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The New Virtual World of 2020:

Three Lesson I Have Learned Along the Way

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2020 has been a year of discovery and mistaken thinking like no other. Suddenly, life is no longer predictable, pundits are making their best guesses, and we are all just trying to stay above water yet move forward. Today, August 17th, is New Year’s day in the southwestern state of Kerala, India and for me an opportunity to reflect on what I have learned this year and reaffirm my determination to come out ahead and emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and better person.

Reflecting on 2020 (picture of Vypin Island, Kerala)

Two months ago, I realized that the annual outreach event I help host for a charity would probably have to be cancelled. It was a pity, but given the fact that my confirmed delegates would definitely not be able to travel from the UK and US and sponsorship was iffy at best with many companies around the globe in the midst of massive layoffs or furloughing employees to survive, it seemed inevitable. I organised a Zoom meeting for the conference stakeholders, many for whom this was the first time they had ever done a Zoom call, and was taken by surprise at its outcome. Everyone assembled on this call across the continents decided: we just had to go virtual. Mistake and assumption number one: never second guess your stakeholders!

I left the meeting which I thought would be a short and apologetic, “let’s try next year”, instead with a long list of “to do’s” and apprehension of how to create a memorable event and eighth year of this international conference. How was I was going to attract eminent guests to join our virtual experiment as well as alumni across three continents to join for the Eighth International Colloquium on Education?

Mistake number two: never assume people will not help you! I was overwhelmed with the response of educators, corporate CEO’s and experts in History, Start-up Investment, and Biomimcry, all who not only agreed to join live recorded Zoom calls with our teachers and alumni sprinkled across three continents, but to volunteer their time in giving hands-on Zoom webinars for the students of the charitable school supported by this conference. Virtual tours of vintage aircraft hangars in the United Kingdom, a 2- hour webinar on Biomimicry by Biomimcry India, and a Q&A with a historian and archaeologist were some of the live events that came out of this 3-day virtual conference. The pandemic, essentially brought out the best in everyone involved, including funding to create the virtual platform where it would launch on August 1st.

Sunset in Poovar, Kerala, India

The third mistaken belief revealed to me over these months of shutdown since March was the assumption that living remotely in a virtual lifestyle on one’s own is sustainable. 2020 has been the year, in fact, of connection and the universal realization that this is essential to sustain the human spirit. Zooming with friends, helping charities raise funds for important causes and supporting each other have become part of the fabric of 2020. Even though we are physically separated across country and state borders, the necessity to reach out, reassure, and reaffirm friends and family is what continues to bring us sanity and the resilience to move forward.

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