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My 2020 Review

I am not alone in welcoming the end of this chaotic and disruptive year.

I’ve been gifted enough perspective to be well aware of how fortunate I am. Still, I’m allowing myself to wallow in the enthusiasm I hold for the end of 2020. The feeling of closure around the end of year is purely psychological and it’s a feeling I enjoy every year. But, man, 2020 am I right?

I was really proud of the effort I put into 2019 both personally and professionally to set up this year. No surprise much of that was sidetracked, like it was for so many of us. Pandemic; a year of effective lockdown, mask-wearing and isolation; massive recession; consequential movement on racial justice; worsening impact of climate change; partisan-fueled constitutional crises, and these were just the national tremors.

Personally, I cancelled travel, and my business was put under unexpected strain. Most of my family have still never held, nor even seen, my now six-month-old, first-born child. But we adapt. Hope springs eternal. I took 2020 on as a challenge of my leadership and personal mettle. I completed household projects with my hands, and I continued executing on the vision I have for my company’s contribution to the future of local journalism. I spent more meaningful time with my wife and my baby than I ever would have under any other circumstances.

Looking back, it feels telling that in March, before I fully grasped the magnitude of what covid-19 would become, I wrote an essay about learning that sometimes you have to go backward to go forward. Indeed.

As is often my most important check on a year, I do believe I am better and wiser than I was a year ago. Now for my annual traditional, albeit quite different, I did a quick rundown on what I experienced this year — below that I reviewed my resolutions for the year.

  • I navigated my company through the most perilous and chaotic year of our 12 year history — far more than even the Great Recession when we began. Q2 2020 was one of the scariest few months of my life. I am proud of how our team responded to this year, but we did not do it on our own.
  • Related, I am proud to have secured a Paycheck Protection Program loan, as part of the federal CARES Act. It was intimidating and I do understand how many shortcomings result from an emergency program like that, but it was an important contributor to my not needing to do any layoffs.
  • I added considerable experience in producing virtual events and skills in video and streaming.
  • I postponed and ditched more than a year of planning for what would have been the 10th annual Philly Tech Week. We did a good job with a virtual version in September but it was a far cry from what our team had worked so hard to produce in person.
  • I helped collaborate with Drexel Prof. Frank Lee on a public art display about civility during Philly Tech Week.
  • My wife and I welcomed our first baby into the world. Due to the pandemic quarantine, we were on our own for the first 10 weeks. It was really challenging, especially as I remained stressed by the rest of the world and the uncertainty confronting my business. The last few months of this year though have been truly magical and something I will remember for the rest of my life.
It’s one of the only social media-approved photo of my baby (whom my wife and I are keeping mostly off the internet)!
  • Following the initial George Floyd protests, I wrote an essay called ‘White Silence is Violence‘ which received tens of thousands of views and a considerable amount of feedback. Many people told me it was specifically and directly helpful for them to navigate their workplace.
  • I attended as an observer several protests and counter protests, including what became an ugly example of white privilege in my neighborhood, which I wrote about — and also became one of the best read stories of our year.
  • I attended and put several of my teammates through an antiracist seminar.
  • I audited my own contributions to racial equity.
  • We added Juneteenth as a paid holiday at my company.
  • I continued my fiction writers workshop, transitioning to a monthly virtual format but growing our beautiful little community. This is something I treasure.
Solar array on the top of our home!
  • My wife and I got a solar panel array installed on our home, as part of an effort to reduce our carbon footprint
  • I installed a hot water heater, dishwasher and a couple ceiling fans; I fixed a microwave door,
  • I made a pretty great workshop for myself (as part of finishing my basement, as noted below). Yes I am that kinda dude.
  • My wife and I did two quick socially distant afternoons downtheshore, the only times I left our neighborhood.
  • I set out to develop a dependable recipe for chocolate chip cookies, my favorite dessert, and I accomplished this.
  • I joined a couple mentor sessions for the Workshop School, the West Philadelphia high school I’m on the board of. I also put in important board development work, including finding a successor for me as Board Chair (more on that next year).
  • I spoke out about what I viewed as a dangerous political climate. I made my first public presidential endorsement — which is uncomfortable for journalists — and I engaged directly and civily with a dozen or more Trump supporters with whom I grew up to try to return to a discourse that has radically eroded in recent years.
  • I hosted the second season of a podcast called Off the Sidelines focused on angel investment education. I always learn a lot doing that.
  • I’ve been doing a weekly whiskey tasting with my friend April Perry McKellar

Now a recap of the resolutions I set for myself for the year:

  • JANUARY: Finish my basement project — Wow I did this! It may have taken three years and there are some clear imperfections, but from layout, framing, electric, drywall and spackle and the right: I’ve added a nice, comfortable secondary living place for our family.
  • FEBRUARY: Convert a bedroom — Wow, yes, we turned a guest bedroom into a nursery for our first child!
  • MARCH: Invest in my own mentors — This was something I lost track of due to covid, but I did grow relationships with a few more experienced professionals I admire and look to for advice.
  • APRIL: Form a work executive committee — This stressful year made this even more important, and successful. I have a close working group with several long-tentured teammates of mine now.
  • MAY: Establish a long-term vision for Philly Tech Week — This was radically delayed, as we had to postpone PTW entirely, but I did manage to keep my eyes on this and made progress. I expect to have a fuller test for May 2021.
  • JUNE: Have a major life milestone — Wow, my wife and I have a healthy baby!
  • JULY: Give myself a raise — Well this was also made far more complicated by a disrupted year. I delayed all raises at my company during 2020.
  • AUGUST: Define my company’s place in talent services — This year delayed some of my planned progress but our team did quite a bit of introspective work here. We also added several high profile talent services clients.
  • SEPTEMBER: Develop strategic partnerships list — Several specific plans for this were shelved or discarded due to 2020 changes, so I went a different direction.
  • OCTOBER: Post life-change habits — After my baby was born, I wanted to revisit going to the gym and other habits that proved impossible in this year. I’ve not been particular healthy this year (lost a bicycle commute!) but I’ve returned to saving time for reading like I had hoped.
  • NOVEMBER: Grow profitability at my company — Nope. I am very thankful for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which allowed me to keep my team intact. It’s been a strange one.
  • DECEMBER: Fellowship Research — I did this, and I have a far clearer understanding of my options and ways to move forward.

I am proud to have done everything I could manage in this strange year. I wouldn’t want to wish away that progress, but I am certainly excited for the psychological effects of entering a new year.