The amazing and challenging year of 2021 is almost over. As I reflect on all that’s happened this year, I find it helpful to consider a more personal version of the question, “What have I learned this year?”

So I thought I’d share a few quick answers to the more specific question, “What have I learned about myself this year?”

Here goes nothing…

#1 – I enjoy working with my hands.

My full-time job is executive assistant to the founder and CEO of Capacity. While I love it, the majority of the role involves staring at a laptop screen. For my own sanity, as well as my physical health, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with doing things that are not in front of a screen.

As a homeowner, there are always opportunities to get your hands dirty, but in the past I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the fixer-upper lifestyle. I’ve always loved seeing the before and after of a project, but I’ve never wanted to be involved with the in-between.

This year, however, I’ve grown to enjoy solving problems that require a power tool instead of a spreadsheet. I’ve discovered getting my hands dirty and “figuring it out” (a term EAs are accustomed to) combined with the physically active nature of construction and repair work, has been very energizing for me.

So as I began to taste some enjoyment with do-it-yourself projects, my wife and I decided to take on a major construction project. We both love the outdoors but hate bugs and pollen. Unfortunately, in Missouri we only get about 3-5 days a year where it’s nice enough outside without either of the two hindering our enjoyment of the outdoors. So, we decided to tear down this old screened in porch…

sunroom project old porch


…and build a larger sunroom (or as some would call it, a three seasons room).

In the past, there’s no way I would’ve ever agreed to a project like this. But due to my newfound enjoyment of manual labor, in addition to the fact that hiring professionals to build a sunroom would cost 3 to 4 times as much as doing it ourselves, we took the plunge…

(That’s me and my wife, Meg, all shrink-wrapped to keep insulation off of our shoes and arms/hands.)

Honestly, there have been several times throughout the project where we both questioned our decision to do this ourselves. You know, like the time we were on the roof trying to nail down ice and water shield as a storm blew in. But we’re almost done, and as a bonus – we’re still married! 🙂

Here’s another mid-project shot:

sunroom night roof frame

Here’s where it started to look like a real sunroom:

And here’s where the inside stands today (still waiting on one more window to ship, hence the plywood in the middle of the wall):


All this to say, I can’t believe I enjoy manual labor, but I do (for now)!

#2 – I’m (still) an introvert.

As we slowly came out of COVID-19 lockdowns, and back into the real world, I was reminded of my disdain for being around lots of people I don’t know. In other words, I’m still an introvert. Sure, it’s been great to get out of the house, but I still need me some “me time.”

For example, I love working remotely. I don’t know that I could ever go back to working full time in an office. But that’s just me, and 2021 has reinforced that about me.

#3 – I don’t know what I’m doing half of the time, but that doesn’t stop me from doing things.

When I was young, I would say “I don’t know” a lot, and my dad would quickly respond with, “I don’t know isn’t an acceptable answer.” I’m glad he taught me that, because now I just figure things out, or pivot, instead of giving up.

In 2021, I did the following even though I either didn’t know what I was doing, hadn’t done it before, or had very little experience with it:

  • Built a sunroom from scratch (see above)
  • Turned $600 into $18,000 trading “meme” stocks in a retirement account (don’t try this at home, friends)
  • Made a few complicated repairs on a 1995 F-150 pickup truck
  • Sold out an event in San Jose

Anyway, the lesson is this – don’t let your lack of experience or knowledge in a topic keep you from trying things.

So that’s a quick glance as what I’ve learned about myself in 2021. I hope it causes you to think about your year in a different way.

How about you? What did you learn about yourself in 2021?

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