What We Learned in 2020

A Stronger Foundation

By Mark Moncheck

Over the past year, I have felt that my mind has been unraveling.  That I have been unmoored from my foundation, and my sense of what is real and what is true has been shaken. That the world was no longer as I had previously understood it to be.

Over the past two centuries, democratic governments and their citizens have joined with the scientific community to virtually eliminate smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera and, in recent years, SARS, MERS and Ebola. As such, I’d lived securely in the belief that science had eradicated the diseases that once threatened entire populations. Yet suddenly, the leader of the United States’ government–along with a huge number of its citizens–didn’t seem to believe in science or government.

I had also believed it true that despite our social and political differences, we were a society that pulled together during national crises.  Both of my parents lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust; and as devastating as these things were,  the majority of Americans felt,  we are all in this together. Clearly, this isn’t the case right now.

In 2020, I learned that the coronavirus has exposed deep wounds in the American psyche that have never fully healed. These wounds have been covered over by great progress in many areas, yet at the core, we still haven’t thoroughly embraced the United States’ motto: E Pluribus Unum, or, Out of Many, One.

For 2021 and beyond, I see the possibility of healing and transcending the past with a deeper commitment to listening to each other. I envision deeper collaboration, regardless of the difficulty and no matter how vast our differences may seem. At Opportunity Lab, our team is fully committed to our mission:  to empower conscious leaders to build great companies that make a difference in the world. Through that mission, we hope to be part of the change we picture for our communities and our country.   

Prioritizing Humanity and the Power of Saying No

By Anna Staritsina

I once had a mentor who encouraged me – verbatim – to be “ruthless with my time.” I applied this advice largely in the professional context of stakeholder management and project prioritization. 2020 gave this phrase and practice a deeper meaning.

Processing this year’s events, one thing is clear: humanity received a powerful reminder to check  its priorities. From taking care of an elderly parent without being able to see them, to juggling financial obligations while consoling a young child who couldn’t go to school, we’ve had to adjust our focus and make many tough decisions. The pandemic has reminded us that time is truly our most precious resource, and that we should take great care in allocating it.

One of the most powerful time management tools is the word no. As we move into 2021, let us take a moment to remember that:

  • We have the power to say no, and to effect change when we witness injustice;
  • We have the power to say no, and to prioritize our physical and mental health without compromising our careers;
  • We have the power to say no, and to walk away from an intriguing project or a role if it comes at a wrong time;
  • We have the power to say no, and to create space for tenderness and kindness without appearing weak.

Let’s embrace the power of saying no, and be ever so mindful in how we spend our time this holiday season and beyond. In nearly every crisis, there lies an opportunity; this is our chance to prioritize what truly matters, and build plans based on our humanity first and foremost.

Redefining Work and Re-finding Gratitude

By Janie Brookshire

At the start of 2020, I was performing eight shows a week off-Broadway. The play was terrible, the reviews were worse. I complained a lot. I thought it was important to preserve my reputation as a serious actor; to acknowledge that I knew the job was a little beneath me, that it didn’t live up to my artistic standards. A year later–with the reopening of theatres still a distant dream, and no federal relief in sight for arts institutions or artists–I would give anything to be doing that mediocre play.

Luckily, as I was grumbling about my gig, I was also doing some light PA work for Mark and Opportunity Lab.  As the pandemic quickly changed my economic and employment outlook, my relationship with OL blossomed into a full position as program manager, one which has unexpectedly brought me an entirely new sense of gratitude, purpose, and fulfillment.  

This year has challenged all of our assumptions, forced us to clarify the things and people we hold dear, and tested our reserves in every way imaginable. At just the right time, I was gifted a coping mechanism for all of these challenges: a relationship with an organization and team that constantly push me to be better, while supporting me when I struggle.

An acting teacher of mine once told me that all work on your acting is work on yourself. True, indeed. If we approach our work – whatever that work may be – with consciousness, empathy, and holistic understanding, the benefits are mutual and the impact is wide.  

(Visit beanartshero.com for ways you can help Arts & Culture workers in the US.)

Reorienting Priorities

By Maia Monchek

2020 cracked me wide open. It forced me to see and feel anything and everything. It required me to slow down and pay attention. It gave me permission to not always be ‘ok.’ It reminded me how healing I find it to be in nature, and that movement, for me, is therapeutic. It gave me a new appreciation for cooking as an act of love instead of a chore. It allowed me to feel how empowering it is to design my own day. It reminded me that my health, my circle of people, and my impact are my top priorities. It brought me mentors and colleagues that give me the courage to explore how I show up. It taught me that the only way to lead is by being my full self. Lastly, it presented me with the opportunity to work at OL with a beautiful group of people. This year has brought pain and uncertainty–and hope, trust, gratitude, empathy and love. 

Some final reflections for us to hold on to as we enter 2021:

  • We have learned to have more empathy, eliminate the nonessentials, and question old systems and beliefs.
  • We have learned how truly interconnected we are, and how powerful we can be when we come together.
  • We have learned what truly matters, and that we were spending too much time on things that didn’t. 
  • We have learned that taking care of ourselves (in mind, body, and spirit) is non-negotiable.
  • We have learned how creativity takes many different forms, and how when we have space to just be, creativity abounds.
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​Culture of Opportunity: How to Grow Your Business in an Age of Disruption

By Mark Monchek

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