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11 Things 2020 Taught Me and How They’re Impacting Our 2021 Business Plans

11 Things 2020 Taught Me and How They’re Impacting Our 2021 Business Plans

This is my last post of 2020 before our company heads into hibernation mode for 2 weeks.

(We’ll be back the week of January 4th, and you can read our complete holiday availability plan here.)

Tomorrow I’m going away with my husband to do our year-end review and annual planning process that we’ve been refining for the last 7 years.

I know that taking time to reflect may feel like it’s not productive, but it’s actually one of the most important ways to invest our time so that our roots grow deeper and our limbs stretch higher each and every year.

When we skip reflection, we stagnate. When we take the time to look back, the future gets way brighter.

We’ll dig deep into what this year has offered to us and how we’ll carry those lessons into 2021…but I got a head start.

As the final chords of 2020 are played and begin to fade out, I’m sitting with the medicine this year brought and how it’s impacting my plans for 2021.

While I’m not going to reveal everything we have up our sleeves for the coming year, I’m letting you in on the biggest lessons I learned in 2020 personally and how they’re impacting our 2021 business plans.

I hope reading these sparks some digestion and integration for you, too, so that in 2021 and beyond you find more ways to have more by doing less.

Lesson 1: Being a mother can be more fun than I thought.

Obviously, I love my kids, but prior to the pandemic I had a ceiling on my capacity to simply be with them. When we didn’t have childcare this past spring, I found myself freaking out…and then I busted on through my limitations because I didn’t have a choice. I was able to access levels of joy in motherhood that were out of my reach before, and it changed me forever in the best way possible. In 2021 I’m blocking out way more time to simply be with my kids, and I’m so excited for the space and fun!

Lesson 2: I cannot control what other people think of me. I can only control who I am and what I do.

This year has been a lot when it comes to social media, call out/cancel culture, and other people’s assumptions about people based on only what they see on the internet. It’s been really hard and made me so much stronger. I’ve peed my perimeters, gotten super clear on who gets access to my time and energy, and gotten to know the truth of who I am on a deeper level than ever before. And I’m so grateful. Moving into 2021 I’m clearer than ever on who I am, and this clarity has been guiding something really exciting we’re revealing in Q1!

Lesson 3: Embrace nuance.

Our dual-party political system in the United States has given us the illusion that there are only two ways of being. But there’s a lot of nuance in what a person can be and believe at the same time. Distilling viewpoints into the binary robs us of our humanity. What’s been the most nourishing for me is to stay in curiosity and let go of assumptions, so I can keep learning. I’m committed to staying in conversation and community with people who are different from me in 2021 and beyond, so I can stay in touch with the nuance.

Lesson 4: I’m here for liberation.

This year has been a huge awakening for our world around racial injustice. Thanks to the work I’ve done with Rha Goddess and Gina Gomez, learning from adrienne maree brown, Valarie Kauer, Milagros Phillips, Anu Gupta, and so many more, I’ve moved from feeling like I need to do something to help to stepping into my contribution to our collective liberation. Lilla Watson said it best: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” In 2021 I’m more committed than ever to showing up for my calling of changing the way we work because our liberation depends on it.

Lesson 5: I’m not here to please you.

In February, I spoke out publicly to try to get a law overturned in Maine that removes our right to body autonomy if we want to send our kids to private or public school. Unfortunately, the law stands, so we’ll be exploring unconventional education for our kids (which I’m actually really excited about!). The experience of speaking up about something controversial had me feeling like I was going to die, but when I didn’t, I came through the other side so much more connected to my purpose. I’m here to stay true to my calling, not here to please anyone. This truth will continue to be a guiding light next year and beyond.

Lesson 6: Productivity can be a trauma response, and nervous system healing is everything.

Early in 2020 I read Patriarchy Stress Disorder by Dr. Valarie Rein, based on Rha Goddess’s recommendation, and it connected so many dots for me around overworking and obsession with productivity. I learned that these behaviors can be responses to trauma, including experiences we’ve had personally as well as collective and ancestral trauma. The way we work is inextricably linked with our nervous system. Body first. Business second. I realized that the reason tracking my energetic ebbs and flows has been a lifeline for me is because it has helped me heal my nervous system. Tending to my nervous system this year has been everything and will continue to be a focus in my personal life and my work forevermore.

Lesson 7: I am not responsible for everything and everyone. I’m simply showing up for my shift.

The combination of not having any childcare and losing 2 primary team members this spring made it so that we couldn’t carry out most of the plans we had until much later in the year. The additional layer of my husband Mike transitioning more and more out of the day-to-day operations of the company triggered a state of feeling remarkably stressed and burdened by financial and company responsibilities by September. I knew that if I didn’t change the way I was approaching things, I would break. My friend Eliza introduced me to the idea that we’re not actually in charge of our businesses. Instead, we work for the Goddess and we just need to show up for our shift. I found profound ease when I decided to give up identifying as the primary breadwinner and just show up for my shift instead. As I plan for 2021, I’m viewing the whole thing through this lens, and it feels damn good. 

Lesson 8: We have to be willing to give up good to have great.

I’m not the only one for whom this year has required a lot of letting go: of plans, of loved ones, of the way we thought things were going to be. Sometimes we’re forced to let go, and I’ve had plenty of those moments. But this lesson is about the times when I’ve proactively let go because while something was good, what I really want is great. Choosing to end The Kate & Mike Show is just one of those examples. We did 4 years of weekly podcasts and it was beautiful. And then it was time for it to be over. Not because we didn’t love it. Not because it wasn’t working. But because there was something else we could both feel percolating. Next year I’ll be letting go of what feels good, but not great, even earlier.

Lesson 9: The more separation I have in partnership, the more connection is available.

This one is a personal one. Mike and I have been on such an amazing journey of reinventing our partnership this year. The more we’ve created space and not been all up in it in the day-to-day operations of the company, the more fun we’ve had, the more we’ve rekindled our spark, and the more connected I feel to him as my husband, not my business partner. What a gift. 2021 is going to have plenty of room for our marriage, more than ever before.

Lesson 10: I am a boss.

Mike used to do a lot of the difficult things in our company that I didn’t want to do, like have the hard conversations. When we officially decided to take him out of the day-to-day, I had to put on my big-girl pants and start having those conversations. I didn’t want to. I dragged my feet. But you know what? I got in there, I opened my heart, and it’s been great. I’ve become a much better leader and upleveled my vision in a huge way because I’m committed in a much deeper way than ever before. 2020 has been the year I’ve become a CEO, and even though it’s uncomfortable, I’m really starting to love this side of myself. CEO Kate is planning 2021, and it looks really different than any year previously.

Lesson 11: The less I do, the more impact I have.

I think I will learn this lesson over and over again, in more powerful ways, until the day I die. As an Enneagram 7, I LOVE to say yes to things. I am the ultimate enthusiast. This is my superpower and my downfall. That’s why I teach how to do less and have more…it’s the medicine I need. Due to the impact COVID had on our company, we had some projects get crunched together that were originally planned much farther apart. I found myself once again swimming in the sea of doing too much and being truly humbled by the experience. And from this place of never again, with the help of my friends Sarah and Eliza, the simplest, most elegant plan for 2021 arose. I can’t wait to unfurl it for you over the coming months.

I’m emerging from 2020 simultaneously softer and stronger, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons, unexpected as they were.

How about you? What did you learn this year? How is it impacting your plans for 2021? Leave me a comment and let our community know!

  • Amen, sister! I am right there with you. Thank you for always sharing your heart and being a guiding light for me for the past 5 years. Sending you, Mike, and the girls Love for the holidays, 2021 and beyond!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Thank YOU for being part of the community Korynn! Sending you and yours blessings this holiday season and beyond! xo

  • Anna Choi says:

    Thank you for sharing yourself authentically. I had aspirations to bring in my husband inspired by you and Mike, and now am rethinking what’s driving that thought. Is it my ego to think I could hire a high end developer and how would that impact our marriage? I could relate so much to your other lessons as well–we’ve also made several cuts to good not great regular events we’ve done for the last 2.5 years each month to focus on what we do best. So much of 2020 is a forced culling of what actually matters that just keeps going. Recently I also quit a membership I’ve been attending–really need to be there for my 9 year old homeschooling right now. He’ll never be this age again, and I want to be there with him.

  • Anna Choi says:

    Thank you for sharing yourself authentically. I had aspirations to bring in my husband into my six figure company, inspired by you and Mike, and now am asking myself what’s driving that thought? Is it my ego to think I could hire a high end developer and how would that impact our marriage? I could relate so much to your other lessons as well–we’ve also made several cuts to good not great regular events we’ve done for the last 2.5 years each month to focus on what we do best. So much of 2020 is a forced culling of what actually matters that just keeps going. Recently I also quit a membership I’ve been attending the last 3 years to focus on one main marketing strategy around podcasts AND be there for my 9 year old homeschooling right now. He’ll never be this age again, and I want to be there with him.

  • Big takeaways from 2020:
    I’m a terrible homeschool teacher and hiring a pod wrangler was a stretch financially and the most worthwhile investment we’ve made this year!

    I can’t do it all. Sometimes I can’t work at all. Sometimes I just need to collapse and do nothing. And that’s ok. Rest now and your energy for work & life will come back sooner than you think. Resist rest and spiral downwards into more anxiety, less productivity, and be miserable.

    I’m happiest when I’m connecting with people and I’ve had to get creative about how that looks…whether virtually, outside on a hike or around a fire at a distance. But I need to be with people, friends, not just my family.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      SUCH beautiful takeaways! I’m looking to hire a pod wrangler for later in 2021 myself so I’m glad to hear that worked well for you!

  • love this, kate. really inspiring. xx

  • Samantha Anderson says:

    Love this Kate. So many people focus on the negative and make excuses for the year. But it has provided many lessons and positives. I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for you and for us!

  • Anna says:

    Love these lessons. Thank you for sharing; there’s so much goodness here and so much more to come!

  • Narayani says:

    So much learning ! So much that you inspired me to write a blog about what I have learned as well. I will write it and post in Origin before need of year. To begin, Joining Origin has been so helpful! Thank you. You ARE a healer indeed.

    Love
    Narayani

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I have so loved being in community with you in Origin, Narayani, and I’m thrilled this inspired you to write one of your own. It’s such helpful digestion!

  • Genevieve says:

    This really resonated with me Kate – have been following your work since 2013 and it seems like this year has been a really powerful, positive shift and transformation for you. Wishing you all the best for a joyful and expansive 2021. Will take these ideas with me into 2021 as well. Xx

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Thank you Genevieve – so wonderful to have you in our community. Thanks for sticking around so long ;) May 2021 be glorious for us all!

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