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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

Finding Your North Star

Birthdays? Canceled.

Graduations? Canceled.

Live music. Canceled.

Premieres ? Canceled.

Traveling Internationally? Canceled. (well mostly)

Weddings? Canceled.

Cancel culture prevailed in 2020.

The collective pause was followed by subsequent start/stops. Trepidation that will continue into 2021 as we all re-establish our public presence within society and our own circles starting as early as spring, depending on how the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and their effectiveness fares.

While we were forced as countries, cities, businesses, organizations, and individuals to cancel most of those public-facing events for our own safety and that of others, in our own personal lives we may have had much more control than we realized for the first time in a long time.

2020 with all of the ups and downs and limitations that impacted us as a whole, it also allowed each of us as individuals to set boundaries as we needed them. It also gave us many an opportunity to get in touch with ourselves to check-in on where it is that we stand as individuals on important issues, work/life balance, familial commitments, and overall presence within our own communities. Some people rose to the challenge, while others broke—and not always in the public eye.

In the privacy of our own homes or safe spaces, I’m fairly certain that everyone had at least one trying moment that tested how well they knew themselves as individuals in this era. Not just who they perceived themselves to be or who they wanted others to perceive them to be. No, this was the kind of unintentional, but highly unavoidable, re-introduction to our true selves.

What we may have discovered was that we didn’t actually like taking part in some of the stuff that we participated anymore in or even those that we surrounded ourselves with prior to the pandemic’s isolation period any longer. This year also forced us to realize what it takes for us to take action when injustice or inequality are at play, or even more crucial points like when our democracy was threatened. What were the reasons that drove us to finally join in the fight, if we weren’t already? Were they personal agendas? Were they more idealistic reasons? Was it a genuine desire to help improve the life quality of others?

2020 was a year in which none of us could hide from ourselves.

Relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or professional also came under a microscope. This was a very easy year in which to dismiss those that we no longer wanted to be surrounded by or to stop supporting either with our bandwidth or financially that which no longer aligned with us, using the economic struggles of 2020 as an excuse. I hope that for your own mental health and success in the continued personal or professional journeys of your choice that you all did assess who it is that surrounds you and take inventory of who gives and who takes and whether it is a balanced and most importantly a welcome exchange.

2020 gave everyone an out if they needed one.

On the romantic front, I know that many households suffered the “Full House” syndrome (and not the comedy of the 90s). Couples with children went from getting the escape of going into the office or the kids to school for at least eight hours per day to now becoming teammates and colleagues 24-7 with little, to no alone time. This also applied to couples who already were experiencing challenges within their relationships. It is much easier to stay in a relationship when you are only seeing your partner for a few hours each morning and each evening, plus weekends but the minute you are spending just about every waking moment together is the moment that you get to know each other on a different level that you may or may not be able to tolerate any longer in these larger doses.

For me personally, the biggest boundaries to set were in the professional and social spaces. As I’d mentioned in the past I have led a very busy life for years. All of it self-imposed for the most part as either part of my career or a part of my own personal interests and projects. While in the past I could’ve been persuaded into taking meetings that I perhaps was not entirely eager to join or attending a multitude of events, this year gave me a respite from an overbooked social and professional calendar. In all honesty, these new boundaries also came about because after adding in the layers of helping to address certain elements of this pandemic and to drive change around this year’s election and Georgia senate run-off, I really didn’t have the time to take on more. One day, I’ll make a list of everything I took on and accomplished in 2020 across all of my projects and career and I’ll likely wonder how I accomplished it all. The truth is that it was thanks to my getting even better at setting boundaries. In the past, even though I did make myself for quite a bit, there was that much more that I couldn’t participate in. This year built upon that. I know that I am only one person, and while capable of accomplishing more than most without stressing myself out, I also am quite careful to not overcommit.

One thing that I’ve realized in the past few years is that I will always encourage my world to grow as I’ll always continue to add to it. My circles of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are all varied and come from so many various backgrounds and thanks to all of the projects that I embark upon I.add more and more of those type of people that I currently want to be surrounded by. The innovators, the creatives, the problem-solvers, the self-starters, and most of all the doers. I have little interest at this moment in talking about the things we could do, unless the conversations are a part of strategic planning for 2021 and beyond or problem-solving for immediate issues. I have more of an interest in being surrounded by those that take action. Of course, I’ll always entertain working with new people, I do it all of the time. I also recognize that I am lucky that these type of individuals do already exist in my circles and I hope they do for each of you too, if that’s what you decided you want.

2021, is going to be a year of action. A year of rebuilding, innovating, and optimizing for growth— not a year of indecisiveness and analysis paralysis, that’s what 2020 was for, to give you the time to think about what is important . I hope that if you didn’t in the past, that you’ve now learned to trust your gut instinct and to use both your heart and your head to identify what is right for you. Using just one or the other will never get you the right result, in 2021 both are needed. No else is going to know exactly what is right for you specifically, this time it is up to you.

While I was at AT&T, I was leading a product that still hasn’t fully hit the market after the 2020 delays that I’d named for internal purposes, “Project North Star”, as it was an ambitious end goal for a product format that had seen many lifecycles that was in dire need of an overhaul. Enter “Project North Star” which would change the way consumption of this content and product for specific markets. Before “Bring on the Ballot” had it’s first name of “Hear Me” was called Project Gen Z Votes. No need to explain that one and we all saw how that one ended. If we’re close, then you know what “Project…” name CBS All Access had before we publicly announced it.

So as we head into this new year, I challenge each of you to think about what excites you, what brings you to life? While for some it may be the idea of new whether it be innovation or collaborations, for others it may be that it’s just a quiet life outside of the city that they seek.

2020 was different for each of us, as will the choices that we make as well as next stage of our lives. Once you decide exactly on what it is that you’d like to accomplish in the new year, a truly new chapter that we each define for ourselves, you may be surprised at how easy it can be to achieve.

Lastly, in 2021 there is a good chance that many things will come off hold and gain momentum. Are you ready for that? It will be easier once again bring things to life in the public-eye and to bring towards you those that you desire to work with.

The world will not change overnight, things like inequality and the climate crisis will not go away or improve just because it is a new year or even with new elected officials, just like your own misfortunes or self-imposed blockages also will not. However, your world is your world and only you can change it for the better. This isn’t about New Year’s resolutions, this is about sustainable life-changes. Purging what no longer works and moving forward with what holds promise. A lot is changing around us, but if we’re lucky we’re the biggest part of the change.

What “Project” will 2021 be for you and who will you take into 2021 with you?


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