8 Lessons I Learned in 2021 While Building A Startup

Amanda Emmanuel
5 min readJan 1, 2022


I’m not a ‘lessons of [insert year]’ person, but my theme for 2022 is “flexin’ 😎” (aka putting myself out there) annnd I love documenting.

Old me would have thought ‘don’t post this! It’s going to be so embarrassing when you look back and realize you didn’t know what you were talking about!’

But the new me knows it’s inevitable that my thoughts and opinions will change. This post is simply preserving my thoughts in this very moment and that itself is a beautiful thing, even if it’s only for myself.

So here we go!

In 2020 I moved from NYC to my parents’ place in Ottawa, Canada for what I thought would be a short stint. I’m still here, annnd now I’m building (yet another) startup from my childhood bedroom. So this year definitely involved a lot of emotions.

After pushing through challenges and taking these last few weeks to reflect, there are my top 8 lessons from 2021 that I’ll be taking with me into 2022.

1. Choose your emotions

When you’re doing something as crazy as building a business, fear creeps into your mind. A lot.

I was waiting for successful milestones to allow me to be happy. It was tiring and I was inevitably putting a lot of pressure on myself.

One morning I just started telling myself what emotion I’m going to have for the day, then while lying in bed I’d imagine feeling that emotion. The day didn’t always end with the same emotion but it was a great, proactive way to start the day rather than reacting to a situation and having it decide my emotions for me.

2. What you think is who you are

Repeated thoughts become behaviours. Repeated behaviours become habits. Repeated habits become a personality. Meaning, what you think is who you are.

Whenever my emotions got the best of me over this past year, I’d take a moment to ask myself “is this who you want to be?” that snapped me back real quick!

3. Therapy is a good thing

I thought I was such a modern person and that it was my South Asian relatives who had aversions to therapy. Lol Little did I realize that deep down I had a lot of shame associated to therapy myself.

I’m so glad I pushed through and jumped in head first. I did it for me, and it was the best investment I’ve ever made. It taught me skills and things about myself that I will carry throughout my life.

4. Everything is a choice

I was getting tired of my fear taking over and paralyzing me. So I tried a new trick where I would ‘outrun my overthinking mind’. Meaning when I was inspired, I’d instantly act on it instead of overthinking and inevitably not doing it.

It helped me grow my Twitter audience, connect with new people (including investors) and continue my love of documenting with a TikTok channel!

5. Acceptance

Accept yourself, who you are and who you are becoming. In the same vein, accept people for who they are and who they choose to be (including family).

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn this year. But actively working on this throughout the year is what truly helped me to create and maintain inner peace for myself so I could be my best self.

6. Find Joy in Everything

I participated in OnDeck earlier this year, and I subconsciously was telling myself that this is my ‘make or break’. Somewhere in those 12 weeks I had a bump in the road (obviously) and decided to ignore how I felt about it. One morning ahead of a 1:1 zoom with a fellow OnDecker I remember telling myself to ‘suck it up’.

We had only met once or twice, but somewhere in our friendly conversation a few tears (from my business frustration) decided to join us 🙃. I was so embarrassed, but this beautiful person chose to talk me through it and shared a few words that have stuck with me ever since, “You just need to find the joy in every moment”

It was a core mindset shift for me. Until that point I was dragging myself down feeling defeated with everything around me because I wasn’t rising like a phoenix.

Actively finding joy in every moment became my practical way to “be present”. Because of her beautiful words, I now choose to love every piece of my circumstances, and that shift itself has made me a happier, peaceful person

7. Life is short

You’re going to be dead longer than you’re alive.

Every year at my birthday I always find it hard to adjust to my ‘new age’. I just got used to that age and now I’m a whole year older! I always feel like I didn’t have enough time to enjoy that age and time moved too fast.

So this year, I started a daily journal practice where I write

  • 3 things I’m grateful for today
  • 2 things I’d tell younger me (from 10 years ago)
  • 1 thing future me (10 years from now) would tell me today

It has been such a powerful journal prompt to revisit everyday. It beautifully kept me present with my age, I was able to recognize and cherish it every single day. So when my birthday came around, I was ready.

8. Do things that scare you. Everyday

When I did my annual year-end-review I realized despite all the fears and messy emotions I felt throughout the year, the moments I remembered most clearly were the amazing opportunities I created for myself because I simply did things that scared me. (I even started a TikTok channel! lol)

As I step into 2022, even though I’m still living with my parents continuing to build a business from my childhood bedroom ushering in the new year with my family in sweatpants in front of the TV (yet again) I secretly love it for what it is.

This year was the first time I didn’t feel sad about how little I accomplished in the past year. I’ve done my annual reflections, I’ve planned for the next year and I’m okay with being that person. I’ve accepted that this is where I am now, that I won’t be here forever and that I’m choosing to have unwavering certainty in my future whatever that may be ❤️

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I sincerely appreciate feedback and would love to connect!



Amanda Emmanuel

🦄 Product & Growth at early-stage startups 🚀 3X founder 😎 Blogs about entrepreneurship, mindset & startups 🏗 Always building