Sailing into 2021

You can choose to adopt a hopeful outlook for the year ahead

I am not a big fan of winter. Short, cold days don’t do it for me. I am OK with snow during the holidays, but by the time February comes around, I have had enough.

Yet I am warmed by the greetings I receive during the winter and especially around the holidays. I am sure you receive some, too. Many folks insert a letter with a card telling me about their year and family, and it’s often a great way to feel connected. My friends Dick and Judy Seaman sent a letter to me, and I thought it was worthy of sharing. Dick is chairman of Seaman Corp., the manufacturer of FiberTite® Roofing Systems.

Here is what they wrote:

    “The pessimist complains about the wind.
    The optimist expects it to change.
    The leader adjusts the sails.

    —John Maxwell, author and leadership coach

“During 2020, we have all faced unprecedented headwinds. We began the year alarmed by the damaging wildfires in Australia that later befell the western part of our own country. We experienced a record season for tropical storms that extended into November.

“All of this was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected all of our lives since March. It has impacted our economic lives, our family lives and our personal lives. We made significant economic and personal sacrifices to help ‘flatten the curve’ last spring only to have the virus return with a vengeance this fall.

“In the midst of it all, we have had one of the most challenging political environments of our lifetimes—where even wearing a mask in the middle of a contagious pandemic has been politicized. And we finish 2020 with a continuing chaotic and disputed presidential election.

“With headwinds like these, how can we be an optimist—let alone find a way to adjust our sails?

“But if we look around, we find leaders everywhere have been ‘adjusting sails.’ Much of this adjustment is the result of the creative innovation that is a unique part of our culture. Businesses of all sizes have adjusted their sails to provide creative options in product and service. For example, restaurants are utilizing digital platforms to expand their businesses through take-out and delivery. These innovations and the work-from-home options are made possible by technology platforms that have been developed over the past decade.

“Technology infrastructure like Zoom for meetings, Amazon for delivery, Netflix for entertainment and DoorDash for delivery have provided the tools to help all of us adjust our sails, whether for our jobs, our children’s education, our personal entertainment or the continuing connectivity to our families. These readily available software applications have been critical for keeping our economy up and running and offering some joy to our personal and family lives.

“One of the most remarkable technology developments of the past two decades is the Human Genome Project (HGP), which identified the DNA sequencing of the human cell. It is worthy to note that the initial funding for the HGP began in 1987 under the Reagan administration and continued until its completion in 2003, shepherded by the National Institutes of Health through several presidential administrations.

“The significance of this work plays a key role in the international efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus. The DNA sequence of the virus was available to the international community within weeks of the virus’ discovery in humans. Several pharmaceutical companies immediately began the vaccine development process. Since the virus was well defined by its DNA sequence, these companies were able to use a laser-like approach to the vaccine development. This is the primary reason we are seeing the very promising efficacy.

“This HGP technology platform represents an unprecedented international accomplishment. This technology will allow future vaccine candidates for nearly any infectious disease to be produced far more quickly and effectively because of this unique platform for formulation, purification and production.

“Our culture of innovation, our optimism and our faith in the future encourage us to adjust our sails as we navigate through these turbulent times of 2020, confident that in the not-too-distant future, calming seas are on the horizon.

“Recently our 9-year-old granddaughter, Sophie, gave Judy and me a gift with the following inscription:

    Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.
    It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

    —Vivian Greene, British author

“As she handed it to us, she remarked that she thought it was very appropriate for the way we choose to live life during this pandemic. As we celebrate these holidays and approach the New Year, may we all share the innocence, the joy and the wisdom of a 9-year-old.”

There is a lot to unpack in this letter but no need for me to do it for you. As we begin another year, I found this to be a terrific and optimistic reminder of what the future is likely to be. Happy sailing.

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.

This column is part of News + Views. Click here to read additional stories from this section.


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