4 Simple Ways to Rock Next Year

How I tackled 2020 might help you thrive in 2021

Beautify your world: children’s rainbow artwork in a public park in Berlin during the COVID-19 pandemic

I’m sure we can agree that 2020 was rough. Reflecting on a wild set of months behind us, I reached four understandings of what sustained my growth while keeping this year in check. I hope these takeaways are useful for you, too.

Yes, of course, that applies primarily to scientists. But I’m also referring to people doing other important societal work and who share their observations transparently.

Probably like many of you this year, I dedicated significant time listening to podcasts, and when possible, reading books. Sometimes these came in a combo-pack: Like Arlan Hamilton’s Your First Million podcast and her book, It’s About Damn Time which addresses the huge advantage of supporting under-represented founders. Or Oliver Aust’s Speak Like a CEO podcast and his new book, Unignorable which explains the importance of personal brand.

It’s amazing to me how much useful content emerged this year. For instance, Arlan offered these gems in conversation with Niko LeWoi (aka Mr. TOA) from TOA Berlin: 👇🏾

It’s now increasingly easy to access the thoughts of inspiring people who demonstrate leadership and exemplify the direction in which you wish to grow. I’ve benefitted from tuning into conversations, in some cases writing about the insights, and then connecting with the speakers, especially when they are located here in the Berlin ecosystem.

Effectively, you can access mentorship freely all around you if you take the time to absorb the lessons available. But it’s also good to give back. Here are some worthy pieces of journalistic advice for startups and VCs I captured from listening to the Deputy Editor of Sifted.eu, Amy Lewin: 👇🏾

Now, when you’re ready for new ways to distribute your insights, here are top-10 social media tips from the masters of the topic, Matthew Kobach and David Perell, that can likely help everyone. I loved their exchange here:👇🏾

Takeaway 1: Seek inspiration by listening to the right voices & expand your pool.

Did you know a peregrine falcon can fly at a speed of up to 220 mph?

When the pandemic hit hard, I took refuge in drawing with the amazing San-Francisco illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, whom I had the honor of meeting when living in the Bay Area.

I started doing art with her via Instagram; see point 1 above about finding mentorship with no concern for geographic distance.

Wendy was running an online camp which meant that “kids of all ages” could join a 30-minute drawing session that had a specific theme and conveyed a creative artistic technique.

She encouraged us all to create a home studio, using whatever space and tools we had on-hand. In doing so, she helped generate a dedicated online community via the hashtag, #DrawTogetherCamp.

During bird week, we illustrated a peacock and I added a poem for good measure.

It was both calming and a great way to revive my drawing past. I’m still debating what to do with the extensive collection of drawings, other than posting them on Instagram. This exercise had an extra benefit of spending quality and creative time with my young daughter, showing her how to really look at the world around us, or how to express how we feel through images. We still talk about our so-called “internal weather.” It’s a very useful language.

It can be useful to identify your internal weather. Naming our emotions is a great starting point for EQ.

Takeaway 2: Pick up the pen to get creative. (You can start with a ‘heart spiral’.)

I’m pretty active on Twitter and Linkedin, learning from others, and sharing resources. When people ask me for input on a project or personal connections to founders, VCs, or industry specialists, I aim to make time for these requests. Right now this is extra important to do.

I rely on my network cultivated over the past 6 years in Europe, and pay it forward where I can. This has benefitted me in bringing on new opportunities and meaningful connections. Below is an example of writing about the master-of-making connections herself, Katy Campbell, after aligning with FemGems. Katy offers brilliant and honest self-reflection & care tips.👇🏾💎

I recently attended two events in one week – super rare nowadays though used to be commonplace pre-COVID era. One was the kick-off of Fem Gems, a Mentorship Club for female founders run by Dora Dora, and the other a VC mixer called VC Makers, hosted by Ollie Forsyth. Respectively, I loved 1) hearing how women were creatively solving problems with their businesses and 2) connecting with others in the VC space, including those involved in healthcare startups and ESG initiatives. By being selective in your online events, you can still grow your network without total overwhelm.

VC Makers event results, organized by Ollie Forsyth

Takeaway 3: Give First. Try events outside of your typical Zoom work landscape.

Now that I’ve joined a new team where I continually refine and optimize my skillset (including editing, communications, PR, social media, networking for good, project management, visual creativity, and more), I realize something plain but crucial: Always contribute your best efforts. But when necessary, don’t stay too long in a role that doesn’t a) utilize your widest range of skills or b) sufficiently support your professional growth. There’s bound to be the right fit elsewhere. You owe it to yourself to find that out. Employment is a two-way street, where both parties need to see and value a great match.

And once you find it, take a breath. Assess what you learned, what’s improved, and show appreciation. Then go help make a useful connection for someone else!

Pre-lockdown, reading the German papers at Earlybird’s office featuring our SpaceTech portfolio company.

Takeaway 4: Trust your gut–early and often. Be welcoming of iteration & growth.

To take stock of the last year and face a new one, here’s a good approach from Reshma Saujani’s recent book Brave, Not Perfect: “If you failed, it means you tried. If you tried, it means you took a risk. Celebrate the fact that you put yourself out there and dared to go for it…Take time to honor that. Celebrate the fact that you got a result, even if it wasn’t the result you’d hoped for because it means you saw something through to its conclusion, and can now pivot to your next move.”

This has been an incredibly tough time for many. I offer deep gratitude to my network and invite you to reach out to me via comments below or the channels mentioned above if I can help further your path. I wish you strength and success in 2021. 💓

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏽 If you clap, more people might discover this post. 👏🏾

Reporting from within a Venn diagram of health, tech and empowerment. Berlin-based. Internationally minded. Comms @ Earlybird Venture Capital

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