2021 Within the Context of the 2020s Decade
[This is an excerpt of a short eBook published January first. The reason I wrote the book is to place 2021 predictions within the larger trends of the decade and as a continuum of 2020. This mini-eBook can be purchased for only $.99 on Amazon.
The 2020s will be the most disruptive decade in history. Given that I am writing a series of short books on the decade, for years I have looked at the year 2020 as the beginning of this historical era, not just a year. Many people seem societally trained to think that a year is the big bite of time when looking forward or back, not something ten times as long.
2020 was a year like no other. It will however not be unique because it triggered massive disruptions to many aspects of our collective perception of reality and accelerated change. Every year in this decade will have similar impacts.
The question I have posed to people over the last six months is, “So how is the decade starting out for you?”
Clearly, COVID-19 will become the single greatest death event in American history with a total of over 700,000 deaths. There is no consolation in such deathly carnage. Nor in what will be lingering pre-existing conditions for hundreds of thousands who were infected. The pandemic will continue to sicken and kill through most of 2021. For all of us who escaped infection, our collective pandemic experiences will condition us for what will happen in the remainder of the 2020s.
In a column and in an NPR interview, I suggested that COVID-19 should be viewed as a bike with training wheels for the 2020s decade. As children and/or as parents, we all have experienced bikes with training wheels. They allow one to learn the basic concepts of riding a bicycle: turning, signaling turns, traffic rights of way, pedaling and braking. We learn all these things before we learn the last lesson, learned when the training wheels come off: balancing. In a similar manner, the COVID-19 experience has prepared us for the multiple disruptions ahead. In “The 2020s” series of books, a good bit of the focus is on what to expect and what we can all do to maintain balance. As the saying goes: “It’s just like riding a bike. Once you learn you never forget!” Remember all that you learned in 2020. It was a lot more than you might realize. There are lessons and habits that are critical for maintaining balance during the rest of the 2020s.
The most important lessons learned for 2021 and beyond:
- The two most critical qualities to understand, practice and master for the 2020s are: resilience and adaptability. It is not survival of the fittest or the strongest. Resilience and adaptability will be helpful for individuals in navigating the 2020s… and they will be essential for leaders [see Chapter 4].
- Nations who had public trust in their institutions and a more unified citizenry withstood the pandemic much better than nations who did not.
- Governments still based on 20th century modes of operation could not act quickly enough because they lack trust and unity. Conventional thinking, by those in power, is not up to the challenge of out of the ordinary threats.
- COVID-19 accelerated our collective migration to a digital society… to a screen reality. Years of change occurred within months.
- The shift to the screen reality means that distribution models based in physical reality will shrink from pre-COVID-19 levels in numbers and influence. These include:
- Higher Education
- Movie Theaters
- Physical Retail
- Tourism and Travel
- US Healthcare System
The most important action (as far as preparing us for the remainder of the decade) humanity took was in March, April and May of last year.
For the first time in history, billions of people collectively did the same thing at the same time. We sheltered in place. Never have so many people done the same thing at the same time for a single goal.
What happened? Air pollution plummeted around the world. Canals, rivers, lakes and ponds ran clean. Wildlife came back to the habitats taken from them by humans, and waste creation plummeted. For the first time in 50 years Earth Overshoot Day7 moved back instead of forward.
Self-reliance, empathy, healthier eating, resourcefulness, appreciation for essential workers, adaptability and resilience all increased. It was catalyzed by a pandemic, and it collapsed the world economy, but we can learn from the experience and apply it to our collective future here on Spaceship Earth.
Having spoken to and advised numerous companies, clubs, groups and leaders since March, it became clear to me that Americans generally fell into three loose categories: those who feel lost and yearn to return to the way things were, those who struggled but learned to adapt and evolved their everyday outlook, and those who used the experience to transform themselves and their organizations. The first group will continue to be lost and will struggle emotionally and psychically this decade. The last group will learn, grow and seize the opportunities inherent in the decade.
All of the major challenges that lay ahead of us this decade can successfully be met with a WE frame of mind… not by an US vs. THEM frame of mind.
We can do this. We can adapt. We can be resilient. We must step up to shape the future we want. Humanity faces a fork in the road in the 2020s: creating the collective future we want or mindlessly continuing on our path to a very dark future. It’s up to us. Now.