What’s Your Symbol of the Year for 2021?
For the past few years, I’ve been using a one-word theme to guide my actions throughout the year. It’s a concept I borrowed from Niklas Göke, who borrowed it from someone else, who also likely borrowed it from someone else.
But since my one-word theme for 2020 was
remarkable, I didn’t have a choice but to find a more unique concept — the symbol of the year. What I like about a symbol is that it’s visual. They say an image is worth a thousand words, and as such, a symbol can be much more powerful than a word.
We attach meaning to symbols and have used them to guide our actions. Think of your home country’s flag as an example. When you picture it, you think about your country’s values.
The same is true of a company’s logo, another symbol. It is arguably the greatest piece of branding a company can have. That’s why big companies don’t cheapen out on logos that, on the surface, may look overly simple. Whatever companies do, they try to never sabotage the image they’ve built. And that image starts with their symbol — their logo.
What’s your symbol for 2021?
Here’s mine, in all its glory:
This Viking rune literally means “Birch Tree”. Over the years, it has had different meanings, but the central themes have always been around:
- New beginnings
I couldn’t think of a better symbol for 2021 for me. Heck, I even got it tattooed!
At the beginning of 2020, I was running two thriving businesses. One, a video game company, was in operations since 2013. We were ending the development of a game I had worked on for seven years. The other, Forest Co, was about self-help. I was working on both startups full-time, in addition to writing daily on Medium.
When the pandemic hit, my businesses weren’t immediately affected. But as I welcomed my son into this world and as the pandemic became more intense, my businesses crumbled. I released my game at one of the worst times in history and was forced to part ways with people I loved to work with.
Remember my one-word theme for 2020? Well, that was certainly one way 2020 was remarkable. It had been a very long time since history had seen such a widespread threat.
In my writing, I experimented a lot. Most of it failed. But that’s okay. I’m proud of what I did. It stood out from the rest. It was remarkable. Martin Andersson Aaberge showcases some of the stuff I did that was different in this piece.
Near the end of 2020, I made the switch from being a full-time entrepreneur and software engineer to being a full-time writer. I did that during a massive period of change in the platform I wrote most on — Medium. It turned out to be very unfortunate timing for me.
But as I kept writing, I realized that there is, by far, a topic I like writing most about — learning. I obsessively learned 90 skills in the past three years, and there’s nothing I’m more interested in than the field of learning. So in November and December, that’s what I’ve written the most about.
Admittedly, most people can associate with my symbol for 2021. Everyone will want some kind of new beginning. You may borrow my symbol, but I strongly encourage you to find your own. Let me first explain how mine works for me and then I’ll help you find your symbol.
How I came to my symbol
For the past seven years, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of reinvention. I like to say that the only constant in my life is my wife (I guess I have to adapt it now that I have a son…). Since 2015, I’ve travelled to over 50 countries and lived in 5. I’ve done many contracts and have reinvented myself as a photographer and a writer. I thrive on discomfort.
As I reviewed my year and thought about 2021, I realized that the concept of
rebirth was all over my notes. If we take a look at the concepts of Berkana, there’s no doubt in my mind that it should be my symbol of the year.
My one-word theme for 2018 was
fail(yup!). 2019 was
learn. 2020 was
remarkable. You see the evolution? I have grown tremendously since 2018. That has happened because I dared to fail many times (and sometimes, greatly), learned skills and lessons, and tried everything in my power to do things differently (good and bad).
In 2021, my one-word theme is
groundbreaking. It’s the natural evolution to the growth I’ve been going for. In 2021, I’ll strive to do things that are groundbreaking; things the world hasn’t yet seen.
Too ambitious? Probably. But that’s why I say “hell yeah!” to that.
Two dying businesses and a mostly failed writing career leads me to seek new beginnings. I’m working on really groundbreaking content and technology for SkillUp Academy. I’m also writing the best book ever written about learning (a bold claim, I know).
I also welcomed my son into this world on June 5th, 2020. With all the little problems he had early on, I found myself struggling like I never had in my life (and I had struggled a lot growing up). Now that he’s 6 months old and thriving, my son is on his own new beginning, which is my new beginning as a parent.
In 2017, I was a data/software engineer. In 2018, I was a nomad and learner. In 2019, I was a game developer. In 2020, I was a writer. In 2021, I’m switching careers again, pursuing learning experience design. It’s at the intersection of everything I’ve done in the past.
I now have a son and I’m learning to care for another human being from a different perspective. My wife and I have been together for 16 years and now we have someone between us. It required a lot of adaptation. My son now needs the nurturing I’ve never had (my parents were divorced from a very young age). Near the end of 2020, I found myself really enjoying taking care of my little buddy.
How you can find your symbol
At first, I wanted to write a full guide on how to do it, but the truth is that if you have to search that hard to find it, well, maybe it just isn’t the right symbol. It’s like love, you don’t find it, it finds you.
Don’t find your symbol, let it find you. Easier said than done, you might say, but here’s a thought: observe. Raise your awareness of your surroundings. That Berkana tattoo I have, I had it before I came up with my symbol. I just “noticed” it in the shower in December.
Observe the symbols in your life — in your surroundings. Don’t search for a meaning for any you find, just let the meanings come to you. Are they relevant for 2021? Is there one that stands out? Is there one that represents what you’re striving for in 2021? Can you easily picture it and its meaning(s) in your mind?
That’s your symbol. If it takes a year to find it, that’s fine. I say that’s better than forcing a symbol you’re not really “feeling”.
If you do find your symbol, what is it? Why did you choose it? I’d love to know and I’m sure others do too.