20 things I learned from the most unique year of my life.

One year ago today, on Monday, March 16th, 2020, I began the strangest, most interesting year of my life. My team at The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, abandoned our perfectly good offices in Milwaukee and Columbus and began working from home.

I had no idea what the future would hold. We were facing a mandatory government-enforced quarantine. In an unprecedented move, healthy people were being forced to quarantine at home in an attempt to prevent the relentless spread of a novel coronavirus called covid-19. Schools and businesses were closed. Everything imaginable was canceled. And hair began to grow wild and un-colored.

It was clear we were facing a historic global event. But I would have been shocked to know that one year later we would all be wearing masks in public and that we would be just beginning to crawl out of our year-long covid-induced hibernation.

The past 365 days have been fascinating. To mark the anniversary I sat down to reflect on what I have learned from this experience. Here’s what I came up with.

20 things I learned from the year of covid.

  1. Always have a rainy day fund. You can sleep easier at night knowing you are financially prepared for the unknown Whether it’s a rainy day fund or a virusy day fund, surprises can happen at any time. So have money on hand. (Well, not literally on your hand.) Because you never know when your income is going to stop coming in.

2. Crisis is full of opportunity. The past year presented an incredible opportunity for thinkers, inventors, problem solvers, and risk-takers. It has been a time for leaders to lead. It has been a golden era for innovation, upheaval, and for hand sanitizer salesmen. It has provided a great reminder to not stare at the problem. But instead, look at the new options available.

3. Good teammates are good teammates. Surround yourself with good people in good times, and you’ll appreciate them even more when things go bad like LL Cool J or Michael Jackson. #shamone. Even when my team was working from home they were accountable, responsible, dedicated and proud of the work they put out.

4. Adversity brings people closer. Despite the social distancing, we now have a tighter bond with our clients. It feels as if we went to war together and we were all fighting for our businesses. And for our right to party.

5. Marry someone you love spending time with. My wife and I got to spend more time together over the past year than ever before in our 20-year relationship. I loved all the extra time with her. Throw in my 3 kids and we had a great Quaranteam. There is a lot I will miss about our bonus time together.

6. Good advice is priceless. In tough times people need advice. Those who offer good counsel will always be sought after. Side note: Those who storm the Capitol will also be sought after. So don’t wear a distinct horned -helmet and face paint that draws additional attention.

7. We are all more adaptable than we thought. Things we thought we couldn’t do without we can do without. There is a huge difference between wants and needs. And we can all get used to new conditions quicker than any of us like to admit.

8. Toilet paper is super important Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But it makes the bum feel more bummed out. The toilet paper crisis of 2020 made us all reconsider the role these valuable rolls of squeezable softness play in our daily lives.

9. I am more productive without spectator sports. When all sports were halted I found a lot of other valuable things to do with my time. Remember to spend more time playing your own game. Because life is not a spectator sport. (But it is a board game from Milton Bradley. Batteries not included. Or necessary.)

10. A mask mandate is better than a mask suggestion. I was much happier wearing a mask when it became a requirement than I was when it was an elective. I appreciated us all looking dorky together. Thanks for making it non-negotiable, so I could negotiate other things.

11. Awards shows are not the same without the crowds. I have now watched parts of several different awards shows over the past couple of months. And they have all disappointed me. They are just not the same without playing to large crowds of famous people. Because I can see a small crowd of non-famous people in my own family room anytime.

12. We need to watch out for each other. I did a lot of Zoom socializing over the past year. I wanted to check in on my family and friends. I organized a lot of online events to make sure people knew they were not alone. We should keep doing that. Because technology will enable us to continue to stay connected to our friends who don’t live nearby. At least our non-Amish friends.

13. I miss almost everyone. Everyone I interact with is like a character in the play that is my life. When I don’t see you, my play feels less interesting. All of the characters together help make my life the rich story that it is. I can’t wait to see everyone regularly again.

14. I am happy to have a nice yard. When you are confined to just your home and your yard it is nice to have a nice yard. For a couple of months in the spring and early summer, it was like we were in prison. But if your prison yard is a full acre on a pond full of largemouth bass you feel like you are doing time like Martha Stewart. And it’s a good thing.

15. Isolation is great for accomplishing personal goals. When the initial lockdown was announced I began working on my first book. I now have a 50,000-word manuscript. I’m hoping to get it published without the need for more quarantining.

16. Rules are only rules under current conditions. All kinds of hard and fast rules changed during covid. Heck, even taxes weren’t due until mid-summer. I hope we remember this and remain more flexible moving forward.

17. Church from home offers larger communion portions. St. Albrechts Couchthedral serves up some tasty and abundant body of Christ that tastes remarkably like caramel rolls. And we have bottomless blood of Christ in whatever flavor you prefer. But nothing else about church from home is better. In-person church services are among the things I miss most.

18. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Over the past month, it is finally looking like we are closer to the end than the beginning. I can now imagine life returning to normal-ish by this summer.

19. We all have different tolerances. We all respond to crises in different ways. We all have different rules and risk tolerances. Don’t force people to conform to yours. We are all running our own race. Even if we are running it from the couch.

20. Humans are amazing. The fact that we whipped up these vaccines in less than a year and got them thumbed up by the approvers is incredible. Once again we have proven that the human mind is the most powerful weapon on Earth.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.