In just a few words, 2020 was wild, unpredictable, and exhausting. We all thought the chaos of COVID-19 would only last a few weeks or months, but we’re going to be facing it for well over a year. It has been an overwhelming time navigating a global pandemic while also riding the countless highs and lows that have felt more extreme this year than ever: we’ve felt the loneliness of isolation and lockdown, some people have lost their jobs, businesses have closed, and tragedies have happened all over the world. We’re in the final stretch of this long and arduous year, and there were surprises at every turn, but despite that, we’ve made it here.

Looking back, how did you make the most of this tough year? What are you looking forward to in 2021? I’ve reflected on 2020, looked at some of the wins and losses, and considered how this year forced me to see things differently.


Challenges We Faced

The world faced several unbelievable surprises in 2020. COVID-19 cases rapidly increased worldwide, and here in the US, we’ve experienced surges on surges and must accept that it ain’t over until it’s over. Thankfully, vaccines have started to ship, but we must take care of our frontline healthcare workers and at-risk citizens first, and the rest of us will have to wait until sometime in the first half of 2021 to get it (fingers crossed).

Aside from the pandemic, the world also suffered natural tragedies such as the Australian bushfires, the West Coast wildfires, and flash floods and volcanic eruptions happening in many countries. Financial crises had us carefully monitoring all of the ups and downs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plunging and recovering throughout this crazy time and oil prices reaching a record low. We’ve experienced uncertain political times with President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings, having the world on edge during the awful campaign, and global protests breaking out in support of BLM. Adding onto the long list of surprises this year, some of our generation’s major icons passed away, murder hornets arrived in the US, it felt like sometimes we were on the verge of World War III, and much more happening all around the world.

For many of these problems, a lot turned around dramatically. The economy has been coming back with stock markets rising including some record-value IPOs, our incredible healthcare industry quickly developed a vaccine for COVID-19, and the US and Canada distributed stimulus packages to help individuals and businesses. Another stimulus package is being discussed, and it will be necessary for taking care of the people and businesses that are having a hard time. The hospitality industry is still struggling with the effects of the pandemic, so it’s our job to support our local economies. It’s worth recognizing that we got through all of those hardships, but we also have to keep in mind there’s still more ahead.

It’s been a tough year to stay focused and keep spirits up, but the world kept turning, and everything had to continue. We’ve all had to help each other get through this one way or another. For business leaders, it became more important than ever for everyone to communicate with their executives and leadership team, and then also overcommunicate with employees and customers. Board members had to come together to create emergency strategies and explore new ways to get business done

Zoom became essential to stay connected and meet casually and professionally. While communicating virtually is nothing new, now it’s the only way to survive. Companies that pivoted quickly and started focusing their efforts online have a tremendous amount to be proud of not only from a business standpoint but also as they provided essential services to customers worldwide. I admire how everyone has figured out the online world quickly and how it’s kept everyone connected. I virtually co-taught a class at the University of Washington, continued to invest in good ideas, and adapted to this ‘new normal.’

Life has truly changed forever. There were global challenges that affected us all, but we all also experienced a different version of 2020 and came out on the other side.


Unexpected Opportunities

Despite all of the difficulties and the trying time that we’re in, it’s been a great year. Consider all of the challenges, approach them from a new perspective, and let’s look at some things that went right.

Speaking to COVID-19, developing a vaccine for this disease so quickly has been a bit of a miracle. These brilliant people have figured out a cure that’s been released to the world! Vaccine development typically takes 5–6 years, but it’s been a great effort, and daily living will change drastically. Leading up to the vaccine, people got creative in all kinds of ways while staying home, we managed to stay positive for the most part, and people of all ages have beat COVID-19—including this 103-year-old great-great-grandmother. Pandemic aside, Americans and people of other nations celebrated Biden’s win, and Canada saw one of their largest software deals to date when Nasdaq bought Verafin—by far the largest technology deal in Atlantic Canadian history! For Canada, the whole country benefits from a massive success like this.

Throughout COVID-19 and the challenges that 2020 threw our way, businesses everywhere rallied to help one another, major companies shifted to support in creating products to fight the pandemic, and we learned just how resilient we all are. Loss after loss, we kept getting back up and pushing for some big wins.


Owning It

As I’ve mentioned before, the most important thing to do this year is own it. We’ve been living through this pandemic since March, and a lot of progress has been made in the economy and tech industry. 2020 wasn’t easy to navigate, but in the end, we have to appreciate all of the lessons we’ve learned and the strength that it forced us to have. All of your hard work has paid off, and you should be proud of what you have accomplished this year.

Don’t stop now, though! We’ve come this far and have done amazingly well, so keep grinding. All around the globe, we’re just ending the first half now and taking a short pause in the locker room. We’re down by a touchdown, and we’ve got to come back in the second half to win this thing. Now that we’ve figured out the plays, we have to do better than we did in the first half.

To make this year worth it, you have to accept all of the failures that came, learn from them, and embrace them. That failed business could spark something better, pitching your idea to someone across the world could help you find success, a quick Zoom call might link you up with a key connection, or your unfortunate job loss could lead to a new fulfilling career. Take smart risks and go all-in with new opportunities in 2021.


Although everything won’t change as soon as the ball drops for the New Year, we can all look forward to closing the long chapter of 2020. Continue taking every day as a new day, celebrating all of the successes, and keeping your head up during all of the difficult moments. Here’s to more wins in 2021, staying safe, and moving onward and upward to better things!

My door is always open (even if it’s just to my Zoom room) to chat about big ideas, so let me know if you’ve got any in mind.

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