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What I Learned During The Last Year 6

What I Learned During The Last Year

My upcoming speaking calendar is full for the first time since February 2020.

OK, in February 2020, my calendar was not exactly full because most people don’t schedule conferences during the winter. So, let’s just say that my fall speaking calendar is full for the first time since COVID hit. I’m very grateful but also have some trepidation that I may have forgotten how to speak. My wife would disagree.

The ironic thing about the last year is that despite all the bad things about it, many of us gained insights that might actually help us in life. For instance, we now know that no matter how much binge watching we do, there will always be more television shows to watch. We also discovered how hard it is to spend so much time with ourselves. Many of us finally understand the qualities about ourselves that annoy our significant others so much. And finally, we now realize that seeing the bottom half of someone’s face gives us a great deal of information about their emotional state of mind. It’s ironic that these valuable lessons came from such a difficult experience.

Here are some other discoveries I made over the last year.

I can’t see clearly now…even though the rain is gone. As a professional speaker, the amount of hot air I expel is significantly more than the average person. And wearing a mask just complicates the expulsion process—because, I wear glasses. No matter how many times I pinched my mask or adjusted my glasses, I was still in a fog. Once, while on a rescue squad call, I left the frigid outside temperature to go into an over-heated house. My glasses were so fogged up, I couldn’t see the patient who, by the way, was was lying on the floor right in front of me. Luckily, I did not step on him thus preserving the principle of “do no harm.”

Virtual calls are miserable. As much as I loved not traveling, I did not love doing Zoom meetings or presentations. For one thing, while I got to stay home, I still had to dress nicely—at least from the waist up. We won’t even get into the waist down situation. Secondly, I did not like the experience of delivering hilariously funny lines during a virtual presentation and hearing nothing but the whir of my computer fan. Of course, some of my colleagues remind me that I’ve had the same experience with in-person presentations. So, there’s that. And lastly, when participating in a Zoom meeting where everyone is visible on the screen, I found it hard to always appear interested. Thankfully, I never dozed off. At least I don’t think I did.

Face masks cause nose pimples. Disgusting, but good to know.

Eating well is easier. As a speaker and a business traveler, I had grown accustomed to “easy” eating. In other words, when I traveled, it was always easier to grab an airport Cinnabon or slice of Sbarro pizza, hoping that there is nutritional value in the sugar and dough, than it was to find healthier food. But during the past year, I wasn’t traveling at all, so I found myself cooking healthy meals that were also quite tasty. Oh sure, I ate oatmeal cookies as fast as my wife could make them and I probably enjoyed wine a bit too much but overall, I ate better. As a result, my already stunning physique has become Fabio-esque (please understand the use of exaggeration for comedic effect).

My knees have improved. In late 2019, both of my knees were achey and swollen. An MRI showed a torn meniscus in my right knee and we assumed the same was true for my left knee. So, I scheduled surgery for my right knee in late April of 2020. However, I had failed to take into consideration that my daughter was scheduled to get married in May of 2020 and I was expected to participate in the likely Tweet-able father-daughter dance. So, I decided to postpone the surgery. Then COVID hit, the wedding celebration was postponed, and if you can believe it, both of my knees improved. Apparently, inactivity agrees with me. Who knew? I’m grateful that I no longer need surgery but I’m a little perturbed about the unnecessary $1,200 MRI—even though the technician did comment on my Fabio-esque physique (please refer to the previous reference regarding exaggeration).

Puzzle me this. Years ago, I read that doing word problems can help prevent dementia. I can’t remember where I read that (see what I did there?). But not long after that, I started dabbling in crossword puzzles. I discovered that the LA Times offers a free online puzzle every day. I haven’t missed a day since. I also got a large New York Times crossword puzzle book as a gift. I quickly realized that the New York Times designs its puzzles for Jeopardy contestants and Mensa members but not for Fabio-esque speakers like me. Let’s be honest, I have no idea what rivers dump into the Caspian Sea and I only know letters in the Greek alphabet when they spell out a fraternity name. And in case it’s not obvious, I shan’t be appearing on Jeopardy anytime soon.

My reading skills have deteriorated. Even though my crossword puzzle skills have improved, my reading skills have tanked. I read an article that said that our attention span deteriorates as we get older. This is definitely true for me. I just can’t seem to focus like I used to. And now that I think about it, I can’t remember what else I was going to say about that.

I can be inactive and lazy. I once told a friend that I was lazy. She said, “You speak, you travel, you write. There’s no way you’re lazy.” A few months later, after we had a number of conversations about new work ideas which I refused to pursue, she said, “OK, I get it now. You ARE lazy.” Oh, I can meet deadlines—as long as someone else sets them. But I have a terrible time setting my own deadlines. So, during the past year, when my workload lightened up and I didn’t have as many external deadlines, I found myself looking at my to-do list and saying, “I’ll work on that later. Now, where’s my crossword puzzle?” That being said, I do have a knack for rearranging the items on my to-do list so that their either in alphabetical or priority order. So, perhaps my strength is not in getting things done but in preparing to get things done.

I’m content with me, myself, and I. Most people believe that speakers are extroverts. On personality inventories, I usually score high on the extrovert scale. And I do love being on a stage in front of thousands of people. But I also enjoy being by myself or alone with my wife. COVID made that happen. It also caused me to appreciate the value of being home. I know this drove many people crazy. And when I say “many people,” of course I’m referring to my wife. But for an introverted extrovert like me, it was Nirvana.

Was the last year a challenge? Absolutely. But maybe, if we paid attention to how we handled it, we might just benefit from what we learned. Now that we’re coming out of it well, hot damn, and hallelujah!

I hope to see you in person soon. You’ll recognize me by my physique.


  • Gwen Volk says:

    I love virtual training and presentations. Since this part of my business went virtual, in 2020 I took a 3-day on-line live class on how to make virtual training more interactive and have been busily working to implement what I learned. I have a great deal of fun and I just laugh at my own jokes. I have now ordered a Vera Desk so that I can stand up while presenting virtually. FYI – I just read (listened to – I can’t read anymore either), Sanjay Gupta’s book Smart Brain and found out that crossword puzzles do nothing to prevent dementia. But brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand does. Its a great book.

  • Sarah S says:

    Excellent, as usual. I needed this laugh today and totally agree on so many levels!

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