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2021 Key Trends and Lessons Learned

To All:

I’m sure you’re all sick 🤮 of yet another 2021 recap. I am too. But you’re gonna want to check out this one. Because I’m dope, and I think about dope shit.

On January 1st, your Philosophy bros Brett Nowak and I discussed what we believe were some of the biggest trends and lessons learned from last year.

1. Rise of Personal Brands (and everyone now jumping on)

2. Power and Importance of Relationships

3. The Duality of Existence and Human Nature

4. The New New Thing

#1. Rise of Personal Brands

The growth of social media has reached a point now where it has finally become obvious last year in 2021, that personal brands hold incredible power rivaling those of traditional media channels.

Source: Smart Insights 2019

A lot more people suddenly realized that personal brands and influence aren’t just for Gary Vee or Joe Rogan.

In the past, brands primarily connected to consumers at a company or product level. Hence, brands never penetrated to creators of those products or companies except in rare circumstances.

We did see hints of what’s possible, however, in the film and television industry. In those industries that had hyper-scaled distribution, an audience would form around the director or actors of a popular movie or TV show. Here brand penetrated through the distributor and product (the movie), to the creators of that product.

The growth of social media and massively scaled platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. has now, however, enabled 1:N relationships that have allowed brand penetration to the creator level.

Hence, as this phenomenon became very obvious in 2021, we saw a lot of people jumping on and creating their own newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc.

Here are a couple of other key takeaways from the proliferation of social media from a talk I gave in 2019:

Source: Joseph Kim 2019

Also, take some advice from the original personal brand creator Gary Vaynerchuk:

Source: Joseph Kim 2019

#2. Meaningful Relationships

Ray Dalio has suggested, on a number of occasions, the importance in life of having “meaningful work and meaningful relationships.”

For me personally, 2021 proved just how important real and meaningful relationships are.

Life is short, don’t waste time with people who don’t share your values even for short-term financial gain.

Further, the biggest lesson I learned from 2021 was the payoff in building relationships and communities of like-minded people in the gaming industry.

Examples for me include private slack groups, a couple of small interest-specific tribes I have developed, and even my relationship with my Philosophy bro Brett. These communities and relationships have become some of the highlights of last year for me. I love and gain incredible value from these communities and relationships far more than I had anticipated.

#3. The Duality of Human Existence

After reading the book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy last year, I became increasingly observant of different kinds of duality in life and human existence. Although not the primary focus of the book, the authors spoke about the cyclical nature of human history and how history often repeats itself.

It then highlighted the cyclical nature of human existence against those who try to create linear progress.

In my opinion, a current example of the battle between cyclicality vs. linear progress is what we see from the Federal Reserve manipulating the US economy. Since Paul Volcker, the Fed has essentially imposed linear progress through artificially stimulating the economy and controlling interest rates in an attempt to completely eliminate recessions (natural downturns in the economy).

We’ll see how this turns out, but not looking very promising right now.

Other examples of duality and the existence of opposing forces we see all the time in life:

Source: Joseph Kim 2022

Ok, that last one is a joke.

I believe it’s instructive to look for the duality that exists in life and to seek understanding of both sides of the duality. In my experience, truth exists from both sides.

#4. The New New Thing

2021 also showed us just how desperate we are as a society for “the new new thing.” The search for growth, yield, money… How do we get it? How do we get it quick?

2021 was a year of hype and we saw a lot of hypesters.

Who knows maybe it’s all for real (not!), but come on, the hype behind The Metaverse, NFTs, crypto gaming, etc. seems to have an underlying desperate desire to seek the new, new thing.

I’m not saying it’s all a bust but certainly, we can all agree that there’s a lot of hype there… and hopefully some durable, long-lasting businesses that eventually emerge after the hype.

Moving into 2022 and beyond, we should expect some rationalization and pull back from the GRQ (Get Rich Quick) mentality that will leave us with some pretty big disappointments.

Certainly, Clubhouse showed us that the new hype can die almost as quickly as it gets built up.

Peter Thiel has stated that 80% of the cashflows from Paypal came after year 10. I would submit that this phenomenon is likely very general. Look at Facebook, Apple, Tesla, or Google. Most of the value from these companies comes in the long-term not the short-term. Trends take time to manifest.

For the readers today, I hope you consider that sometimes the biggest value you’ll find is from riding one big wave over time rather than jumping from one wave to the next trying to GRQ.

The Discussion

Ok, check out the discussion for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

🎧 Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Anchor


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