Last year, I shared new year’s greetings from the beautiful French island of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. I would love to to the same again this year, but it’s a less sunny & exotic virtual greeting card that I’m sending (more about it at the end of the post).
As I have been seldom writing recently, I wanted to jolt down some notes about what 2021 brought me. It hasn’t all been good, but overall I feel very grateful for an amazing 365 days, which made me grow as a person, professionally and personally.
Feed your curiosity, always
Since I was a kid, then a teenager, then a student, older people always told me to stay curious throughout my life. I always agreed, without understanding why curiosity was so important or satisfying. Luckily I am naturally a curious person, I love to learn and to discover new, unexpected things, and somehow I can’t stand to waste time (which has its benefits).
I can’t remember where exactly – I think it was a pre-roll ad or a “sponsored by” message by a privacy influencer – but I am therefore really happy that I have found out about CuriosityStream, a streaming service focusing 100% on discovery and learning:
I shared some of my favorite documentaries on Twitter in 2021, on topics as diverse as printing, chance, mechanics, but I also watched great things about art or evolution. A real pleasure!
There are obviously many more ways to feed one’s curiosity, other than staring at one’s phone. Go out for a walk, look up when you do, talk to people you have never met, ask more questions, visit a museum, read the newspaper… I find a lot of enjoyment in the very act of learning, without necessarily seeking to apply it elsewhere.
Prove yourself something
I had registered for Ironman 70.3 in Vichy, in the center of France, which takes place in August during the summer holidays. While I already completed two full Ironman triathlons (Nice & Embrun) in recent years, I wanted to try a shorter distance, which stayed challenging while being less demanding in terms of training.
But beyond the race on D-day, since I had little bike training under my belt, instead of going there by car (I don’t own a car) or by train, I decided to break down the 400km into a couple of stages and to ride them on my bike, while sleeping in some fancy hotels on the road. So I bought myself bike bags, did a couple of training rides with them and a loaded backpack on my back (it’s not that cumbersome), and hit the road!
I haven’t had a single flat, fall or anything of sorts (only once did I lose myself on a highway during day 3, but I “escaped” from it by climbing over the roadside fence). I have discovered ugly (getting out of Paris…) and stunning (you can find find more photos on my Instagram) parts of France, which I have enjoyed discovering by myself, in all freedom.
Obviously, as I wasn’t fit enough for a half-Ironman, the trip took a toll on my legs, and I wasn’t very fresh on race day. But that wasn’t the purpose! I finished in less than 5 hours 30 minutes, and had an absolutely lovely half-day (I particularly loved the bike – the hilly region around Vichy is amazing).
It was the first time I did such an endurance race by myself, without friends & family competing with me or cheering on the side of the course or following my times at home. It was also the first time I “bike-packed” to go from A to B, with the sole power of my legs, and that felt very fulfilling (even though it was short, fancy & comfortable compared to the year’s true bikepacking hero).
Don’t take yourself too seriously
This year at Didomi has been incredibly intense (more about that later in the post), and I took a lot of pleasure with my colleagues. Despite the stress, the long working hours (morning & evening), the necessity to reach ambitious goals and take difficult decisions, it is essential to have fun and not to take work too seriously.
It’s OK if the cat climbs on your back during conference calls, it’s commendable to end your day early in order to have drinks with your colleagues (the ones that come to the office…), and it’s more than OK to aim for the company offsite’s best costume 🙂
2021 has been a very intense year work-wise, and not taking yourself too seriously despite high expectations from others and from yourself is incredibly beneficial. We have only one life, and you will remember these fun moments much more than a successful quarter.
Be mindful of keeping a healthy balance
A propos balance and having only one life… Over 2 years ago I wrote a very important post (for me) about mental health and how I find my personal balance in life. I shared my “recipe” that consists in assessing eight items every single day of my life:
- S — did I sleep well? Do I feel rested and refreshed?
- W — did I work out or did I at least go out for a walk?
- A — did I show the right attitude? Was I a good person?
- L — did I show love to the people who are important to me?
- L — did I enjoy life and its pleasures, even the simple ones?
- O — did I organize myself well? Have things been orderly?
- W — did I enjoy my work? Am I happy with my output & projects?
- S — did I eat & drink well? Am I happy with what I swallowed?
Throughout the 365 days of the last year, I have had only 143 days in which I checked all eight “boxes.” That’s just below 40%.
I don’t know if it’s better or worse than other years – I don’t compare years – it just shows how imperfect life is, how much we should accept it, and that we should enjoy the days in which everything goes well (my “swallows” days).
Of course, this is a deeply personal method, based on subjective assessments of my days along very specific items that are dear to me, but it is my very own way of keeping a healthy balance. Or getting as close as possible to it.
Get some advice & mentoring to keep growing
2021 was a year of massive growth at Didomi, on many levels. We have grown the marketing team by over a dozen of people (starting at 4/5, ending at almost 20) to support the ambitious objectives that the company has. Hiring so much, all while delivering the expected results, innovating, analyzing and continuously improving… is incredibly straining.
I am very thankful to have such an amazing team, which challenges and pushes me while accepting my shortcomings, and such supportive bosses (Romain & Raphaël you🤘). When trust and support surrounds you, putting in the hours & efforts is less difficult, and more meaningful.
But I would particularly like to underline the importance of networking and mentoring. I have two amazing mentors (Selma & Emmanuel) which allow me to build the best possible marketing function at Didomi, and to do so in an efficient, considerate, intelligent way. Having their hindsight and advice has proven crucial so far, and will keep doing so in the years to come – at Didomi or elsewhere.
It is by no means mandatory or necessary to have a mentor to be(come) a great professional, many people don’t need it or don’t have access to it. But it helps when – like me – you are a perfectionist, highly demanding with yourself, and deeply interested in learning and self-improvement.
Having kind and benevolent advice, coupled with candid honesty and exigency, also makes you better support the difficult parts of the journey. This doesn’t only apply to work, but also to personal life, where friends, family and a great therapist helped me make sense of some of the challenges of 2021.
Take care, Covid can hit you anywhere
To end this post about 2021 on a positive note… take care of yourself and spend time with your loved ones. I was forced to spend New Year’s Eve confined with my Dad, in Germany, because I caught the good ol’ Omicron version of Covid (despite having been very cautious in the days and weeks leading up to the festive season).
I will stay with him at least 1 more week, here in a big empty house in Western Germany.
What could be seen as a punishment is actually a blessing, as we spend precious time together. Not that we never did before, but having 10-15 quarantine days with a close one forces you to slow down, encourages to create new types of interactions, allows you to discover yourself and the other person in a whole new way.
So: No need to catch Covid to spend quality time with your loved ones or reinvent yourself, but I wish you to make the best of what life will throw at you in 2022, as I’m sure you did in 2021.
Let me know if you want to catch up for a 🍻 or a 📞 sometimes.
PS: The post’s cover photo was taken in… Prague. Some snapshots below, with some “behind the scenes” of the makings of this cool photo we had a blast making with friends at Honza Sakař’s tintype portrait photo studio: