Last year at this time, we were debating whether 2020 was the end of the second decade of the 21st Century or the beginning of the third decade. (Spoiler Alert: it was the end. Decades start with 1 and end with 0.)
I remember being anxious for 2019 to end, but after the challenging year that 2020 became, I couldn’t for the life of me remember why 2019 was so bad. So, I decided to look back to find out what was happening. These are only some of the highlights that made 2019 an anxious year for me, and others.
United States Government Shutdown
On January 3, 2019 Democrats took control of the United States House of Representatives. Hopes were high that they would end the government shutdown. The shutdown had now been going on 22 days, leaving 800,000 employees unpaid, becoming the longest in U.S. history.
College Admissions Scandal
We learned of a college admissions scandal where around 50 people had been accused of bribery and fraud to secure admission to elite colleges for their children. The scandal featured two familiar faces, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. (I’ll never think of “Aunt Becky” the same way again.)
Huffman would serve 14 days in prison, fined $30,000 and be required to perform 250 hours of community service for her involvement in the scandal. Loughlin and her husband would continue to fight into 2020 before settling with prosecutors, heading off to jail and paying fines.
The Mueller Report
What seemed like forever, 2019 was the year that Robert Mueller finally turned in his report on the 2016 Presidential election after a nearly two-year investigation on whether the Trump Campaign helped Russia interfere with our election. Attorney General William Barr would reduce the report’s findings to a four page letter to Congress that in essence said ‘there’s nothing to see here.’
Hats Get Thrown into Presidential Race for 2020
By the time Joe Biden threw his hat into the ring, announcing he was running for President in 2020, 20 candidates, the largest field of presidential candidates in U.S. history, were now all running against the incumbent, Donald Trump. It was in May of 2019, that Gallup’s tracking poll measured Trump’s approval rating at the highest of his presidency thus-far, 46%. (It never got any higher than 49%.)
That same month we also learned via the New York Times, that Donald Trump has lost $1.17 billion from his various businesses from 1985 to 1994, a far greater amount than previously known, and more than any tax payer in U.S. history.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June reported that there were 971 cases of measles in the United States, the highest level in more than 25 years.
Billionaire financier and registered sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, is taken into federal custody in New York on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors in Florida and New York. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta would resign amid the controversy over his prosecution of Epstein in 2007, which raised lots of questions about how this case had been handled. Epstein, only months later, would be found dead in his jail cell.
Manhattan’s West Side was hit with a blackout, occurring exactly 42 years after the New York City blackout of 1977 that would also plunge much of New York City into blackness.
Election Security Blocked
Less than 24 hours after Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned of the continued threat of interference to America’s elections, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks legislation designed to improve election security in the United States.
The Phone Call
In September, the inspector general of Intelligence, Michael Atkinson, communicates to the House Intelligence Committee that a whistleblower had issued an “urgent” and “credible” complaint involving an apparent July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian president Zelensky. This phone call would lead to the Impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump in January of 2020.
America’s opioid crisis would see Purdue Pharma file for bankruptcy in response to lawsuits related to its participation in the crisis.
Impeachment Proceedings Announced
The end of September would see the announcement by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that an IRS employee had filed a whistleblower complaint saying an unnamed political appointee at the United States Department of the Treasury tried to interfere with the tax audits for President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
On October 31, the U.S. House of Representatives votes 232 to 196 in favor of formally proceeding with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. The first formal hearings to begin in November.
At those hearings, Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, testified that there was a quid pro quo in the Ukraine scandal, pushed by Rudy Giuliani and ordered by Trump. The White House announces that President Trump will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on December 3.
On December 18, the House votes to forward two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, accusing him of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. Donald Trump became only the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House.
Looking back, there was little wonder why we were all looking forward to the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. Little did we know what lay ahead or that we would long for the way many of the things had been in the year just past.
We knew there would be an Impeachment trial in the Senate, but we never imagined our world would be closed down by a global pandemic and that the most powerful nation in the world would be brought to its knees in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and dying of the novel coronavirus.
Which brings us to not just the start of a new year, but the start of a new decade. We’re not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the worst is yet to come. December became America’s deadliest month yet for COVID-19.
On top of that, our ‘make-believe economy,’ where there’s no such thing as risk, can’t go on forever, and according to Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin, Wall Street knows it.
Creating New Habits
Experts in the study of human behavior tell us, that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. On average, it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
It was in March of this year that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, that was over 305 days ago.
If this lasts another six months, another 180 days, that would mean that we have been living with the new habits due to COVID-19 for 485 days. Does anyone seriously think that the new habits we’ve formed over that period of time will suddenly vanish?
This is not a blog about politics. It’s a media mentorship blog.
The big takeaway in today’s article is that the changes that have taken place during 2020 are becoming permanent. You can’t plan for the future by thinking life will return to the way it was in the first decades of the 21st Century. Hotels, for example, are now renting hotel rooms to people to use as an office, allowing them to get out of their house, but still remain COVID safe. Now that’s being creative! And if they can do it, what can your industry do?
We think too much and feel too little.
So, take a moment to reflect on how the year just passed has changed you.
- What did you love about the changes 2020 brought (no more commuting?).
- What would you leave out or what would you do more of in 2021 to improve your career, and your life?
- What did this year teach you, about yourself, your work, your life, your priorities?
- What were you most grateful for?
- Were you able to find happiness in things you previously overlooked or took for granted?
- How will the things you learned in 2020, benefit you in 2021?
Think of 2021 as the year for letting go of the past.
Letting go of what was, is the way we create the space for building what can be.