Lessons Learned in 2021

Opal App
4 min readJan 1, 2022

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By Ally Marecek and Mariah Manzano

It’s that time of the year. Holidays have passed. It’s almost time to really get back to work or school. It’s the perfect time for a fresh slate, a new you.

But wait. If we hop into the new year so soon, how can we learn from 2021? The most underrated part of creating goals and resolutions is first reflecting.

What did I learn this year? How did my actions and decisions impact who and where I am today?

Our Opal team did some reflecting — here are our top lessons learned from 2021.

Think outside the box — and keep thinking!

While working on a wide variety of projects, assignments, side gigs, and creative pieces, we discovered that thinking outside the box can mean different things depending on the situation. Sometimes the best solution is the one that is obvious and overlooked. Other times, we have to know when to say good-bye to best practices and the way we’ve always done things, and instead venture into the unknown!

And of course, it’s crucial to be willing to try ALL ideas, both the “good” and the “bad”, rather than being discouraged by failure or feeling tied down by an original vision. You never know what will actually succeed, and you may be surprised to find that the most outrageous idea is actually the one that works.

Be proactive to see results

During another year of paralysis and uncertainty, we were reminded of the importance of proactivity. At the most basic level, we can stay open-minded and curious and take the time to dig deeper into what’s around us.

Taking it a step further, we can be proactive by jumping onto ideas and putting in the time and effort to turn them into realities. No matter how big the dreams are — a small update to a product or a major transition on your career path — the key is to bring them to life. Even in a rigid role or a predetermined path, there are likely opportunities that can be found or created.

Value the members of your network and community

Though the Opal team has been spread out across the country, the value of community is another important lesson. We are all new to the world of start-ups and to our careers, so we are always learning from those with more experience and knowledge — whether it’s interviewing an expert on the Shine a Light On podcast or getting timely advice from the dev community. We’re grateful for the chance to hear diverse opinions, reflect on new ideas, and contribute our own thoughts.

Show up as your best self

We’re all about giving to others at Opal. But we acknowledge that that means showing up for ourselves, as well. When we take time to prioritize ourselves in the form of breaks, hobbies, vacations, and just relaxation time, we are able to more productively show up for others when the time comes.

While it’s important to show up as your best self, our disclaimer is also to first define “best self” in a way that makes sense for you. Start with — what type of person do you want to be? A reader. A writer. A tennis player. Consider how you can show up in your day-to-day to become that type of person you hope to be.

When reflecting on this past year, you may want to keep some things in mind.

  • What do I have in my life to be grateful for?
  • What did I learn from my relationships this year?
  • What did I learn from my professional or school life this year?
  • What sort of habits did I create this year?

There are no incorrect resolutions, but it is a disservice to your current self to create goals for the upcoming year without reflecting on who you are today, what you’re grateful for, and what habits you’re currently working on in order to improve them or start something new.

Cheers to the upcoming 2022! We hope it’s as bright as you wish it to be.

Special shoutout to Cesar, Ally, Amiya, Leila, Story, and Mariah from the Opal team for your lessons learned.

💎 Celebrate the end of 2021 with our ten previous blog posts from this year — read your favorites here.

💎 Get ready for the new year with our first blog post of 2022 (full of fun and insightful challenges), 12 Ways to Change Your Life in 2022, as well as the Preparing for the New Year season of the Shine a Light On podcast on Anchor (learn about taking time for yourself, resting, fighting burnout, and taking advantage of breaks)!

💎 We’ll be starting the new year with some major product developments! Don’t miss out on those updates — follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Opal App

Hey. 👋 Good to see you. We are #Opal, a mobile app that matches college students with working professionals for mentorship. https://www.opal.community/