This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed

The Six Most Important Lessons I Learned This Year

The six most important lessons I learned this year

2020 is getting to a close. Thank goodness for that. If I had to choose one word to describe the year when everything happened and nothing happened all at once, it would be INSANE. I have no qualms leaving 2020 behind me wishing for next year to be much less insane. It is customary during this time of the year to reflect on our achievements and take stock of what we learned. In this article, I would like to share with you the six most important lessons I learned this year.  

But first, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.

May you all have Peace and Clarity,
To be the first to latch on your door,
And Happiness to be guided to your home,
By the candlelight of Christmas,
May you have the strength to take the first step of many,
To where you want to go,
May you have the grace and wisdom,
To persist in things worth doing,
And find solace in the knowledge that,
That in itself is remarkable.


The year 2020 has taught me the following lessons:

  1. Learn the art of living in uncertain times.
  2. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
  3. When life gives you lemons, make whatever you want.
  4. Cultivate wisdom.
  5. Patience is a gift when given or received.
  6. And last but not least, feel the power of music.

Lesson 1: Learn the art of living in uncertain times

For the first time in recorded human history, the whole world is simultaneously living in a state of deep uncertainty. People are feeling worried, anxious, scared, and helpless. Nobody knows what is going to happen next, so the lesson I learned this year is that we should get comfortable being uncomfortable while uncertainty reigns.

Author Joanne reed, this is your quest, living in uncertain times, black swan
Do not attempt to predict Black Swan Events but build robustness to their negative impacts – Photo by @freepik via

“Uncertainty is the very condition that impels man to unfold his powers. As we navigate our own uncertain times together, may a thousand flowers of sanity bloom, each valid so long as it is viable in anchoring the human spirit it animates. And may we remember the myriad terrors and uncertainties preceding our own, which have served as unexpected awakenings from some of our most perilous civilization slumbers.”
– Erich Fromm

We live everyday with the knowledge of our staggering fragility, and we know how physiologically vulnerable our body and mind can be. We are aware that terrible outcomes are always possible and often probable.  Your Quest as a Human being is to protect yourself against the danger of losing your life but also against the danger of losing your mind.

This knowledge of our own vulnerability makes us go back and forth between ecstatic optimism and sheer despair.  In order to cope with that awareness and to counterweigh the heavy sense of our own fragility we often rely on the hope that somehow, we will be strong enough to withstand rare and unexpected events, which the author Nassim Taleb refers to as Black Swans Events.

In his book, Taleb urged his readers to not attempt to predict Black Swan Events but to build robustness to their negative impacts. The world is too complex for anyone to understand or predict exactly what is going to happen, and rather than naively try to predict Black Swan Events, we just need to be aware of the possibility and adjust to their existence, by becoming antifragile. All systems can be categorized as fragile, robust or antifragile. Fragile things are exposed and destroyed by volatility, Robust things resist, and Anti-fragile things benefit from it. 

“Some things benefit from shock; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, stressors and uncertainty. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shock and stay the same, the antifragile gets better”

Nassim Taleb

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 2: Never let a good crisis go to waste

Life is a journey, sometimes the road is nice and pleasant and other times it is rocky, arduous, dangerous and most unpleasant. No one voluntarily chooses to go down the unpleasant road, except that sometimes there is nowhere to go but down that road.

This Is Your Quest Author Joanne Reed
Never let a good crisis go to waste. Think, create, innovate – Photo by @freepik via

So much of what happened this year is outside our control. Instead of worrying about things we can’t change, we should focus instead on the things that we can control. There is always a silver lining on the horizon, even if we can’t see it yet. Never let a good crisis go to waste.  One way to achieve this is to focus your energy on a purpose, a mission, a passion, something that keeps you in a state of flow. And this is how you find your opportunity, your silver lining.

For some people finding their passion is easy, they were born knowing what it was. For others, finding their passion is not so obvious. The problem is that a lot of people believe that their passion is hiding somewhere, maybe behind a tree or underneath a rock. The truth is that our passion comes first from doing things, and then doing them right.  We should get into the habit of injecting passion into all the things that we do. If we do this consistently, a time will come when something will stand out above all the other things, and that is the very thing that we should devote more time to doing passionately. That’s all there is to it, just do it.

It is possible to have a passion and still feel demotivated and deflated because you can’t see any results. The problem these days is that people are impatient, they expect instantaneous results. That’s not how things work. Being successful at something requires hard work, sweat, tears, discipline and patience. Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the work itself. Pursue the things you love doing and devote yourself to hone your craft on a daily basis. Eventually, people will not be able to take their eyes off you.

If you still feel dispassionate and have no passion to create anything, listen to the philosopher Carl Jung who may give you some ideas.

“If you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself. To give style to one’s character is a great and rare art.”

Carl Jung

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lessons 3: When life gives you lemons, make whatever you want

You have all heard of the expression When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It is a proverbial phrase that is used to encourage people to stay optimistic and to keep fighting in the face of adversity or misfortune.  Lemon suggests sourness and difficulty in life; making lemonade with lemons that are being handed out to you turns the whole sour episode into something sweet, positive and desirable.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
When Life gives you lemons make whatever you want – Photo by @freepik via

All too often, our circumstances are dictated and influenced by what people tell us is realistic or feasible. Life gave me lemons, but right now I am not in the mood to make lemonade. Actually, I have a better idea, instead of using the lemons to make lemonade I am going to use the seeds and grow a whole orchard of lemons. Now, instead of having a few lemons to make a pot of lemonade, I find myself with tons of lemons that I can sell to people who want to make lemonade.  Not a bad way to use lemons, right?

Now that I have all those lemons, I am thinking that it is time for me to stretch myself a little bit further and instead of lemons I want oranges. How can I turn lemons into oranges? I can become an alchemist. When one mention the term ‘alchemist’ we have this picture in our mind of an old bearded man that looks like Merlin (the greatest wizard of all ), trying to turn lead into gold. But in contemporary society, alchemy is a term used to describe the ability that people have to manifest personal change, an ability that we all possess.

Inner alchemy provides us the means to better understand ourselves, the universe we live in and our purpose in life. But in order to achieve that you have to let go of the old you and make room for the new you.  Think of your negative thoughts, old beliefs and habits as lead.  Your mission as an alchemist is to turn lead into gold which is your new you, the happy, healthy and emotionally balanced new you.

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 4: Cultivate wisdom

Energy moves down the path of least resistance in the environment it finds itself, be it electricity through a circuit or water in a river. Just look at the way water runs downhill; it will always find the path that allows it to flow in the easiest way possible.

This Is Your quest - Author Joanne Reed
Be Like water – Choose the path of less resistance Photo by @freepik via

To take the path of least resistance, be like water. Bruce Lee’s legacy as a martial artist, movie star and deep thinker remains very much alive today; there is so much we can learn from him, still.

“BE LIKE WATER. Don’t get set into one form, adapt it, build your own and let it grow.  When you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. In order to control myself, I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature. BE LIKE WATER. The nature of water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it. Strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt. Stab it and it is not wounded. Sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of his own but mold itself to the receptable that contains it. BE LIKE WATER. When water is heated it turns into steam, it is invisible, but it has enough power to split the Earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock. First it is turbulent like the Niagara Falls then calm like a spring on a hot summer day. BE LIKE WATER.”

Bruce Lee

To learn the path of least resistance, observe nature. Everything in nature has its own purpose.  A tree grows towards the sun, takes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Take a leaf during fall, the dying leaf does not resist the natural circle of life, it bursts with magnificent beauty in the grand finale before its death, living space for winter to settle in. With spring new leaves will burst into life in an onslaught of colors. Everything follows its natural course. Human nature is no different.

We have to be vigilant because sometimes the path of least resistance disguises itself as the right path for us but it is the wrong one.  Do not equate the path of least resistance with the easiest path to follow. Sometimes, we make choices based on what is easiest, most pleasant or least painful.  When we do this, we may gain comfort in the short term, but we may also end up gaining a lot of pain in the long run.  It is easier and more comfortable to sit in front of the TV rather than go to a fitness class. It is easier to lose our temper than control it.  It is easier to eat ice cream and cake rather than eat kale. In those instances, taking the path of least resistance is an option, but it is the option that will not help us grow and become the best version of ourselves. You can’t get fit by sitting on your sofa eating ice cream every day, you will have to drag yourself to the gym and start lifting those weights. Without the resistance of a barbell, a muscle won’t grow.

To experience the path of least resistance, be like a seed. Our environment is much like a field in which we plant a seed. Depending on the ground and the type of environment where you plant a seed, some seeds will grow well, and others won’t. The seeds that are planted in a nourishing environment, full of good nutrients will grow. We won’t see the results straight away, but over the years the seed to grow into a mature tree. In the same regard, we must learn to treat our mind just like a garden. We must ensure that weeds and unwanted plants are not robbing and stealing the nutrients that are needed for the tree to grow and bear fruits.

“Your mind is a garden. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 5: Patience is a gift when given or received

What is patience? It is essentially experiencing a certain period of time without any rewards. Waiting can drive you crazy, make you irritable, angry, frustrated, unhinged, but at the end of the day, those roller coasters of emotions will not affect the outcome one inch. If things are not happening as fast as you expected it, the best thing to do is to go with the flow and make the extra time count for something. Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation; it doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people.

Author Joanne Reed
Good Things happen to those who can wait Photo by @freepik via

Patience is power.  It is a way for you to practice emotional freedom. You can choose to be annoyed and frustrated by the delay or you can choose to use the time and turn it into something productive.  It is your choice.  It doesn’t come naturally but you can learn to transform frustration and adversity into patience.

Patience is essential to daily life and might be the key to a happy one. Having patience means being able to wait calmy in the face of frustration or adversity. So anywhere there is frustration or adversity, we have the opportunity to practice it.”

Dr Judith Orloff

We have a tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, we are impatient and want to see results quickly, but remember “there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” The best way to cultivate our natural impatience is to cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain, like an athlete, you come to enjoy rigorous practice, pushing past your limits, and resisting the easy way out.

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 6: Feel the power of music

Music has a unique ability to bring people together.  From a national anthem to a church hymn, or your favorite rock or hip hop song, music has the amazing ability to unite us, to pull us together as we listen, sing, dance and rejoice in the pure beauty of the  notes and melody suspended in the air.

This Is Your Quest by Joanne Reed - Feel the power of music
Feel the power of music. Music will set you free – Photo by @freepik via

Music is a universal language that can unite, heal, and set people free from their fear, their worries, their loneliness. Regardless of which language you speak and where in the world you call home, music and dance can unite and break down barriers in a magical way. Dance is a universal language and so is music. So, dance your own dance and sing your own song. Work your magic and sprinkle seeds of love everywhere you go.

Music has an amazing ability to speak to our hearts, minds and soul. It is like a prayer that stretches out into the Universe; It is quite telling that the word Universe literally means one (Uni) song (Verse). Where words fail, music speaks, there are times where words will not be enough to appease, heal and convince, so in those moments, it’s best not to say a thing; switch on the radio, listen to your best tunes and dance like nobody’s watching.

The Universal Language of Music and Dance
To all my sisters and brothers around the world
Dance your own dance
Sing your own song
Sparkle seeds of love everywhere you go
Love is spring eternal
It is the healer of all wounds
Do not drown in anger and hurt
When you can swim in a sea of love

©Joanne Reed

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject

And this, my dear companion, is your Quest.

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  1. This was beautiful and I definitely agree with these lessons. I actually feel that 2020 was a blessing for me, personally. So much that I’ve learned about my place in the world.

    1. Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. So glad to hear my article resonates with you and also about the fact 2020 was a blessing for you! It definitely proves the point to never let a good crisis go to waste. Well done! Keep it up!

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