What I did and learnt during this 2020 COVID year


Everyone and their mother tend to write some summary or recollection of what happened during the year. I have done it a few times, sometimes out of joy, others out of frustration. Often we know this only matters to ourselves, kind of a "public diary". This post is exactly like it, so if you do not really care about my ramblings and musings around 2020, you are invited to stop reading :)

 I have learnt quite a few things about myself during this strange year. Confinement forced all of us to live in a strange way, and allowed us to reflect on how the "new me" in the "new normal" is related to what we thought we were. During the first wave I took lengthy notes of these changes. I wanted to share a few of these reflections, with intermissions that show a few things I have been able to do in 2020.

Work by my friend Óscar
One. A few years ago due to several reasons that do not matter anymore, I felt I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was not being able to manage all the challenges I had in a proper way: bad sleep, being totally down in the mornings, not feeling motivated during the day, etc.When the lockdown started, I was afraid I would start feeling this again. The truth is. I didn’t. Except for one night right at the beginning, where I felt a little down, I have been able to feel fine under the circumstances and try to support my family and friends while working my ass off at work.

Daily activities during lockdown
Two. I have verified something I knew by heart. With work and health stability, I could be in a lockdown for months with not much worry. I have always enjoyed being at home. I can read, listen to music, watch movies or documentaries, write, draw, play piano -not that I did that often, I mainly worked and stayed with my family-. But, while I obviously longed to walk a little, run a little, etc, it wasn’t a critical need for me. Even months after the first wave, I have continued in a similar way.

Three, when my now wife and I started to date, our friends said that this was a perfect match because we were the “daddies” of the group. I have always felt as someone who needs to care for the rest. As life has gone on, I felt I lost that empathy for the rest. But during the lockdown I have always been reaching out friends to know how they were. Even explicitly thinking about who else I should reach. I have had twenty minute whatsapp audios exchanged with friends around the world. I have sent short messages to friends just to know how they were. It’s true they as the lockdown evolved, a kind of routine made me do that less and less. Obviously related to the start of a new project that took most of my wake time for months :D


The new normal
Four, while I mentioned above I have felt quite fine for the whole lockdown, I haven’t been immune to irrational fears. The second time I had to go grocery shopping was a big one, meant for three weeks so we didn’t have to get out for most of the lockdown. I drove my car to the big market nearby and stayed there for more than an hour. While not full, there was more people than expected, so I was not feeling comfortable there. This plus the mask and gloves increased my tension so I just wanted to get out as fast as I could. It was more than fear to be infected, it was a kind of invisible enemy bias. As rational as I try to be in my life, my brain is as human as the rest.

Five, because of the amount of work I have had, I haven’t been good at having a routine. I always tried to be with my daughter a little bit during the day, but other days that was just impossible. I didn’t even try to do some exercise at home. We live in a relatively small space and in addition I have never enjoyed home fitness, so I decided to get serious on it once we got out or if I felt it more urgently. However, I have been able to keep myself from eating too much. I  actually lost quite a lot of weight. during the first months. Eating properly at home and not getting candy or chocolate actually works, who would've known! So it seems that I’m not good at forcing myself to a clear routine, but good at forcing myself not to get into pernicious behaviors under stress.


Drawing behavior and genetics books... yes, it's a hobby to me :)

Six. For many years I have known that I am an introvert. I always prefer to be alone and only because of the needs at work I have learnt to build a mask to enable me to appear social. The lockdown has forced many of us to stay at home. In my case I started a full new project during the lockdown so that I could not personally meet any of my teammates for months. During that stage, I learnt two things. First, that I still lose too much energy for being too social, too extrovert. Six, eight, ten zoom meetings per day without breathing time between each other has proven to have a high mental cost for everyone but specially for introverts. I feel exhausted every day and I feel I cannot make it to Friday. Hence I tend to be quite quiet during the weekend, it’s like a way to lose tension in my brain. Second, however, it is clear this mask has perfected over the years. I now feel quite comfortable when giving my opinion under almost any situation. I still have a friendly and nice-guy approach to discussions but if I hace to speak up, I don’t feel, at least directly, any emotional setback. Only five or six years ago this would have been really tough to me.

Seven. One learning during the lockdown is related to the respect I have for my wife as an entrepreneur. It’s always been clear to me, but this lockdown shows she is the real entrepreneur in the house. When she had to temporarily close down her optometry office, it was a disaster. Her cash flow scenario was improving in the last months but not enough to manage a two or three-month halt. After a couple of days of frustration on her side, she started fighting back in a way I would never have been able to. I would have gotten blocked for sure and would not have been able to act in such a determined way, while, at the same time, supporting me and our daughter at home. I have witnessed an amazing class act.


Eight. Teaching has been an important part of my life during the last 22 years. And this confinement has taught me how the importance goes beyond the professional side. Teaching is one of the clear vocational jobs someone may have. But I have now learnt something else. I have had to prepare two very different type of courses: in one of them I was given the specific units I had to teach and even the slides that I had to use - albeit I could add new ones based on my experience. In the other, I had been given a wide area of knowledge and could do whatever I wanted, but once I provided the context, readings and activities, other person converted it into the actual digital course that students would actually see; this work was more than pure format: as Marshall McLuhan would say, it completely upgraded the context and made learning better.

My classroom all this year

While working on both courses, I realized that teaching, more than drawing or playing music, both of, is my way of being an author or "artist" at least for a part of my life. The day to day of leading a business or managing a product, while fascinating to me, is not something one would say is part of an artist’s life. However, I felt that having to use someone else’s slides and unit definition is “kind of” what an artist feels when given an assignment: how can I create something amazing out of these restrictions? In the second course, I saw how an initial piece of work can become something better with the art other person provides. I always use the lowercase version of the concepts, of course. But it’s when organizing and preparing courses when I feel I am currently being more creative and using the artistic part of my mind.

Entrevista a Justo Hidalgo, autor de «Todo cuenta». Seguimos Leyéndonos -  YouTube
One of the few days I left home :)

Nine. While not directly related to the coronavirus, the fact that I started a new project during the confinement has taught me something new about my professional life. While I mentioned before that time and experience seems to give me more confidence, albeit always feeling shyness inside, I also feel, more than ever, that my experience is valid. I have not been specially worried that I would not be able to do a decent job. But I always felt I could make use of my prior experiences to make it work. When I found that my responsibilities went beyond what I initially thought, I also felt I would manage somehow. And it has shown by now. Obviously I need to learn, I am slower than what I would like, and I need to still grasp so much more stuff. But I have felt I can manage complex situations like the ones I am focusing on now. I many not get a 10/10 but I will not fail at all. And this gives me confidence in future endeavors.

Ten. A less philosophical aspect of myself that I’ve learnt is that I really enjoy video editing. I love finding the best story to a video. Obviously I’m less than a rookie but being confined I have had more opportunities to create small videos, like the ones for my daughter or the final video for school. And I would really like to continue doing it and getting better. I can be hours tweaking around. Whether I will find time to get better by attending advanced courses or purchasing better tools, time will tell.

Eleven. This is not new, but it has been more than amazing to feel what a community can achieve. We have seen this during the lockdown in many places (like the amazon 3D Printing community generating safety products for everyone). And, more personally, how the Tetuan Valley community reacted to the publishing of Todo Cuenta, my second book, this time on data analytics. We are individuals, but also are shaped by the communities we belong to. 

2021 comes with many challenges altogether. We do not know if we will go back to the old normal, a new normal, a new-new normal... but we know we must continue our walk through life. 

  • Profesionally, new amazing products to envision and build, while keeping business going. 
  • A goal to finish drawing my "summary" of Robert Sapolsky's Behave (it's only been two years in the process :))
  • Another goal to read less and write more about what I read. Very happy with this year's reading rhythm, but I feel I need to evolve some of my thoughts about product management, behavioral psychology, team leadership, ... into something coherent within my own product framework.
  • Teaching much, much less than in the past few years, but with more focus on trying out new stuff with blended approaches. There are already a couple of interesting courses around data, AI and emerging tech to work on in early 2021!
  • And... let life surprise me with new moonlightning projects!

Have a happy and healthy 2021, everyone!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash



Alex Swiec said…
Me ha encantado el post, gracias por compartir. Me he sentido muy identificado con tus comentarios sobre los introvertidos.

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