We finally made it to 2021. Although the first week was a hell of a ride, I refuse to call this year ‘2020 with a wig,’ ‘2020 won,’ or anything else that might encourage me to stay in the energy of 2020. It’s over. We’re in a new year with new opportunities. In the words of my fave Nipsey Hussle, THE MARATHON CONTINUES!
Speaking of marathons, I spent a good bulk of my binge watching time catching up on every season of one of my favorite shows—The Amazing Race. Since I couldn’t necessarily be out playing team sports, watching the show definitely satiated my competitive appetite. For those of you who have never watched The Amazing Race, here’s a bit about it: 11 teams of two travel to 12+ cities around the world for 21 days over 30,000+ miles facing a gauntlet of all the things we typically fear—heights, large bodies of water, and strangers in stranger places—all for the chance to win a million dollars. By the end, the final 3 teams have journeyed through road blocks, speed bumps, and U-turns while also struggling, failing, celebrating, building and dismantling alliances, and getting a dose of cultures outside of their own. Now, you may be wondering, “where is she going with this?!” But pause and think about it: regardless of whether 2020 (and life in general) was a hot mess or a pleasant surprise, A LOT HAPPENED! We faced much of the good, bad, ugly and uncomfortable of life, but dammit, we made it!
After reflecting on why this show resonated with me so much, I recognized a few key lessons that I want to keep with me going into this year and every year following. For the sake of the blog post, let’s liken The Amazing Race to life:
- Your partner always matters: No one wins The Amazing Race alone, and at some point—be it jumping off a cliff or solving a complex puzzle– one partner has to stand in and be strong where their partner is weak. There’s a lot to unpack on the topic of partnership, so I’ll try to summarize:
- We’re not meant to go about life alone—hence, partnerships. I honestly believe that everyone needs a “person,” be it a friend, family member, or significant other, whom they trust and can do life with. In this individualistic society, we have to remember that we actually do need each other.
- Ever heard the saying, “You are the sum total of the 5 people you surround yourself with the most?” This applies to The Amazing Race for sure, except make it one person for 21 days straight! You are who you surround yourself with, so a Negative Nancy or Naggy Ned will ultimately ruin you—unless you are this person, and if so: check yourself. I’ve watched strong teams be eliminated season after season because they simply were not on the same page or could not effectively communicate.
- Know your personnel: As alluded to before, in order to be a valuable partner, you have to know when and how to stand in for your accomplice. In that same breath, you (both) have to understand which things you’re most likely to excel at together because once again, no one wins the race or the money alone.
- Partnership requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires trust. If you cannot trust those around you, it may be time to take inventory and understand why and whether it’s time to move on. There’s more, but I’ll stop here.
- Start fresh every day: The ego loves to be the best, and the ego loves to win. However, in The Amazing Race, you can literally win today and lose tomorrow. While it’s important to celebrate small wins and reflect on momentary losses, you cannot live in either place. Tomorrow will bring it’s own challenges, so you can’t be too attached to what happened yesterday (good or bad). Instead, choose to show up every day as the best version of yourself and let that be it. In real life, that may look like checking everything off your to-do list some days, and enjoying tiny desk concerts and ice cream from your bed on others. Either way, it’s okay—just keep showing up and being your best.
- Plan for things not to go according to plan: In other words, be flexible. We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not the end of the world,” and although 2020 brought us dangerously close (I kid), we more than likely realized at some point that you can either roll with the punches or live in a sunken place. I think that a practical way to be consistently flexible is to feel the frustration and the feelings in the moment, process them, but ultimately stay committed to the end-goal. It’s not feasible to get bogged down by the hiccups and speed bumps along the way if we have a clear place or space we’re working to get to.
- Let nothing be above (or beneath) you: One thing that I loved about The Amazing Race is that outside of the thrills the contestants had to face, they also had opportunities to give back to the communities they visited. In one episode that stands out, I remember them literally having to collect boxes from disposing bins and take them to be recycled for money. The show is also notorious for having contestants visit open air markets and shops to purchase food and goods in scavenger hunt fashion—sometimes to learn to cook meals with the indigenous people, other times to serve the citizens. Although these tasks are simply a part of the race, I appreciate that contestants get a chance to pause and give back while on the journey. I’m sure they all come from different backgrounds, so it’s refreshing to see everyone on an even playing field, often in service of the people and communities they pass through. SO, remember that at the end of the day we’re all here to serve in some capacity or another—don’t be so ignorant to think that tasks or people are frivolous or unimportant.
- Run YOUR race: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten frustrated when all of the teams are facing the challenge and one team is watching the team in the lead giving the play-by-play. “They’re almost done! OMG they’re about to move on!” I just want to say, “LOOK AT YOUR OWN (proverbial) PAPER!” While it’s sometimes useful to learn from those around us, it’s best to simply focus on what you’re facing at the moment and solve your own issue. Comparison is the thief of joy, so stay in your lane and don’t allow yourself to get distracted.
- Pay attention: The final challenges of The Amazing Race often require teams to remember all of the places they have visited along the way. Sometimes they have to remember country flags, and other times they’ve had to map out their previous locations in chronological order. What I take from this, once again, is that although we’re always on the move, it is important to be present. It’s always easy to spot who has truly been present throughout the race versus who has just shown up, blown with the wind, and happened to make it to the finals (these individuals usually don’t win). SO be present, and recognize that lessons you learned on the way up will likely be required to reach the top.
- HAVE FUN! There’s a lot of serious stuff going on in The Amazing Race and several places where things can go awry. The teams that have taken themselves too seriously or been mired in conflict rarely win. However the one common factor shared between most of the million-dollar winners: they enjoy the ride and they (for the most part) enjoy their company! They may wander off the beaten path for a minute while in Amsterdam to enjoy a beer, or come up with a secret handshake to celebrate their successes. Never take things too seriously because, once again, it’s all fleeting. Enjoy the moments because they’re what makes the journey worth it.
To sum things up, even after all the mess of 2020, I’m excited about 2021. Last year taught me not to take myself too seriously, to cherish people around me, be present in whatever space I’m in, and to simply HAVE FUN. Everything—and sadly, everyone—is fleeting, so enjoy your time while you’re here. Although life often feels like a rat race, find ways to make it amazing. Relish in the steam dancing from your hot tea or coffee in the morning. Smile at that odd thing your loved one does when he’s annoyed with you. Do what you can to brighten someone’s day, even if it’s just sending a smile or an encouraging word. And simply choose every day to LIVE. That’s what we’re here to do anyway, right?
Happy 2021 friends.
All my love,
The Resolute Rose