2021 Reflection

I typically end the year with a blog post reviewing and thinking about the year done and the year to come. I didn’t bother at the end of 2021 because I don’t feel like I have much to write to future-me. Nevertheless, here I am documenting that I don’t have much to write.

2021 was characterized by waiting. I did grow a lot during the year and read (or partially read, in some cases) 10 books on design thinking and systems thinking. I also read about 40 fiction books, which was pretty awesome, thanks to Libby and the Springfield-Greene County Library.

But at work, I feel like we were stalled out most of the year. We made a lot of progress with our product documentation site and content, which was great, and I developed a purpose and mission for the Adaptavist Library and got its technology stack headed in the right direction, but the major initiatives I wanted to launch all languished.

In the past, to get initiatives moving forward, I would meet with the right people in London to work out details and get approvals in person. I’m six hours behind the key project sponsors, and it’s hard to get time on their calendars, so getting anything done remotely is hard. I began submitting strategy and initiative documents in March or April, and by the end of 2021, we still didn’t have anything firmly approved.

I have some ideas on how to get things done regardless in 2022, but I definitely ended 2021 on a down-note, and I don’t feel particularly optimistic or excited here at the beginning of 2022.

That said, I began listening to a podcast in November of 2021, Managing Leadership Anxiety, which has been fantastic. It introduced me to the concept of “family systems theory,” and I decided to dig into that more in 2022. I think it will follow my study of systems thinking nicely, and I’ll be joining Steve Cuss’s online learning community to learn and grow more in this area.

I failed to finish my annual read of the Bible in 2021, but I’m starting back over in Genesis despite that. For 2022, my goal is to pay particular attention to passages addressing money. I was thinking about retirement investments and stewardship over my winter holiday, and it occurred to me that, while I’ve read some FIRE (financial independence, retire early) and finance bloggers who happen to be Christian, I haven’t read much about finance that is targeted to the Christian audience. Dave Ramsey is obviously big in that area, but his target is debt elimination. I’d like to focus on long-term stewardship, and I think this dovetails well with my 2022 focus on leadership.

I want to learn how to help people become better leaders, not by developing templates or lists of phrases or specific actions to take (the “what to do” bit), but by helping them become who they need to be. But if asked, “Hey Matthew, can you help me become a better leader?” right now I wouldn’t quite know where to start. I think I do know where to start with stewardship, though, and it’s closely related. So while I begin writing about stewardship, I’ll be reading and learning about leadership and coaching.

Beyond all that, when I reflect on 2021, I think the main word and success that comes to mind for me is “discipline.” In many ways, 2021 was harder than 2020. The beginning of 2020 with covid really rocked me, and my mental health between March and July was not great. But we had Isaac at the end of 2020 and overall I ended the year enthusiastic, optimistic, and excited for what comes next.

2021 drained my excitement away. Work projects didn’t go to plan or on the timelines I had set, and Isaac’s health problems and lack of sleep made the year a challenge. But we got through it, and we were disciplined in our budgeting and keeping our finances on-track with our long-term goals, and we kept our house fixed and improving, and we read the Bible and prayed, and we served at church, and we made time to build friendships and pour into our community.

I was accepted to the board of public utilities for Springfield and I contributed to developing bylaws for Club Blue. I provided space and time for people to connect with one another. And I built a foundation of systems thinking in myself that I hope will lead to more growth and learning in 2022.

So 2021 wasn’t great, and I didn’t return from my winter holiday feeling particularly optimistic. But I do feel like I have some goals, and I have the energy and discipline I need to pursue them. I think that is enough for now.

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