2020 — Hamid’s Year in Review

Recapping an unprecedented and challenging, yet transformational year.

2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us. It turned my life upside down, and challenged me to redefine how I learn, spend time with friends/family, and innovate.

2020 forced me to reflect quite a bit about my personal and professional goals — and my core values. It challenged me to find value in meaningful activities that I dedicate time and efforts to, and to remove the things that provide no value to me and my future.

One of the most inspirational and guiding concepts I have taken to heart was presented to me in early 2020:

Compartmentalize your time into two buckets: items that are an investment, and items that bring you enjoyment.

This wisdom has motivated me to better manage my time, build on my long-term vision, and maintain good mental health, and has challenged me to bring these two buckets closer together — to unite them into one philosophy.

This philosophy is one which believes that time spent as an investment can be time spent as an enjoyment. My investment should be enjoyable.

Professional Highlights

With this mindset presented, I want to share some professional highlights — borne out of a diversity of challenges — that I am particularly proud of:

  • I became Co-Captain of LB Poly Rabbotics — my high school’s robotics team — leading over 30 student members while working with more than 5 professional industry mentors to expand STEM opportunities for high school students.
  • I became a leader in the Red Cross Youth Program — becoming President of LB Poly High School Red Cross Club, READYteens Coordinator for Long Beach Youth Corps, and Field Ambassador for the Los Angeles Region. I have volunteered more than 320 hours this year in supporting both Red Cross and Youth activities, genuinely building my passion for public health and community well-being.
  • I interned with Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services, volunteering more than 125 hours and learning how to use civic grassroots organization to improve community safety and public health.
  • I became Tech. Director of LB Poly Speech and Debate — uniting my interests in becoming a better public speaker while ensuring distance learning did not disrupt our team operations and opportunities for over 20 members.
  • I continued being active in Model United Nations on my school campus — attending the last few in-person conferences, helping club leadership organize during the summer, and participating in my first virtual debates on key global health and policy issues.
  • I maintained activity in extracurriculars meaningful to me and my community— namely Math Team, California Scholarship Federation, and PACE Mentors (helping freshmen at my school). Through these, I have mentored 2 freshmen mentees and supported local frontline workers during the pandemic.
  • I helped spearhead an international, grassroots movement to transition schools to 100% renewable energy — serving as Tech. Director for the Green Schools Campaign, and Secretary of LBUSD Green Schools Campaign.
  • I wrapped up the 2019–2020 Academic Year with grades I am proud of while learning a lot in fields I am passionate about.
  • I explored my professional healthcare and biotech interests — serving as an intern with Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation and Biotech Connection Los Angeles. I could not be more grateful to have been exposed to these fields.
  • I helped expand opportunity and innovation in countering the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as Community Lead for the OpenCOVID-19 Initiative, and Community Board Member for the Coronavirus Visualization Community — working to ensure smooth community operations while working to improve open-source community coordination and collaboration strategies.
  • I got accepted into The Knowledge Society — a human accelerator which has truly propelled forward my evergrowing interest in business and technology — particularly in the healthcare space — and has provided me with unenumerable opportunities to become a better leader, citizen, and innovator.
  • I continued work on my school campus and in ensuring student education runs smoothly during this public health crisis — becoming a School Site Council Member at LB Poly, and a Student Member on the LA County Office of Education Superintendent’s Council.

→ I found my voice in my various communities — a voice I confined for so long.

Personal Highlights

Although I grew professionally in my own standards, all my involvement in my community, in extracurriculars, and in learning more wouldn't have been possible without self-reflection and growth.

Here’s to my personal development during 2020:

  • I began to truly optimize my productivity — learning how to time-block my calendar, take meaningful breaks, and manage social media.
  • I grew closer to my friends despite COVID-19 — talking virtually over Zoom calls every Friday and playing games while reading some Shakespeare.
  • I began to develop an exercise routine — although flawed, it has kept me in shape with cardio and core every other day during the pandemic.
  • I connected more with my immediate and distant family — when seemingly disconnected the most in the face of a pandemic, I finally had time to genuinely connect and talk via online meetings.
  • I worked constructively on my shortcomings as an individual — reflecting on my mindsets and trying to constantly improve. I tackled my perfectionism, broke my inner isolated bubble of relationships, and became more patient.
  • I built better time-management practices while learning how to prioritize tasks and let things go when needed.
  • I set up core values to guide my decisions — ideals of innovation, accountability, grit, and growth mindset.

→ I created an identity and internal mindset that enables personal and professional growth aligned with my metrics for success.

Lessons Learned

With 2020 reshaping a lot of my mental philosophies, mindsets, and approaches, I want to share some lessons learned during the year:

  • Be Intentional: With every decision I made in 2020, I tried to maintain intentionality and purpose with the result. If my actions do not fall into the two buckets of time mentioned prior, then why do it? This mentality has helped me substantially with time management and prioritizing.
  • Plan Logically: I have integrated time-blocking and Notion-centered project management into my routine, which has helped me stay on track and balance my various activities. But the key to planning is to do it logically: don’t follow systems exactly how they work for others (as they may not work for you) and do not over-complicate the process. The real-world is ever-changing and you must adapt, but planning in the first place provides you the skills needed to adapt when needed.
  • Done > Perfect: I’ve always considered myself a perfectionist, and this mindset forced me to break that cycle. I started to look more at the big picture: trying things and procuring content are better than thinking about doing something. This has helped me produce content that is high quality, but without losing focus of the big picture.
  • Have a Vision, but Use Data: I’ve also always considered myself visionary and bold. But, what is important in having a vision — whether that is for a club or a project — is to back it up with data in order to communicate effectively with others. You may have a vision, but if no one can empathize with it, it’s not going anywhere.
  • Focus on Relationships: 2020 truly emphasized the need for strong relationships. These relationships are not just for fun. They are your most trusted colleagues and role models. Relationships will help you be a better person, provide stability, and push you to do more.
  • Value Appreciation: In a year of such tremendous difficulty for so many, I gained a deeper sense of appreciation for what I have. And, with this mentality, I kept thinking of what I can do to innovate and serve my community — to help those who may not have what I do.
  • Define Personal Metrics for Success: Success is subjective. And, in order to be successful, each individual needs to set their own metrics. Without specific short-term and long-term goals — ranging from building an exercise routine to going to medical school — you can get lost.
  • High Standards: Have high standards for yourself — and for others. By focusing on the right things and having high standards while doing so, the most optimal product will be produced. This is a mentality that is contagious and can make or break a culture.
  • Seek Understanding: In a world of evergrowing access to information, seeking understanding has become personal to me. Learning is not just for school or work. It’s for everything — and don’t be afraid to use resources to gain a deeper understanding of topics of interest.
  • Seek Discomfort: And, finally, the mindset I have struggled to implement the most — but arguably the most important — to seek discomfort. I have always seen failure as embarrassing, insulting, and derogatory. Discomfort inevitably will lead to some failure. But if you never try, you will never learn or grow.

→ I hope some of these are helpful to you — as readers — and I truly believe they can make substantial differences in one’s behavior and potential when applied at a personal level.

My New Year’s Resolution

In 2021, I want to focus on three key areas of my development as I prepare to embark upon my university experience:

1 — Relationships

I made great progress in 2020 forming meaningful relationships with those I came in contact with. I want to expand upon this.

One of the greatest gifts humans have is the ability to emotionally connect with other human-beings. I want to ensure I capitalize upon relationship opportunities — to advance mutually-beneficial causes and to connect across diverse issues.

2 — Healthy Lifestyle

With COVID-19 quarantine, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been difficult. But, nonetheless, a healthy body = strong mental health = high level of critical thinking = progress and success.

I want to ensure I continue on a workout routine while improving upon my tennis skills. Making sure I stay fit is a critical investment in my future — and while I’m using the “bucket” language, it can also be pretty dang fun as well!

3 — Impact

In the past few years, I have been exploring, learning, and practicing — gradually easing my way into leadership positions and roles of authority.

I want 2021 to be a year of impact for me — impact on my friends, my family, my community, and my society. I strive to leverage the skills I have learned as I have been exposed to a diversity of opportunities in order to make substantive impacts on the community.

From furthering STEM education initiatives with LB Poly Rabbotics to pitching a legitimate tech. start-up, I want 2021 to be a year where my learnings translate to real-world impact — more than ever before.

A Final Note

Ultimately, despite the profound challenges 2020 posed to all of us, it was a year I will remember throughout my life: I stepped out of my comfort zone, grew professionally, and explored my interests like no other time in my life.

I look forward to 2021 — hopefully much better than 2020 — and thank you again for supporting me on my journey to impact billions.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!


About the Author

Hamid is a student based in Long Beach, CA. His interests lie in medicine, healthcare, biomedical engineering, and business. He strives to make a meaningful impact in the areas of clinical practice, healthcare delivery, and public health by leveraging technology and innovation.

If you’d like to connect, you can find him on LinkedIn, Medium (you’re already here!), and Twitter, or you can email him at hamidtorabzadeh@outlook.com.

Hamid Torabzadeh is a student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, CA. His interests lie in healthcare systems and clinical innovation.