The Pandemic Lockdown Enabled Me To Reinvent Myself In One Year
It has been one year since the pandemic lockdowns. It was towards the end of March 2020 that we started experiencing the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns across the world.
Everything is still in flux regarding how we work, live, learn, teach, interact, and contribute. We need to rethink work, learning, employment, organization, and education during these times. I believe we can still turn this crisis into opportunity and innovation. In this article, I will share my own example of how I did this.
During this lockdown, I have written many reflective pieces and shared them with the world. I have been busy creating a new self — more reflective, creative, imaginative, and entrepreneurial than I have ever been. You will read my story below.
2020 Was A Year Of Reinvention And Chaos
The last year has been a roller-coaster for all of us. The pandemic has been overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. We have lived through unprecedented and hard times. We have faced systemic changes in our ways of life.
In my job, this meant moving everything online, including teaching, meetings, and research. I have dreaded the lockdowns and online work at first, but I have found myself adjusting well to the situation. Online teaching turned out to be not bad at all after all. My students and I tremendously enjoyed our online sessions. We were still able to interact, provide each other morale and inspiration, and keep learning exciting things.
In fact, my teaching helped me to cope well with the pandemic and the lockdowns. I felt teaching was like an anchor that kept me sane and focused. I felt an enormous responsibility to inspire and motivate my students under the lockdown and pandemic conditions.
Online teaching turned out to be much more fun than I expected. I have created a lot of pedagogical innovations, new exercises, and reflective pieces. Teaching has provided me a lot of joy during these hard times. I loved interacting with my students and witnessing their creativity. I encouraged my students to create their own creative assets on the Internet and many did so. I have had students creating wonderful content on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Medium. I think our students coped wonderfully well and I am really proud of their resilience and performance in my modules.
Of course, not everything was rosy and positive. Never-ending emails, online meetings, constant screen work, and the anxiety over the pandemic sometimes took their toll on me, but I persevered. I could manage these all.
What really suffered during this period was my research. Over the past year, I have been significantly hindered in my research. I have found myself questioning the value of the research that I am doing. All of my research activities have been hit. I could not continue my writing and publishing. What is worse, I have felt myself questioning the world of academia, research, and universities. It has been almost like an existential crisis — I have felt as if the world is collapsing and it is meaningless to write academic papers that nobody reads.
I have observed that I have gotten more cynical and satirical about the state of the world and the world of academia. I have started questioning my legacy as an academic and wondered whether I am trapped in an ivory tower. Before the pandemic, I was already trying too hard to push my publications and rejections from journals accumulated on my desk for the past couple of years. I still have a dozen of manuscripts that need endless revisions. It makes me tired to just think about this. I want to bury myself under the blanket and escape from all of this.
I Am Questioning The World of Academia And Publishing
The pandemic caused me to rethink my life and question my career. Why have I become an academic? I had so many noble ideas and ideals to change the world through my ideas and my research. How have I lost my spirit and enthusiasm? How have I become so pessimistic and sarcastic about the world of publishing, academia, and research?
I guess I have seen enough of the bad and the ugly side of academic journals and conferences. Management conferences are full of bullshit topics, such as exploring the antecedents and outcomes of emotional intelligence.
During my 15-year academic publishing experience, I have received more than 150 article rejections and I am sick of receiving cruel criticisms, irrelevant suggestions, and the “I-know-it-all” mentality. I am tired of writing response papers to reviewers and editors that are longer than the article itself.
I am tired of going through four rounds of revisions which take two years. By the time the article is published, I forget about what the hell was in there and why I set out to do that research in the first place. Moreover, the article is no longer the fresh and original piece I intended to create.
Although I have thousands of citations, I still feel like I do not have enough positive impact. If my articles were wiped out from the Earth, I am not sure if this would be considered a loss for humanity.
In addition, I am irritated that academics are often treated as slaves in the publishing machine. Publishing companies make obscene amounts of money while academics are expected to provide their free labor endlessly. We are not compensated for our articles, yet publishing companies make huge profits through our labor. In addition, we receive several article review requests every week, which means we are expected to offer about 5 to 10 hours of free labor in the name of “collegiality” and “academic service”. This system does not make any sense. Someone should call it out — the emperor has no clothes.
At some point, I need to come back to academic writing and publishing. I just feel too tired of it right now. I have missed doing research and writing academic articles. I have a lot of articles that are in progress, but I do not have the morale and resilience to touch them. I need to retrain and heal myself towards research.
I Am Reflecting On My Legacy And My Mortality
I have experienced a deeper level of anxiety in relation to the pandemic. I have become worried about my mortality and my legacy — which resulted in a significant questioning of my life and career. How many people have I reached and truly helped as an academic? For how many people were my articles truly useful and inspiring? What about the opportunity cost of publishing? All that hard work, stress, self-torturing, sleepless nights, long weekends, and sense of guilt… Was it worth it?
Why did I not immediately share the things that excite me with the world? Why did I not invest in my creativity? Why did I not define my success in broader terms than the ivory tower of academia?
41 creativity lessons I have learned as I have entered my 41st age
In this article, I will outline creativity lessons and perspectives that have recently shaped my thinking on life…
I feel like an artist who has never practiced their own craft. I have many unfulfilled desires:
- I want to write academic articles that I am truly passionate about. I will pursue fascinating ideas that cross various disciplines.
- I want to challenge and develop myself as an artist and as an entrepreneur.
- I want to share my knowledge and work with larger audiences to expand my impact.
- I want to experiment with humor, improvisation, and theatre.
- I want to read hundreds of science fiction novels and fantasy books.
- To expand my imagination, I want to watch the best movies and series that are on Netflix and Disney+.
- I want to write my own comic book or a science fiction story.
- I want to escape to new worlds of imagination.
- I want to create my own creative assets on the Internet, including Medium articles and YouTube videos.
- I want to share my work with larger audiences, reaching thousands of people through my blogs, videos, and talks.
I Have Established My Medium Blog Last Year and Published 281 Articles on Medium Since Then
Thinking of your mortality makes you do weird things. You start thinking about sharing as many creative ideas and assets as you can with the world. You want to achieve momentum working on your creative legacy so that you will not be gone forever when you die. You want to produce art, write books, learn more, delight yourself, and live a life that will take your breath away. You search for a bigger meaning to transcend yourself.
What I am going through is not unlike a midlife crisis. I want to make positive changes in my life to make it more colorful, exciting, and adventurous. I also use death as a positive motivational tool to figure out what I want to leave behind.
Since March 2020, when the pandemic lockdowns started, I have been writing on Medium almost every day. As of today, I realized that I have written 280 articles on Medium. This is the most unexpected thing I have done in the past year. I have written on artificial intelligence, the job market, the future, nurturing creativity, and personal development. My articles have reached more than 20,000 views every month. I have summarized my learning and reflections below:
What I Learned From Publishing 250 Articles on Medium
15 Biggest Lessons On Writing and Content Creation
Writing regularly on Medium has transformed my life. I created more than 50 creativity exercises last year, and I can now use them in my teaching. l began reaching hundreds of readers on Medium every day. My GPT-3 article, for example, reached more than 10,000 readers and created more than $90. During the past year, I have learned a lot about online writing.
I Have Become A YouTuber And Created 300 Videos In One Year
During the pandemic, I decided to conduct another massive experiment: I would become a Youtuber and consistently create videos.
I ended up creating more than 300 YouTube videos (in Turkish) during this period. Shooting videos in my native language has allowed me to be creative in a different way since I use a different part of my brain.
On the H2M TV channel, I am sharing my lectures, seminars, and workshops in a series called “Workshops of Imagination”. One of the new formats I am experimenting with is the Zeitgeist program where I review the political, cultural, technological, and economic events that occurred in the world during each month.
On the FahriKarakas channel, I am sharing my thought experiments on creativity, science fiction, and learning. I have even created my own parody Turkish TV series.
I Have Created A New Pedagogical Approach In My Teaching
During the past year, I have created a lot of pedagogical materials following my new formula for innovative teaching: Curiosity + Exploration + Wonder + Passion. My new teaching approach is based on 4 components:
1. Being Curious and Asking Questions (Extreme Curiosity)
2. Hunting for Originality and Inspiration Everywhere (Trans-disciplinary Exploration)
3. Learning New Things that Amaze Me (Bewilderment and Wonder)
4. Sharing my Enthusiasm with my Students (Passion)
Here is how this work in practice:
- I made a commitment to myself that I would not teach anything to my students that does not excite me. I only teach things that truly amaze and fascinate me.
- I got away from the traditional curriculum based on tired formulas, memorization of theories and knowledge, pure academic literature, and textbook-style templates and frameworks.
- I transformed both of my modules. Students now create their own creative assets on the Internet, as they unleash their talents as content creators, entrepreneurs, and artists.
- I have moved beyond the industrial paradigm of teaching (no more textbooks, exams, and memorization). I believe traditional lecture formats and exam-based assessment methods are not compatible with the new requirements of a new age. We need to learn from entrepreneurs and artists to adapt to and thrive in such a disruptive era. I want to act as a change agent and catalyst in the midst of these challenges.
- We live in disruptive and weird times. Our traditional tools and practices are left behind. We risk obsolescence if we do not reinvent ourselves as academics. I believe universities should be places for imagination and creativity, unleashing the unique talents of our students. We need a lot of blue-sky thinking, writing, R&D, and innovative teaching to tackle current challenges.
- I do not just focus on preparing students for corporate jobs (which are in decline or at risk) and for the career ladder (which is broken). I encourage students to create their own creative assets so that they move towards entrepreneurial thinking, creativity, financial freedom, and independence.
- I have stopped ‘sugar-coating’ and ‘spoon-feeding’ students, and instead, challenged them to create their own projects and assets that help them make progress in real life.
- I have challenged our students to think and act like entrepreneurs — to develop their resilience, ingenuity, originality, resourcefulness, and creativity.
- I have encouraged my students to create their own creative assets on the Internet and many have kickstarted their YouTube channels, entrepreneurial ventures, or Medium writing journeys. My students have coped wonderfully and I am proud of their resilience and performance.
- I have tried to gain experience and competence in teaching, writing, and drawing across the areas of arts, creativity, entrepreneurship, and design thinking; synthesizing them with business and leadership.
- I have started working on my second book, practicing as an entrepreneur and an artist at my Self-Making Studio project.
I have shared my journey of how I transformed myself over the course of the past year. The pandemic has forced me to reinvent myself and reassess my priorities in my life.
Nassim Taleb says:
“How you did in this pandemic, as a country, a village, a business, a group, or an individual, whether emotionally, economically, or morally, is an indication of how robust you are and how fit you will be for the next decades.”
It is never too late to design our lives so that we will live fully and passionately. We have limited time in this world. We need to make the best of it. What if you could stop scrolling through social media whenever you feel bad about yourself, and start writing or creating something new?
If you choose to sharpen your skills and expand your knowledge now, you have a world of resources on your fingertip. You can read new books, listen to podcasts, keep a diary, create lots of ideas, and follow up on your curiosities and hobbies.
You can design yourself new challenges every day — these might be physical, mental, creative, or emotional challenges. You can track your goals regarding your physical and mental health, career, learning, skills, creative self-expression, finances, relationships, time management, sleep, diet, hobbies, passions, and interests. If you are lacking or lagging behind in some of these areas, you can reflect on what is wrong and how you might initiate positive change.
You can spend time on asset creation. You can provide yourself more opportunities for imagination, problem solving, idea creation, and
asset creation. You can start a creative project that you have always wanted to do, but you were terrified. You can perhaps start composing music, drawing, singing, dancing, or creating your own fashion line. What does your heart desire? Go for it.
Start small. Small is beautiful. Feel free to make mistakes. Ugly is fine. Mistakes are your friend. After completion of your creative task or project, you should share it with the world, so that everyone will see your work and enjoy it. It is very satisfying to share your passions and artwork, to put them out there for the enjoyment and benefit of others.
Please take out your diary and write yourself a reflective letter, responding to the following questions below:
If you had only two years left to live, would you do what you are doing now? What would you create? Why does this matter to you? Have an honest conversation with yourself on what matters to you. What will you create now? What is your greater purpose and mission? Why? Prioritize that and say no to all other things.
Thing big: There are fascinating things that only you can bring to the world. Fresh, exciting, and original things. What are they? How can you build on your unique strengths and skills?
Act small: How can you take a small action now towards making these happen? How can you continue taking small steps every day? How can you continue your adventure every day without quitting and without breaking the chain (of creating)? What will you bring to the world out there?
Where will you be in two years? Where do you want to be in two years?