2009: Year of Nothing


Happy New Year everybody. Time to usher in a new year...with new hopes, dreams and expectations of a year that can't really be worse than 2009. Can it? It's time to close the book on arguably one of the most frustrating, draining and demoralizing years in our professional lifetimes.

Yes, I know. It's still mid-November, but I'm pretty sure I speak on behalf of the majority of us who can't wait to slam the door shut on 2009. If '09 were associated with a color, it would probably have been associated with pink -- as in pink slip. It was a year that many, many people lost their jobs. If that doesn't include you (consider yourself fortunate), it probably affects someone you know.

2009 was a year that witnessed entire companies wiped off the face of the Earth; it was a year when media stalwarts faltered, stumbled and even careened headfirst into the dust; it was a year in which even billion-dollar bailouts couldn't motivate banks and financial institutions to incentivize and reward the backbones of this great nation: small business owners and entrepreneurs.
While many of us would like to wave a wand and wish this year away, it's probably not a bad idea to pause for a moment and take stock of the year that was...or perhaps I should say, the year that wasn't.

When all is said and done, what did you accomplish this year? What did you achieve? Did you venture out of your comfort zone or did you recoil into your shell and hide from the storm? How did you gauge success? Was it the ability to avoid Armageddon (as WPP's Martin Sorrell put it) or the ability to preserve status quo?

I've always liked the analogy of change and innovation as a treadmill or a conveyer belt, where the speed and the backwards direction of the belt represent the inevitable passage of time and progress. Standing still results in a pretty obvious outcome. Less obvious is what happens when the march forward is at the exact rate of the belt itself, yielding a net result of nothing. In fact, the only positive outcome is when movement is greater than that of the speed of the belt.

So how did you fare on the belt? Are you hitting your stride as you power forward or are you nursing a bruise on your rear end?

If the latter is the case, the good news is that it's not too late. Not too late to make the most of the final few weeks of the year and certainly not too late to hit the ground running in 2010. You can still make a concerted effort to make a difference. No more operating on the back foot.

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