Welcome to 2021. It’s not exactly the fresh start we were hoping for.
The world is collectively tired. We’re not starting out this year full of hopes for the future. And that’s okay. Because baking sourdough wasn’t the only thing we got better at last year.
Before 2020 takes its place as the-year-that-must-not-be-named, let’s acknowledge an important piece of self development it did give us - a crash course in resilience.
Now if you’re a woman, a person of colour, or anyone who has lived outside the traditional construct of privilege in our society this isn’t new for you.
You’ve shown up every day well aware that something is against you. That through bias, conscious or not, you were going to have to overcome hundreds of obstacles just to get through a seemingly normal day. You know that your presence in the room doesn’t hold as much weight, that you have to justify your thoughts as opposed to giving your opinion and that someone else is going to take credit for the idea you just said.
You know this, and over time you’ve accepted it. And now thanks to the year that was 2020, everyone else has had a taste of it too.
Because no matter what frustrating situation was thrown at us, we had no choice but to take it in our stride, adapt ourselves and try to complain about it as little as possible.
Sure, these are not the same burdens and responsibilities, but it is the same collective feeling of frustration, of being constantly fed up and having to plaster a smile on your face and get on with it. And while we may have lost other things such as stability and confidence, what we gained in perspective and resilience is something that makes us better people and stronger teammates.
We’ve always underestimated the value of resilience. Probably because traditionally those in power simply haven’t needed it as much. That’s not to say they didn’t have barriers to overcome, or problems to solve but they didn’t have to face those obstacles day after day after day after day. And they certainly haven’t had to spend half of their time convincing people these obstacles exist in the first place.
Resilience is not the ability to win or to succeed, it is the ability to lose over and over again and keep going anyway.
This is something our industry already has had a lot of practice at - we lose a pitch, the client doesn’t buy our idea, or even worse buys it and then kills it slowly, budgets get cut, teams change… we are built on resilience for our work. And now thanks to 2020, we are people with greater personal resilience that directly gives us more empathy for the diverse members of our teams.
Now all that’s left to do is activate it. We need to acknowledge its value and put it to use.
We need to use this new perspective to analyse how our agencies’ work and remove burdens and obstacles that simply don’t need to be there. We need to put in place practices that prevent these things from happening in the first place. In a nutshell, we need to stop being the year 2020 to women and people of colour.
We need to use our new resilience to be braver. Now more than ever we are equipped to be bolder in our ideas and less afraid in our convictions. If we fail, when we fail, we have a stronger base to support us.
Resilience might be a gift that only comes from struggle, but that doesn't mean it can’t be used to make us all better. So here’s to 2021. The year we give diversity a chance to succeed, push creativity to the point it gets uncomfortable and build on one of the only good things 2020 left us with.