Year of Solutions

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So, how’s everything going?

Somehow, that feels like a loaded question these days. Even typing it, to no one in particular, I felt as if I was asking it cautiously—almost reluctantly—knowing that what would follow is likely a stream of difficult experiences and examples of how upside down our world feels these days. Too often, the answers to that question seem to come from a place of hopeless exhaustion. It’s hard to blame anyone for that. After all, 2020 has clearly been a year unlike many of us have ever experienced.

And that’s the answer I got in asking that simple question to a colleague recently: “I’ll tell you what, this year has been something else … ”

Let’s set some context quickly: This colleague, an industry trainer and coach, is quite possibly the most positive person I have ever known (maybe outside of my 8-year-old daughter). He never complains, he never has a negative word to speak about anyone, and is genuinely one of the most uplifting people you will ever meet. One of his favorite refrains (which is also a personal favorite of mine) is, “a new problem is just an opportunity to find a new solution.”

Of all the people to get beaten down by 2020, I wasn’t expecting it to be him. But then, he kept going.

“ … I am amazed, every single day by the incredible creativity of everyone.”

He went on for about 10 minutes, listing out everyone he knows who found a unique solution to push their business forward. Unique marketing approaches, social media campaigns, convenient pick-up and delivery services, customer gifts, charity work in the community, reworking shop layouts—he never once mentioned a problem these folks faced.

“If anything shows what this industry is made of, and what people are made of,” he continued to me, “it’s this year.”

Relieved and re-energized, my smart aleck tendencies kicked in immediately: “Gosh, Jeff, this has really been your type of year,” I needled, “the Year of Solutions.”

He laughed: “That’s exactly what it’s been.”

That conversion has come to mind a number of times in the last month or so since it took place, and especially as we move into December and put a wrap on 2020. It’s easy to focus on the difficulties and the challenges, and the incredible unforeseen problems so many have faced both professionally and personally. But to do that ignores all that’s been gained.

Our December feature focuses on how a handful of resourceful business owners have utilized technology to push their shops forward during the pandemic. Each of their stories follows this solutions-oriented approach to operations and leadership, and each of them have positioned their businesses to thrive in the years ahead—regardless of what other challenges may arise.

I like to think of myself as an optimist, and I try very hard to remain positive through adversity. It’s not easy to do, as I’m sure my colleague I referenced earlier would agree. Even my 8-year-old has bad days. But I can confidently say that it’s a contagious attitude. That conversion a few weeks back snapped me out of a funk, and I’ve tried to repeat that for other people who ask me the same question. No experience, regardless of how difficult or painful, is a waste if you come out with new insight, stronger and better for it. I know this year will be the same for all of us. And, at the very least, when someone asks, “How’s everything going?”, you can tell them you’re pushing forward.

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