December 30, 2019 11:00 AM
“The best time to
plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second
best time is today.” – Chinese proverb.
This focus this week is ringing in a new year, as well as a
new decade. The beginning of a new
decade helps us to put a lot of this “new year, new you” talk into
New year resolutions are frighteningly common, and commonly
ignored just days into the “fresh start”.
Days become a month, months become a year, and we’re right back where we
started from – too often doing the same things, over and over.
When the years become a decade, the changes that occurred
while doing those seemingly same things come into better focus. Ten years ago we were just beginning to dig
out from the housing and financial crisis.
Twenty years ago we were focused on something called “Y2K”. Thirty years ago we sent troops to Kuwait for
a conflict not yet totally resolved.
Forty Years ago the Reagan Revolution was being launched. Fifty years ago we had just put men on the
For me personally, the decades have had their share of ups
and downs. I can’t recall the six months
I spent in the sixties. The seventies
got me almost through elementary school.
The eighties began in 6th grade and ended with a college
degree, as I spent the last week of 1989 trying to get a sign off on my final
college paper. The nineties were mostly
spent as a banker, getting a master’s degree, and not proposing. Twice.
The millennium began with me as a highly leveraged homebuilder,
and in the first decade I made a couple of million dollars before losing about
four of it. This decade began with me
linking my online blogging identity to my actual name, and is ending with a
syndicated column, the ability to work on issues that affect our state, and a relative
level of financial security that seemed impossible ten years ago.
While we focus on the beginning of the new year as a date to
“do better”, the truth is the date is an arbitrary point on the calendar. It’s rare that the day becomes one of
consequence in our personal lives or clearly defines the move from one era to
While it’s easy to view broad trends of current events or
our personal lives in decades, the events and progress are measured in days and
even hours. There are days where the
struggle is just getting to the end of it.
At the end of the last decade and for the first few years of this one
that was a daily struggle for me. Some
of you may feel that way now.
The first rule is to survive the day. When you find that too many days in a row are
like that, something has to change.
I wasted too much time feeling sorry for myself and just
getting through the days to make a lot of the changes that I knew needed to be
made. I don’t get those days back. In hindsight, there were a few years there
that were largely but unnecessarily a “character building experience”.
Figuring out what’s next is never easy. In my case, there was a lot of trial and
error. Trying, even if not immediately
successful, is always better than wallowing or acquiescing into a mere
existence that is a daily grind.
There will be new failures on the way to your future
success. That’s OK.
We don’t get do-overs in life. But last year, and the last decade, are now a
things of the past.
If you’re not currently sitting under the tree that you had
hoped you would be by now, find the strength and courage you need to plant the
next one. Then water it every day. Happy
new year to you and yours.