In these last few weeks of 2020, we are letting out a collective sigh of relief that this wild year is coming to a close. As we move forward into a new and more hopeful chapter, we are profoundly grateful for all of you—the authors, readers, editors, agents, and publishers we have had the honor of working with and learning from. You are our greatest teachers. In celebration of the season, we are making donations in your honor to the Equal Justice Initiative, The Second Harvest Food Bank, The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, Global Rural Health/Shoulder to Shoulder, Protect the Sacred, The Voter Participation Center, and The Tibetan Children’s Village.
In that same giving spirit, we’d like to share twelve important lessons we’ve learned this year from our authors.
1. Change starts small, tiny even, and has to be powered by our optimism and positivity.
We started with a single daily pushup. Just one. Then we did a little victory dance. Now we’re at 25. As BJ Fogg says in Tiny Habits, “We all change better by feeling good, not by feeling bad.”
2. A strong immune system is the best defense against illness.
The pandemic only underscored that in terms of our health one of the only factors we have control over, and one of the strongest indicators in how well we respond to illness, is our immune system. In Cured, Dr. Jeffery Rediger taught us the physical and mental principles associated with recovery: first, we need to physically heal our diet and our immune systems. Next, we need to mentally heal our stress response and our identities. We started simple, by learning to say yes to saying no more often, thus keeping our stress levels lower and our immune systems strong.
3. Never underestimate the power of stubborn optimism to help heal the planet.
In The Future We Choose, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Christiana Figueres taught us that the complicated battle against climate change starts simple, by taking a deep breath, deciding we can do this, and moving away from despair and towards tactics. We started with just one day a week to go meat free, and went from there, changing where we invest our money, and putting pressure on the governmental and business levers that would have the biggest impact.
4. What we eat (and we ate and cooked a lot this past year) affects everything from our own health to the health of the planet.
We baked, we fermented, we sautéed, and we even made a habit of reading food labels (finding sugar and corn in pretty much everything). Ocean Robbins’ 31-Day Food Revolution encouraged us to start looking at the little things that add up in a big way to lessen toxic food culture and contribute to a healthier planet.
5. Our new way of working is an opportunity for a better way of working.
We took a look at the new world of working from home and learned from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing Your Work Life to reframe our whole approach to work. The results: more connection and communication than ever in all our team calls, where we could check in about everything from work to just what we’re doing to stay sane amid protests and pandemics.
6. We have as much of a responsibility to address implicit and unseen bias as we do explicit racism.
Jennifer Eberhardt’s book Biased reminds us that implicit racial bias is everywhere in our society and that each of us have a role to play in disrupting and transforming it. We committed to our own anti-racist work as individuals and as an agency, and to being even more explicit in our advocacy for the change-makers that will help create a more just world.
7. Being brave isn’t just about dramatic risk-taking feats, it’s also about relying on our mental strength in the face of adversity.
As Evy Poumpouras’ book Becoming Bulletproof launched at the beginning of a global pandemic, her real world guidance about how to prepare for the unexpected, avoid panic, and stay safe took on a whole new meaning. Evy, a former Secret Service Agent, reminded us that the true meaning of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice can be found in even the smallest acts, and when we take care of each other, we all are safer.
8. Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness (TRICK) are not just the secret ingredients to being a good parent, but also to being a good coworker, a good friend, a good partner, and a good leader.
Thanks to Esther Wojcicki’s book, How To Raise Successful People, we kept returning again and again to collaboration and kindness even as we were more physically isolated from one another than ever before.
9. The most useful question is often, “What do we do next?’
Holocaust survivor, psychotherapist, and bestselling author Dr. Edith Eger is a model and inspiration. In her new book, The Gift, she offers her own twelve lessons for freeing ourselves from the prisons of our minds. On the tougher days of 2020, Dr. Eger reminded us that the question is both “How could this happen?” and “Now what can I do?”. There was always an answer for how we could act on a personal, communal, and national level on behalf of a better world.
10. There’s no one right way to parent in a pandemic.
In Bottom Line for Baby, Tina Payne Bryson helped us figure out how to approach parenting from a place of informed calm. Not every tactic works for every parent, and the new parents and soon-to-be parents among us used this book to calm their nerves and quiet their second guessing.
11. We don’t have the luxury of time, but we do have the opportunity to transform.
During this wild and unsettling year, we tried to focus on the things within our control to change, and places where we could both find resources and take action. Sir David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet reminded us to spend as much time as physically possible in nature, connecting to the wild within us in a time when we often were stuck indoors.
12. Resilience is a Collaborative Effort
This was such a challenging year for us and for so many. We also found surprising moments of joy, whether in late-night games with our families, getting lost in the woods, or in cross-country zoom calls with colleagues and old friends. Our motto has long been Genius is a collaborative process. This year we underscored how much hope, change, and resilience are collaborative efforts as well. We don’t know how we would have gotten through the year without you and, luckily, we didn’t have to. Thank you. We look forward to being and creating together, in whatever form, in 2021.
Wishing you a healthy and hopeful New Year,
Lara, Ty, Stacie, Esme, Staci, Jordan, Mariah, Doug, and Rachel