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The Last Letter of 2020
Hello all, it’s my last newsletter of the year, and I want to make it more positive than I usually strike. I also want to preface it with the fact that 2020 was a fucking awful year for most people, that it sucked, that it was an awful year, and people are rightfully excited for it to be done. I am sort of going to recount the year and the conclusions I made from it, to close the book on the year and collect myself.
I began the year with the worst CES trip of my life - less people at the suite, a general sense of malaise around everyone, myself feeling depressed and sickly (I didn’t get COVID early, it was like the first week of January), unable to enjoy things. I faced a black swan event where four clients left in the space of 7 days starting at CES, for non-qualitative reasons, and went into 2020 already losing sleep, with that creeping, nauseating anxiety that I get. I spent the end of February and most of March and April in San Francisco and the East Bay as we somehow sold our house in California and got our place in Vegas, moving in May, with part of that spent exiled from them as I stayed in San Francisco so I was able to focus on work and - ha! - go and physically see people.
And I’m extremely fortunate (for a bazillion other reasons too), because the worst of my 2020 was frontloaded - I got back from CES and was already spending multiple hours feeling sick to my stomach with worry, losing sleep, and acting in complete emergency mode. I made a fairly big and painful staffing change, and began pounding the pavement every day for business, adjusting what we would take and how we would take it (offering projects vs. monthly contracts in some cases), so that by the time March and April rolled around I was already improving things, but also in full-on scrappy founder mode, taking any work we could get (if you need PR go to EZPR, etc.), going on any podcast I could.
I was also immensely grateful that years ago (literally when I started the company) I’d sworn we’d be remote first, with a touch of in-person as necessary (we’ve a hotdesk and a conference room we can use at a WeWork, we usually have a yearly EZPRFest, there’s CES), and thus nobody had to really alter their state of work at all. Being at home on the computer was the state of being for anyone at my company, and thus when the time came to lock down, it was nice knowing that things didn’t need to change. And I’m grateful for my guys - Trevor, Kevin and Johan - for working so hard during the year, especially during Q1, which was an endless carousel of challenges - and Q2, where I was making a big move with my entire family and I was in what I would refer to as a vulnerable emotional state.
What was fortunate for me was that, as mentioned, clients quickly cottoned on that location didn’t really matter compared to performance, and that success could come with a completely dispersed team (which is what was always happening, but still). We were also fortunate that when the lockdowns began, there weren’t really costs to cut -we have never had a big office, we have never had tons of extraneous expenses, we have never made our business rely on vast in-person things, and thus we didn’t have to start pulling stuff back. And things are looking good for 2021 - perhaps not as good as 2019, but we made it. And that’s something to be very grateful for.
And of course my people were wonderful to me when I got the coronavirus and was out what felt like 4 years but was actually only about 5 working days. I’m really lucky. I’m entering 2021 a lot more hopeful than I was entering 2020, and that was before everything went to hell in the real world. I think getting gutpunched walking into the year meant that I spent most of 2020 craving stability, which was a sensible thing to strive for in an unstable, terrifying world.
The shift toward work-from-home has been, if anything, the world shifting to how I’ve been working for seven or eight years - I have always been a shut-in, I have always been kind of scared of the real world (even though I enjoy it when I get out into it), but fundamentally I have always believed that my particular job is one that did not require an office and it was silly to require one, and indeed require that people be in a certain place. It’s also a move that benefits those of us that have been used to digitally building relationships (IE: email and Twitter) and are able to communicate online in a way that doesn’t read like a textbook, which rocks, honestly.
I also repeat that I’m lucky, and I remind myself of it regularly, because my problems were ant-sized compared to most people, and though they hurt and are real and anxiety-inducing to me they are still nothing compared to what most face, and I’m sincerely grateful for that. Anything I write here is in the context of my own extremely fortunate existence, and I recognize that, and feel bad about feeling bad.
I have faith that 2021 will be an improvement - I don’t know if it’ll be a great year, but if anything I feel like I’m entering into it more organized and prepared to get my ass beat over and over again, which is an improvement - I feel like the end of 2019 kicked my ass, and I was surprised when it happened and thus entered 2020 feeling like a wounded puppy, and had to toughen up, not necessarily because I was such a big tough guy, but because I have a wife and a kid and I can’t just give up, because that would be bad for them.
It’s going to be weird going into January without the rush to fly to Vegas for 4 months of networking crammed into a week’s work. It’s going to be weird not seeing my EZPR people and my reporters and eating tacos and singing karaoke. And two straight four-day weekends are nice - a much more relaxed, less hurried feeling, without the lump in my throat that I’m about to go Full Joker Mode for a week. The good news is that if CES 2022 ever happens, I’ll be a car ride away versus a flight, and not feel totally isolated. I’ll be able to get put in full joker makeup and turn up to my suite as The Joker, which will be a lot of fun.
I think in 2021 I’m going to make a real effort to try and get muscly, just for the punchline effect of turning up to CES as a ripped Joker, high kicking my way down the escalators to the front of the Palazzo. For real though, I spend so many thoughts a day thinking about how fat and ugly I am that it may genuinely help. I’m also gonna work on being on my phone less, not because I hate it but because I’m on it too much. I also am going to really, really appreciate my in-person time with my friends after this - god, I always thought I was such a loner, but I really do miss seeing them, and phone calls do not do the job at all.
I think it’s going to be interesting seeing how post-COVID outside-life shakes out. Though we probably shouldn’t, vaccinated people are probably going to through the most bacchanalian events, myself included, with their close friends, a catharsis party where everyone rubs their foreheads together and coughs loudly (not really). I don’t know if movie theaters come back. I can’t even imagine concerts can go ahead without some sort of vaccination passport thing, and considering America can’t even give people the vaccine I’m not confident that’ll happen.
Maybe my parents can visit from England? Possibly? I have no idea when, and I have no idea how. Maybe I can go to the Palms and play $1 craps and drink 4 maker’s marks and fight to keep myself awake in the Uber home.
I am also thankful that I have finally been able to write more regularly. I really do enjoy it - not simply as an escape, but because people seem to enjoy it, and it’s nice to read people saying nice things about something you do. Obviously I do it because I enjoy doing it, and I am good at it, but knowing people actually read and consume it is part of the exercise, which is stupid, but I assume all writers are the same way. Somehow putting a 9AM calendar block every day of the week with “write?” on it has got me to actually write every (work) day. I think it’s worked because I’ve basically assumed that you’re all fine with whatever I write, as long as it’s semi-coherent and I don’t turn it into some sort of bizarre blog advertising myself.
Maybe this’ll let me write a new book in 2021. Maybe not.
Either way, I’m entering 2021 a little more prepared than I entered 2020. And I’m grateful that it didn’t kill me.