My colleague Ken Perlman offers an insightful perspective on the past year.
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This year, 2013, was the “year that wasn’t.” We didn’t have any of the transformational changes that marked years past.
- No Olympic Games
- No Presidential election
- No World Cup
- No Mars landing
- No parachute jumps from outer space
- No Gangnam Style bursting on the scene
- No Arab Spring*
- No major accomplishments from Congress
The “year that was” is actually marked by remarkable tragedies and heartbreaking injustices – some so powerful in size, scale, and duration that it is difficult even to comprehend. My list is too short and painful to be anywhere near complete. But at the top are things like:
- Oklahoma tornado
- Philippines flooding
- On-going civil war in Syria
- Boston Marathon bombing
- Loss of Nelson Mandela
- Rise of hate groups and discrimination around the world
- Inaction by political leaders in the US, and the world over
There were accomplishments and setbacks in politics (Obamacare, sequestration, marriage equality, gun control), but there wasn’t enough significant change in politics for it to be a source of inspiration. Sports failed to bring the world together, or to reassert our common view that we are more alike than we are different. Science didn’t create a single inspiring event or accomplishment that we could globally take pride in celebrating. There were many other things, big and small, that made this year un-inspirational. And there were too few things, too far between, that we could look to for inspiration.
Yet, 2013 may be one of greatest years ever.
No one was serving it up to us this year. We had to look more closely. We had to look for ourselves.
But we found it. And what we found matters. We found those small things that make us better people, better parents, better children, better neighbors. It reminded us of the individual things we can do to make our world better – and not wait for someone with more power, more control, more money, or more notoriety to do it for us.
Here is where we found it:
- In the Boston Marathon runners who after finishing running 26 miles ran to help injured spectators, or who ran 2 more miles to the nearest blood donation center to donate blood.
- In a humble Pope Francis whose small acts say more about the power of religion to actually bring us together than split us apart.**
- In seeing how people the world over react to injustice and violence a world away.
- In the young woman who resigned from what she describes as “an awesome company” in spectacular fashion to show that there is more to life than work.
- In the girl who rebounded from an assassination attempt by the Taliban to be nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
- In remembering the legacies of such globe-changing leaders as Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher.***
- In the enthusiastic participation of people of all shapes and sizes to expand the year’s two biggest Internet memes.
- In Batkid and the 15,000 volunteers who turned San Francisco into Gotham City and who enabled a kid with leukemia save us all.
We have found our own way this year. We no longer rely on politicians or Kardashians to do it for us. This year, we learned that if we are going to make the world better, it is our choice.
We can do it ourselves. And we can do it today. Now.
We make the difference for us, our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our world. Our impact is only limited by the scope, focus, and passion we chose to bring to it.
Here’s a thank you to 2013. Here’s a look ahead to 2014. How great a year that will be? It is entirely up to us. May it be our greatest year ever.
* The Arab Spring is still going on, but has evolved from inspirational uprising to civil war.
** No, I’m not Catholic.
*** While many disagreed with her policies, her impact on the world is significant.
Ken Perlman is an engagement leader at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. Follow Kotter International on Twitter @KotterIntl, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. Sign up for the Kotter International Newsletter.