Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

The Worst Purchase of 2020 was a 2020 Planner

The Worst Purchase of 2020 was a 2020 Planner

It’s a bold statement to say that the worst purchase of mine was my 2020 planner, but then 2020 has been a bold year. 

Twelve months of 2020 have almost come to a close, and as I sit here looking through my planner, I realize that it turned out to be a useless paperweight about a quarter of the way through. By April, whatever plans we had were not going to happen the way that we thought they were going to happen. We had to totally re-evaluate the way that we did things, and for every page that we turned in that calendar things kept on changing and challenging us.

Planning is my business

As a business owner, I spend a lot of time on planning. It’s basically my #1 job.

I need to plan ahead for so many details, too many to count really. Competition schedules, coach assignments and travel, classes and private lesson programs, finances, marketing, meetings, this blog articles, and so much more. To run a successful company, and I believe we are quite a successful organization, requires a lot of detailed planning and then execution on these plans.

And 2020 was no exception from all previous years, until it was.

We had big plans for this year. We had a wonderful and talented group of fencers in our school that were working hard for Fencing Summer Nationals. Our classes were growing at both of our locations and we welcomed students from all over the area to our open fencing times. We were hosting regional competitions and sending our fencers out all over the country to compete. Like the rest of the world, the upcoming Olympic Games offered us the chance to think bigger, to be inspired and to push higher. For us, growth was always an integral part of our model, not just for the sake of business but primarily for the sake of our students and the sport. Fencing is our passion here. 

After that first lockdown, all of those plans changed. We had to turn our focus to maintaining our students however we could and to mitigate the effects of being isolated for them as much as possible. It required adaptation and thinking on our feet. Never before had we been in a position where we had to change our lives so dramatically in one fell swoop.

When I look back to the beginning of the pandemic, I can of course say that there are things that I wish were different. For my family, for our club, for our community and our country and the world. It is not easy to look at any aspect of the planning and overcome the challenges of the reality that we faced. You can only plan so far. I cannot change the way things unfolded, and I cannot allow myself to become consumed with obsession over the unfairness of the world and the way that it crushed all of those well laid plans. 

Learning from what we lost

Instead of looking back with regret and heartache over what we lost this year, I look back to see if I learned anything as an individual and what our club learned as an organization. Those lessons are there, even if they are painful to look at. I refuse to allow 2020 to be a lost year. 

Here are the major lessons that I learned. 

The art of surrender

I never thought I’d have this little control over what my life looked like. As an immigrant and an entrepreneur, I have always had a sense that I could determine the course of my life to a certain degree. 

In many ways, 2020 turned out to teach some of the same lessons that parenting teaches us. You cannot control everything, and you have to surrender to the way that things will unfold. No planner can tell you when your child will take their first steps or what kinds of activities they will enjoy. You have to learn to allow your children’s lives to unfold in their own way. This lesson had to be taken to 2020, where we had to learn that we could not plan things out the way that we normally would. It’s been a challenging transition, but it’s also led to a greater sense of control in the lack of control. That is to say – you learn that you can be happy if you surrender to the consistent nature of change. 

In fact, the only constant in our lives is change. We had to learn to let go of the year of our dreams to the reality of 2020. 

Compassion is currency

Threaded throughout this year was a consistent ethic of compassion. It has been shaded at times by turmoil and fear, but it’s a theme that I have come back to again and again. This is compassion for people who are struggling just the way that we are struggling, but also compassion for ourselves as we learn to practice self care and build ourselves up during the most turbulent times.

I am optimistic that people are good. I believe in the human capacity for compassion because I’ve seen it. In fact, I cannot help but believe that we are going to pull through this together. As easy as it is to become disheartened by all of the things that have gone awry in 2020, I cannot help but see the warmth of community that is threaded through this year. 

How to look ahead

The short term reality of this year was tough. It’s still tough. It’s so tough that it feels like we cannot see the other side. 

This year, I have learned to look ahead. We are ending 2020 with higher numbers of cases and higher numbers of deaths from COVID than ever before, and we are not sure if this will even be the peak. However, we are also ending this year with multiple vaccines on the horizon. Just as we could not have imagined a year ago that we would be in the place we are in, we cannot imagine where we will be a year from now. 

It’s hard to think of a post-COVID world, but it will happen. There will be fencing competitions and travel again. Kids will go back to school and there will once again be parties and family gatherings. I continue to take heart in the knowledge that there will be another new normal that looks more like our old normal than it looks like this moment. It will take longer to get here than we’d like, but it will happen.

The importance of our values

How we chose to meet the moment this year spoke directly to who we were. It became an opportunity to act in line with our values. We don’t have to be perfect in order to be good, but we do want to do good. 

Our values have been tested this year. When faced with hard choices, do we go for the things that feel good in this moment, or do we go for the things that don’t feel so good but are right in the end?

We have had to choose to practice safety measures that we knew were right, even when they were not good for the bottom line of our business. It has been a tightrope to walk, full of constant decisions that always involved a trade off of some kind. What did not ever change were our values. We always knew who we were, and we never let our values become compromised. That is a big thing that we walk away from this year with.

Unfulfilled dreams

If you take anything from this post, take this: stop dwelling on unfulfilled dreams and plans. Instead, look at what you succeeded at this year and learn from it. Think of what you would still like to change and pivot to make those changes.

We are all worn out. The burnout is perhaps the only consistent thing from this year. We steel ourselves for the battle ahead that will last another month or two, only to find ourselves still battling six months later. When will it ever be over? You create goals and structures, then in a few weeks they don’t mean anything because they are actually impossible. 

I look back on my 2020 planner and see the things that are scratched out and scribbled in, how many times things had to alter to meet the needs of a moment. There are so many different colors of ink and x’s over canceled events or classes. The world shuts down, then opens back up, then closes down again. New challenges present themselves and we have to change again. It’s a record of the tumultuous time that we went through, right there in many colored inks. Sometimes I felt like I should throw it out and try to live without a planner. Who needs one if it’s all just going to change anyway? What’s the use of even trying? It would be much easier to give up and not even try to make plans for next year. Who needs it if it’s just going to be a problem?

There are not only bad things to take from this year. There are wonderful things that came from this year. Yes, the worst investment of 2020 was probably a 2020 planner. It turns out that plans aren’t always what they are cracked up to be, and in fact without the plans we have been able to grow so much this year. This year was unlike any other, and while we would not relive it, that does not mean that we regret it. Living with the empty feeling of unfinished business and a useless planner, well that is a choice that we make. 

Now for the real question . . . should I buy a 2021 planner?


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  1. R

    What’s changed is that moving forward we’re in a supportive rather than combative political environment, resulting in less stress. I had just returned to practice when I was informed I reffed a positive, so had to isolate. After negative results, returned again only to have our governor shut down indoor practice until January 2 – or longer. I look forward to early vaccination so that I’m ready and safe to ref once national tournaments recommence. I also look forward to herd immunity so that I may compete unmasked at full capacity for my national team run.

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