man sitting on a rope bridge looking out at the mountain

2020: Half-Time Reflections On The Transition Between Two Different Worlds

It’s the time of year where I reflect on the year, before entering into my annual blogging break. This annual reflection point blog post is my last article for 2020. Visit the blog archives to hold you over during my upcoming blogging break.

Wow! What a year it has been. Each month in 2020 has felt like an entire year!

As I expect to be the case for most, this year ended up being dramatically different than I anticipated going into it. 

For many, it’s been a tragic season filled with despair. For others, it’s been one filled with hope. For most of us, it’s likely been a messy mix of the two.

In this reflection point, I dive into different aspects of this complex year, including my rundown of what happened and what I learned along the way. I also share other updates, tidbits, fun photos, popular content, and a list of my clients who have made my vocational path possible.

Half-Time?

This blog post title’s half-time phrase has a double meaning. First is through the perspective of the pandemic where we can all expect another challenging year in the second half (2021) of this seemingly two-year challenge. The second meaning is that we entered the pandemic one way and as we exit it in the second year, we will be a different person, society, and world on the other side.

In this half-time moment, we can reflect back on the first year to better understand what happened while gleaning some lessons in the reflection process. I encourage you to follow my example and take the time to look back as well. Regularly looking back is a powerful practice for personal growth.

Broken Plans & Pandemic Effects On My Paid & Side Work

One of my intentions for 2020 was to take a break from this blog and pull back from my side projects. After the first two months and many new books read, I was on track to make this happen when the pandemic hit. Immediately, I was compelled to help others navigate the crisis while also preparing to pivot my own paid work should the pandemic have an adverse effect on my consulting clients.

This pivot allowed me to experiment and do things I may not have done, but it also meant that I overloaded myself with too much during a chaotic season of life. This helpful insight revealed that when I’m stressed, I do more, motivated by the fear of uncertainty.

For example, I launched two free webinars for freelancers and small business owners on how to navigate the pandemic and flourish in the long run. This unexpectedly resulted in a paid speaking gig to share my pandemic freelancing insights with a private group.

Additionally, I aggressively produced episodes for my podcast. Before the pandemic hit, I had 4 episodes. Now, there are 37 total episodes composed mostly of Inspirational People interviews. I also spun off two episode-types including book discussions and listen to learn. These episodes allowed me to leverage my platform to share great advice for life and work during the craziness of 2020.

“If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can.... always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study.” - Oswald Chambers

And, while I only wrote a handful of new articles, they were extensive and came on the heels of George Floyd’s death, the protests, and the subsequent violence. As I wrestled with how to understand and respond to the unfolding chaos in our country writing was a fruitful exercise of self-authorship. More learning for me lies ahead.

In addition to all of the above, I also developed my new logo and began rolling out the new website template as well as restructuring my site to following the framework I developed a few years ago (it takes a bit of time to restructure an existing library with hundreds of articles). More of this type of work to continue in my journey ahead.

While I did have some client work fall off right when the pandemic hit, it also picked up overall. I’m entirely grateful that I was prepared for this crisis (due to past crises) and that its negative effects were minimal. This certainly allowed me to extend a helping hand to others in various ways.

Fused with everything above, my plan to take a step back didn’t happen. So, thankfully the pandemic was a productive force, but many of these things I had planned to hold off on until 2021. While the pressure pushed me to do more, I recognized halfway through this year how the circumstances were driving me, and I took intentional steps to slow back down and push back against this internal pressure.

I’m moving back towards the steady structure I had put in place before the craziness began as I prepare for another and likely different type of challenging year in 2021. We all need structure and so when things shift dramatically, we often have to create this order for ourselves.

Narrowing My Consulting Work Focus

An awesome aspect of being a freelancer instead of having a staffed company (especially during a pandemic) is how I can organically work through my offering over time without the financial urgency to have it mostly figured out at the onset.

As I have shared on the blog many times, I’ve continued to narrow my offering, target audience, unique strengths to deliver, and how I effectively communicate it. This year, I’ve reached another layer of clarity this year.

Here is my new service offering articulated.

I Grow Online Influence & Program Sales For People Development Oriented Organizations by Optimizing Their Existing Digital Content library To Drive More Traffic, Capture More Leads, & Nurture Loyal Customers. My role is to independently lead us through the transformational process, find, grow, and manage the people to make it happen, and fill in the technical gaps along the way. When I’m successful, my clients have a flourishing marketing program that grows over time WITHOUT my involvement.

As time permits, I’ll update and simplify my services page to reflect this newfound clarity.

Welcome to The Afterlife — Recovering From COVID-19

With the Coronavirus, the United States is in a tough spot. Prior to COVID, the number one killer in the United States was heart disease with around 1,500 people dying daily. The seven day average of Covid-19 deaths right now is about 2,600 per day. That’s like a 9/11 happening every day as long as the trend lasts. And, we also have the complex economic costs that are not as cleanly reflected in these numbers, but will become more clear over the next year.

Recovering From The Virus

Unfortunately, in early October, our family contracted COVID-19. Our kids got through it easy with only our oldest having mild symptoms. Days 3 and 5 were the worst for me as I had intense aches and pains. My wife has trouble breathing and her symptoms lasted longer. She also lost her taste and smell, something more difficult than she expected.

Thankfully, we recovered without the need for hospitalization and it’s nice to now be on the other side. I call the other side, the afterlife (after getting COVID-19 life). Welcome to the afterlife is a line in the first movie I watched in the theater after recovering, Tenet. It’s also a fun reminder of the hope we as Christians have beyond the suffering and death we all face in this life.

Still, A Long Road Ahead

It’s my expectation, even with the soon to be released vaccines, it will be 2022 before we are done with this pandemic (assuming something unexpected doesn't happen that could further extend it). The health, mental, social, and economic price will continue. That cost will NOT be evenly distributed so it’s part of our directive as Christians to fill in those gaps where we are equipped and able to do so.

I suspect the suffering and death cost of this pandemic will reflect the leadership gap we have, but it may also act as a catalyst to fill it. In retrospect, we’ll have many regrets and lessons learned, which will hopefully inform how we can better navigate these types of complex situations in the future as individuals, communities, and as a society.

I as well as many others are grateful to have a grounded hope that transcends the health and economic tragedy this pandemic has brought upon our world. Not only do we have hope in being reunited after our earthly death but also that we can experience God’s love, relationship, and community here on this earth in this life. As Christians, we are directed to bring this future hope into the now for those around us. You can explore my tragedy transcending reasons to hope here.

yellow flower on the ground

Our Society is Sick & We’ve Got Big Global Problems That Will Affect Our Local World

As the pandemic spread throughout our country, underlying issues in our society rose to the surface with the killing of George Floyd. This tragic event catalyzed both peaceful social protests and, unfortunately, violent riots.

With so many voices attempting to make sense of the complex situation our country is entrenched in, many perspectives didn't include the even larger ones on the horizon (internally and externally). As we overcome what’s in front of us, my hope is that these circumstances are equipping us to deal with the largest of the challenges that lie beyond the pandemic and internal societal ills.

I’ll have more to say on the topic of societal redemption as it’s certainly been an eye-opening experience. My aim is to learn and grow as we better understand our fellow citizens and the way in which they experience this country (including how different it may be from our own), and how our country can effectively move forward together.

Politics, Election Results, & Presidential Challenges

Our country’s most recent chapter has been the chaos of our presidential election. Fueled by the anxiety and challenges that preceded it, our already polarized country went into a national vote that would further escalate and fuel the fires of confusion, regularly contributed to by the president of the United States.

While it’s to be expected that some issues with our gigantic electoral system surfaced, we can also be confident that any issues were minor, not affecting the national results. These now certified results were further reinforced by the many confirming court cases (including the Supreme Court's dismissals) that further verified the legitimacy of the votes cast throughout the country.

While there were some instances of concern, we can be confident that the national election results reflected the will of the people and not any nefarious actions that would unfairly manipulate the outcome (even though many tried).

But how this unfolded does illuminate that we are facing a cultural crisis of truth, how we find it, and what we do with it once we have it. We are quick to accuse without restraint on how those accusations have an effect on our society. We would all be appalled if this type of flippant accusatory behavior was done in our family and community and we should feel the same about our country. Looking back, many will have regrets, and that will be good for the future success of our country.

Collected Quotes Worth Sharing

This year has certainly illuminated the areas of ourselves (community, society, and world) that need healing and redemption, including areas we think we’ve already resolved.

We’ve got more learning to do!

Here are some quotes I thought worth surfacing from the many I collected over the year that could act as helpful reminders for you.

  • “You live in a deranged age, more deranged that usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” - Walker Percy
  • "The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men, cruel." - Alfred, Batman Versus Superman
  • "I have been a part of this system for 44 years, so listen carefully. I have known braver souls than you, Khomyuk. Men who had their moment and did nothing, because when it is your life and the lives of everyone you love, your moral conviction doesn't mean a damn thing. It leaves you. And all you want at that moment is not to be shot." - Boris Shcherbina, Chernobyl TV Miniseries [2019]
  • “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? During the life of any heart, this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that name, we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.“ - Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
  • "To understand the Nazi concentration camp guard. That person is human, and so are you. If you can't see you in that, then you don't know who you are. If you can see that, you can begin to take the sins of the world upon yourself." - Jordan Peterson
  • “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?” - C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed, p. 66).
  • “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?’” - Jesus of Nazareth
  • “The main characteristic, which is the proof of the indwelling Spirit, is an amazing tenderness in personal dealing, and a blazing truthfulness with regard to God’s Word.” - Oswald Chambers
  • "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." - Admiral Jim Stockdale, Former Prisoner of War

Interesting and Noteworthy Tidbits

Fun and Interesting Photos

Here are some interesting photos from the year worth sharing and memorializing.

End of the world nachos, with bacon.

end of the world nachos

Laughing a ton with my grandma.

jason montoya and grandma ramona montoya

Revisiting a classic card game from my childhood.

mille bornes racing game

Purchasing a physical version of the devotion that God has used to change my life.

my utmost for his highest leather

We adopted The Child (Grogu).

jason montoya and baby grogu mandalorian

The new office and standing desk built by my wife.

Star Wars Wallpaper and Baby Grogu Watching over me

star wars standing desk

New Content Highlights

The following section highlights the newly created content produced on this website during 2020. It's included a handful of articles, podcast episodes, and two webinars.

Survey the highlights below.

My 6 New 2020 Blog Posts

Had it not been for the variety of societal crises that unfolded, I wouldn't have written these articles. Publishing them was my way to help others navigate the challenges while also helping me to get a handle on how to reconcile what unfolded before us.

5 Most Popular Podcast Episodes

While I had experimented with a few episodes of podcasting in the past years, it wasn't until the pandemic hit that I got new episodes really going!

Here are the five most popular episodes of the year.  

Click here to browse all podcast episodes.

New Free Webinars

From a desire to help others and not knowing how the pandemic would affect my paying work, I jumped into action and launched two webinars for freelancers and small businesses on how to navigate the pandemic.

What was most surprising to me was how relevant the content in my two books were to the challenges we've faced in 2020. That revealed how much I had been prepared for this year before it happened!

Click the links below to check out the webinars.

My Wall of Consulting Client Gratitude

I would not be successful without my many wonderful clients. Thank you all for choosing to work with me! 

Here's a list of their companies with a link to their website.

If you'd like to join this list of clients and work with me in 2021, contact me here.

montoya family, jason cait

Wrapping Up 2020 — A Call To Grow

This year and the circumstances that have come along during it have been a powerful illuminating season for us all. It’s revealed where we’ve previously grown and also where we have room to grow.

My goal for us all is to reflect on this season to grow. Explore your 2020 and what you’ve learned as part of your own personal development.

And, since I see this moment as halftime for the pandemic, it’s a good point to also decide how you want to finish this game ahead of us. Begin thinking about 2021, the person you want to be, and the story you want to tell when this pandemic season is over.

montoya family running off

Family Photos courtesy of Mosaic Photographics.

Annual Reflection Point

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