January is a time for reflecting on the past year, committing to new goals, and planning the next 12 months of our lives. Sometimes you have a year you wish you could forget. It’s like a mulligan in golf, where you say “Oops,” pick up the ball, and take a do-over.
Sometimes it’s a matter of being grateful to have made it through the year, and last year we might have seen more of that than usual. 2017 was a tough year for a lot of families and businesses.
The hurricane season was particularly destructive, with 17 named storms wiping out areas of the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and northern coastal regions.
In Northern California, we saw fires devastate the countryside. 42 people lost their lives and over 14,000 homes were destroyed.
Then came the horror in Las Vegas, as a crazed gunman fired on concertgoers from his perch at the Mandalay Bay Resort. My daughter works there, and I recall the sinking feeling I had when I heard the news. She wasn’t there at the time, but several of her friends were hurt that day.
These all seem like remote events when you’re not directly in the midst of the chaos. But that all changed for me on December 4th when the Thomas fire broke out in Ventura.
Fires aren’t unusual in Southern California. There’s lots of dry grassland that strikes pretty easily. Usually they’re contained quickly and last only a day or two. When this one started, I had no reason to believe it’d be any different. Boy was I wrong!
It’s a strange feeling when your power and water go out. Then, from a distance, we saw it coming: A red glow that grew brighter with each passing minute. The Santa Ana winds seemed to drive the fire north, away from us. We breathed a sigh of relief, only to find that a few hours later it was raging just 100 yards away. We were packed and ready to go, with just a few mementos and a suitcase. It was odd to think that it was very likely that if we left there’d be nothing to return to but at the time it didn’t matter much.
Then the wind shifted and it skirted past my home and right into the heart of Ventura. Five days later the fire still raged on, filling the air with unimaginable smoke; the town was decimated.
I share this story, not to highlight our tragedy over others this year, but rather to share my sense of gratitude for having come through with a renewed sense of what’s important.
I know several people whose homes are gone, yet they feel blessed that their families survived and they’re together, rebuilding their lives. This is the spirit I want to remember from 2017, and I might tap into it from time to time as a reminder.
Maybe you’ve been touched by some of the horrific events that took place this year. Or maybe you’ve struggled with another challenge that didn’t make the news. Either way, now’s the time to sit down, close your eyes, and consider where you’ve been… where you are now… and where you’d like to be this time next year. And it’s the time to consider what you can do to help get you there.
So, as we begin the new year, reflect on 2017 and think about the changes that could turn 2018 into a new beginning for you… your business… and your industry.
Some things, like hurricanes and wildfires, are beyond our control, but so many others are right there at your fingertips. Take the time now to decide how you’re going to make a difference, and let’s make this the best year ever… for all of us.