Well, that happened.
As I write this, we are in the final days of 2021, and about to embark on a brand new year. A year that already feels ominous and uncertain, as we commence another wave of pandemic-related cases induced by another Covid-19 related variant.
This is the time of year when many pause to reflect on where they have been, and begin to consider their plans, dreams and ambitions for the new year. It is easy to feel like we are awash in a sea of remembrances that highlight the extraordinary and difficult challenges of 2021. In a year that has been universally frustrating to navigate, it easy to feel despair and a lot more onerous to look forward with hope and optimism.
Despair only gets us so far, however, To give up in frustration is to surrender to whatever ebbs and flows the future has to offer. Finding glimmers of light—even in a darker landscape with a gloomy horizon—gives us both something to aim towards, and at least cautious belief that there might still be better days ahead.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been an awkward, complicated and maddening year. We have all been on a rollercoaster, navigating peaks and valleys on a seemingly weekly basis. There was a brief period of euphoria that we were turning the corner, as vaccines were made available and slowly rolled out. It didn’t take long before we felt like the rug had been ripped from beneath us. As we progressively learn the letters of the Greek alphabet, we are legitimately questioning when we will finally move beyond the pandemic.
My personal journey has echoed this. Periods of glee and anticipation have roiled with bouts of frustration and anger. There were days that felt raw and exposed, aching and angry. Even on good days, there was tension bubbling just below the surface. Reactions to even lesser slights could be fast and intense. Getting through the day and emerging reasonably whole out the other side felt like an accomplishment, and not always an easy one.
However, there were positives. I entered this year incredibly proud of the work I had done on Strategy Making, and thrilled by the success of the pilots. 2021 began with a focus on bringing the workshop into being in whole form. Feedback from pilot participants, review of the results of the program and research into the marketplace led to the design of a robust, comprehensive and solid workshop. I was delighted with the results, and remain incredibly proud of what has emerged.
The workshop is one component of a planned larger program, one that I will bring to fruition over time. The intended end result is an integrated structure that takes much of what I have learned as a consultant, and distils it into a practical framework for contemplating, planning and leading the realization of transformative change.
This summer saw work begin on a new consulting engagement, one that is unique and engaging. I am working with a client that is recognized for their bold and innovative work, and who are at a pivotal period in their evolution. The results of the work will shape the direction of their future and impact the lives of those that they support and serve for many years to come.
It has been a successful year as well for writing, as I elaborated on last week. As we close the year, I am writing the 46th column to appear on this site; that’s a level I haven’t hit since committing to a regular schedule here. In fact, this threshold was only exceeded in the year that I was finalizing my doctoral thesis and apparently engaged in a ridiculous amount of procrastination.
I have endeavoured to productively invest the time that I have had in building for the future. My personal blog site underwent a significant re-design, as did the web site for Interthink. I have comprehensively revised our proposal development process, and radically overhauled the templates I use and the approach I adopt in responding to new opportunities. I have embraced a steep learning curve in managing all of these, learning new technologies, new approaches and new perspectives as I have done so.
2021 has also been a relatively positive year in getting myself organized personally as well as professionally. This has been an on-going sort of progression, as has been well documented in this blog (and most recently exemplified by my deep-dive into systems and note-taking). What that means is that I start the new year better organized and more on top of things than I can remember being in decades. My to-do list is infinitely shorter, clearer in its aspirations and more attainable. I have new-found clarity about what I aspire towards, and what I am choosing to let go of as well.
The consequence is a feeling that for all the challenge, I am better prepared, more capable and enjoying greater focus than I have in a while. It is a good place to be starting from, and I feel positive about where it will lead.
While all of that bodes well in terms of potential, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the challenges and pitfalls. While I can’t say enough about how proud I am about Strategy Making, it has nonetheless not had the participant take-up that I had hoped for. There are many reasons for this, and I’ve reflected deeply on them. I remain confident in the relevance of the program, while acknowledging it won’t necessarily be for everyone. I have a good idea of who it is for, and what needs to be done differently to reach that target audience. Doing so is work that still remains to be done.
My success in securing a new consulting client this year doesn’t ignore that my workload is still profoundly below where it was when the pandemic began. There are positive signs that the marketplace is shifting, but it is doing so slowly. Organizations are recognizing that two years on, they can’t remain in stasis and need to start proactively identifying where they go from here. They are also navigating the same emotional highs and lows that affect us all. Winning new work is always challenging and success takes effort and persistence. I persevere, and have high hopes for what the new year will bring.
Overall, I am ending the year feeling confident in myself, happy with the work that I have done, and relatively optimistic about what the future will bring. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m doing what I can, and if nothing else I’m proud of the level of persistence and continued enthusiasm I’m bringing to moving forward. In an environment where progress feels hard and the future still feels wildly uncertain, it would arguably be easy to give up in resignation. Facing the future with a positive perspective feels like the most radical stance that I can muster under the circumstances.
As the year winds down, I most importantly want to say thank you for continuing to be here, valuing my work, and caring about what I have to say. I sincerely appreciate every one of you. You have had your own year and lived your own challenges. It is an honour and privilege to get invited into your inbox and your awareness every week. I wish you the very best of the new year, and hope you are able to end the year with those you care most about. I look forward to seeing you again in the coming weeks and months, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you what happens next.
Congratulations on a successful year despite the pandemic ups and downs.
Let’s hope for a better year ahead with brighter days in 2022!
Mark Mullaly says
Thank you so much, Cathy! I sincerely appreciate it.
Fingers are definitely crossed that 2022 offers more than just a glimmer of light, and we do indeed see brighter days!
Best wishes to you for a happy new year, and thanks for keeping in touch.
Michael Hilbert says
Thank your for sharing your challenges, successes and persistence with us in 2021. Hear is wishing ALL OF US, a successful, healthy and happy New Year!
Mark Mullaly says
Thank you as well, Mike. I am grateful your support, and your frequent comments and perspectives here.
Santosh Mishra says
Thank you very much for summing up 2021.
I thank you for your insightful articles so persistently put forth & most are truly engaging.
Wish you all the best for 2022!
Mark Mullaly says
A belated but sincere thank you, Santosh. I appreciate you being a continuing supporter of the site and my work.
I hope you had a great holiday, and best wishes for the new year as well!