (still it is very otimistic). Tonns of protests, COVID, Trump, more COVID, and… we are drained mentally and some of us even physically — because of the COVID implications.

As usual, I will not write this post with the “goals setting” or “results of the year” format — yes, I do this. But for myself. Because those are my results: fails and wins. However, I love the posts by Sam Altman — about the wisdom he shares, and especially about the lessons.

A short overview of the lessons in 2018 and 2019 is here (with my comments — as I live according to those lessons).

The biggest thing I realized in 2020 — there are still some things you cannot change — you have to accept those. That`s where the resilience takes place. However, some specific lessons (the things you can change) are here. For 2020. And please, share yours!

1. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Treat myself as my best friend (LIFE CHANGING!)

This was the hardest part to realize but the best one to implement. I don`t know how it is about you, but I sometimes forget about myself — forget to sleep, to eat, and to exercise because there are so many interesting things to do! I can go to tennis at 7 am, then to the swimming pool at 9, and then work all day long and in the evening to do a workshop. Sometimes some days I was that “successful success” you read memes about on the social networks. But that was not because I am so cool — it is because I did not care about myself and another part of this story is the energy drain in the end and the first half of the year when I tried to put myself together.

I succeeded in the end because I started to ask myself “If I were my best friend, what would I recommend to myself?”. Before this attitude, I would “do everything and die”, after I implemented this attitude I do “everything I want but will not die of”. In other words, this is a synonym for self-care.

“If I were my best friend, what would I recommend to myself?”

And how do you care about yourself? What do you tell yourself in hard periods of time?

2. GROWTH: Do something new

Photo by Umit Y Buz on Unsplash

This year everyone started podcasts. I am the one too. This was itself a new experience for me but what is more interesting, the podcast is about new experiences. I understood that I love trying new things for several reasons:

  • I believe in neurobiology and of our brains and when you do sth new you form new neuron connections
  • I want to know myself better — what I like and dislike and what I want to proceed with
  • this is aka jumping of the comfort zone and usually training the risk muscle — lots of things I tried were slightly risky

This year I did so many new things that were literally taking my breath away: jumping with a parachute and doing aerobatics to meditation. I love the “build-measure-learn” approach and I believe that it works in everyone`s life. Trying something new allows you to understand who you are and what you are looking for. Also, it helps us to be more confident and grow a “yes, I can!” attitude, and thus grow the confidence level.

Still, having done so many first-time things I am not brave enough to do some personal first-time things) That`s the sign I have not grown my risk muscle and confidence enough. But I am on my way!

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

3. SURROUNDING: My surrounding define who I am

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

I love my social bubbles. And derivative bubbles (aka “you-go-to-another-country-and-meet-awesome-people-who-are-your-old-connections”). Those are great.

I love people who surround me — you help me grow personally and professionally, and I hope I give you back at least 1% of what you gave me.
You don`t know how much the surrounding influences you (here is an awesome NYT article about this), and I think that it is globally the only thing that matters to us in this life.

We can be broken, we can be low or high, no matter what — but if you are with the right people around — you will stand on the shoulder of giants, and you can become the one.

Probably your surrounding is not the one you would love to have then try to change it — try to join the community which has the same goals as you do, the same values. The world is not flat and now we have thousandth more opportunities to meet like-minded people around the world.

You can even use networking apps like Tinder (yup, I use it not for dating) or Shapr. You can join groups on Linkedin or Facebook or join your acquaintances who do what you love. You can create your own group. There is plenty of options. Create the bubble which will support you, and you can support them.

4. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Doing sports is not a choice — but a need

I think I stayed alive in 2019 just because of running.

Q4 of 2019 was so insane that I rarely had 5+ hrs of sleep, had a lot of studying and work. However, the shape from the half-marathon influenced my mental health and my willpower, as I stayed alive in 2019 (which is still a miracle to me). Then, in 2020 a Christmas and pampuhy (this is Ukrainian dish) happened to me, and my shape wishes to be better) However, I did regular sports training — from swimming to running (then there was tennis, wakeboard, and more activities).

After a year of nonregular sports, I understand that probably one of the reasons I am not ill with Covid is sports. This needs to be regular. Moreover, when you do sports it influences your willpower (please, read the book — this is a good one!) and also it helps our brain to be stronger and literally influences mental health. So not doing sports is not an option for me anymore. Also, I put sports in my habit-tracker (please read further), and this is amazing how it helps me to work productively.

I hate getting up early, do the stretching and balance board, go to a super cold tennis court in winter but I love how my muscles aching and how my brain works after an awesome workout. Do sports, really!

5. SELF-MANAGEMENT: The more privacy — the better

We live in an era when “if you did not post on Instagram that you were in a gym — you were not to the gym”. My bad. Sometimes I did 10+ stories on Instagram. Not only about my life — but also about the different areas of life — questionnaires (I love doing researches — my bad). I had about 30% of my life posted in those stories BCS for me Instagram is like a photo album of my life. Occasionally, I had cases when people whom I don`t know started writing me “so, what you liked the most about Sri Lanka?” or something about the books I read and that`s where I understood — I post too much.

Some people feel a lot of energy when they post and it is their lifestyle. However, for me it is too much. I want to have my life personal (especially when I started doing the promo of the episodes of my podcasts).

Also, one thing I understood — I made others feel bad about their lives with my posts — yes, I traveled during the quarantine, and I did cool things while others could not do so. And I did not want to post and say “I am cool” but sometimes it felt so (from your feedback). So no more a lot of personal data) I think I will leave no more than 10% of my life for social networks. Everything else will go into learning, making deeper relationships, and doing the projects I planned to do.

One of the sub-lessons is that usually the best for Instagram is not on Instagram)

How "private" are you?

6. MONEY: $ love accounting

Only this year, in Q4, I started tracking finance regularly. It is super hard — to put every transaction in the g-docs. However, it allows you to see the full picture. I started budgeting for long personal projects with the “cost/revenue” part. Probably I did this because this year I spent far more than I earned, probably, because I plan to invest more. However, self-discipline in finance is well. At least I know where I stand at this point.

How I do this?

I use G-doc (spreadsheet) with all the transactions divided by categories. I plan monthly and yearly. I have a plan/fact table. I have the “budgeting” table where I calculate revenue and costs in an aggregated format. Still, I need to be more disciplined because I track those transactions at the end of the month.

Do you track your finance? How?

7. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Track habits to become the person I want to

Love this! In January 2020, I took the dotted sheet of paper and wrote the items I want to track and the days for a month. Then I put this sheet of paper on my fridge (as it is the most visited place — and toiled is not that inspiring), and I started tracking my habits — what I did and did not. I love this way of habit tracking as it is obvious. And motivating.

Nope, I was not super good at this — sometimes I missed a week. However, I did create 12 such sheets of paper and I am jumping in 2021 with this habit of filling the habit tracker. Highly recommend! If you want, I can describe my approach in another post — please put “+” in the comments if you are interested.

Do you track your habits? How?

8. SELF-MANAGEMENT: Book the time for learning

Learning something new is a must. This year I am totally a loser in it. I don`t count here the books and articles, but the courses and workshops I did not attend. Just because I did not put it on my daily agenda. From my previous experience — we need to book the time for learning and also to set the goal. W/o goal and strict learning roadmap I don`t achieve what I want. One thing which also matters to me a lot — you should not be very over-optimistic about the time for the learning because you will be very demotivated if you are not “on track”. I planned to finish a course in Python and get a moto driving license but I did not plan it properly and I jump into 2021 with these goals.

9. GROWTH: Better done than perfect

Two years ago, I was a perfectionist. One year ago in a meeting with a psychotherapist, we discussed perfectionism and that it is actually sometimes more of a disease than a positive feeling. So I tried to make something rather than thinking of it, having to do nothing because it will not be as perfect as I imagined. That is why I have shifted my thinking from overthinking to doing (not in all spheres of my life — still, in personal relationships, I am more overthinker — but this is a question of bravery rather than brains). Now, if I want to do something — I either go and do this — with the resources I have (mental, moral, and physical) or I say to myself — no, you won`t do this. You know. Let`s not put this on your agenda — probably in a half a year or never.

This attitude helped me to feel better when I am not doing something because I understand that I am just a human with 24 hrs in a day and it is normal not to do everything. Otherwise, when I select to do something — I jump in it with all my energy and create at least the MVP (minimum viable product), and then I can understand whether I want to proceed. I know, I will now be perfect in parkour for example, but I tried to understand whether it is mine and now I am just working on doing it on regular basis. If I were with the previous attitude, I would put it in a long queue of items and would not do this at all.

What about you? Are you a perfectionist? How do you deal with that?

10. Be grateful

The last thing I wanted to write here was “Try to not give a f*ck more often”. But then I thought that it is not about it. It is about being grateful for what you have. This is a more constructive emotion and I learn to have this. There are shitty days, you know. When everything goes wrong from the very beginning — you get up early in the morning from the wrong leg, then everything is bad — and it is super crucial to get some really good emotions and to find something you are grateful for.

I did the “Gratefulness journal” — a separate journal I put some comments I am grateful for the day. Then I did it in my planner. Every day. Sometimes I miss this, but I see the effect — the time, when I recall what was awesome the previous day — or this day — is the best time of the day. I recall all the smiles, positive emotions and I actually feel that I am doing great and life has a sense. I know, this sounds too “coach(y)” with the taste of vanilla but it works. If it works for me and my mental well-being — it will work for you. Just try it!

I love what I learned. I have some lessons learned for 2021 to implement and one of those will be to strive more for what I want and to be braver in personal relationships (aka tell others what I think, feel and do). And if the question of 2020 was “How to manage my energy?” then the question for 2021 will be “What will I do if I weren’t afraid?” and be brave. 2021, I welcome you.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash



Aksena Krykun

Passionate about IT and startups. Books lover. Made in Ukraine.