2020 As Teacher

Philip Morgan

The year 2020 applied some unique forms of pressure to all of us. What’s valuable about this is what we can learn about ourselves.


There are 3 components that make up your risk profile:

  1. Your emotional comfort with uncertainty
  2. Your physical capacity to sustain harm or loss
  3. Your response to volatility

2020 put us all in a volatility petri dish. How did you respond?

If you made a significant decision in Jan/Feb of 2020, how did you update, alter, or maintain that decision in the face of the un-ignorable volatility that began in March 2020?

Under those conditions of heightened volatility, how did you gather evidence and use it in decision making?

Even if you weren’t fresh off of making a significant decision, how did you generally respond to the volatility of 2020?

BTW, I’m not asking these questions for my edification; they’re for you to reflect on if you haven’t already. I think self-knowledge is extremely valuable, and 2020 gave some interesting ways to expand our self-knowledge.


The schooling or education that most of us got looks like sprints in low to medium-uncertainty environments. Entrepreneurship generally looks more like a marathon in high-uncertainty environments. Kind of like 2020 was!

How did you do in a more marathon-like, high-uncertainty environment? Did you thrive or whither?

Some of the uncertainty that peaked in March/April 2020 subsided by late summer, and some persisted. Some of that uncertainty was exacerbated by listening to the wrong voices and reduced by listening to the right voices. But much of it was out of our control and rather total in its scope, and so it gave us a taste of what it’s like to operate in a high-uncertainty environment for longer than most of us would have preferred. How did you respond?


Entrepreneurship can be lonely and isolating. How can someone in the top 5 or 10% income percentile complain about anything to those well outside that world?

2020 added an extra layer of physical and/or social isolation. How did you manage that experience? Did you have levers you could pull to ramp up existing forms of support, did you have to invent that stuff from scratch, or did you suffer without it?

Business Model Resiliency

Of course, if your business model depends at all on IRL interactions, 2020 was a brutal test of how fast you can pivot to changing market constraints. Sectors like hospitality took a beating.

If you zoom out a layer though, 2020 was a test of resiliency. It was, of course, more of a stress-test for some than others.

If you abstract away from “novel coronavirus pandemic” to something more general-purpose like “large-scale event that reduces global spending by ~30% for 6 months or longer”, I think 2020 is a year that might have a lot to teach us about our business model.

What did you learn?


And our response to what we’ve learned can range from “oh, that’s interesting…” combined with no action to actually taking action.

What will your response be?