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20/20 insights for the year 2020: It’s all about resilience and humility

A man takes a picture near the 2020 sign board in the main business district on New Year’s Eve in Jakarta, Indonesia, late Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Tens of thousands of revelers in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta were soaked by torrential rains as they waited for New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Tatan Syuflana, Associated Press

The old adage, “hindsight is 20/20” should be applied as we attempt to gain some hindsight from the year 2020. What I saw in the year that was is contained in the power of resilience and the importance of humility.

The dictionary experts declared “pandemic” as the word of the year for 2020. I disagree. Resilience should be the word of the year. I have observed resilience in countless forms during not just pandemic, but fires, floods, earthquakes, economic upheaval and civil strife. Human beings have an uncanny ability to bounce back.

I often share a quote attributed to Gen. George Patton: “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” What you do when you fail, stumble or struggle is the best measurement for success.

The world is heralding the genius and innovation of scientists and researchers in developing and producing a new vaccine to combat COVID-19. In record time the science, testing, clinical trials and approvals were completed. The unrecognized component to this achievement is the resilience of the individuals and organizations that made it possible.

I have been unable to find a single story about how many failures individual researchers and scientists had before finding success with an effective vaccine. As the hundreds of millions of doses are distributed around the world, it is worth noting and celebrating the countless failures that ultimately led to this achievement and hope for the world.

Remember, as a novel coronavirus, there was no real pattern to work from. Research had to be done, processes had to be accelerated and numerous hurdles had to be overcome.

I also saw resilience in individuals and neighborhoods as people just continued to bounce back and bounce forward. It was breathtaking to see human beings come together to serve, share, lift and strengthen those that were in need.

No commentary on resilience would be complete without mentioning the front-line health care workers. Even today, they continue to step into harm’s way on a daily basis to provide care and comfort, hope and healing for the sick and suffering. And after they have completed exhausting and extended shifts, they race home to take care of their own loved ones, then they bounce, or drag themselves, out of bed the next morning and do it again.

One of my favorite stories of an attitude of resilience is of an old farmer who lived out in the middle of nowhere. On the front porch of that old farmhouse, hanging from a rusty nail was a sign that said much about the farmer who had lived there for 75 years and the value of resilience. The sign read: “Burned out by drought, drowned out by flood, ate out by jack rabbits, sold out by sheriff — STILL HERE!”

Looking back over the challenges of 2020, resilience brought us through — even through great loss — including the loss of loved ones, incomes, physical connection, businesses and more.

Many of have suggested that 2020 was the year very successful countries and people got humbled by a pandemic. Humility is an essential quality

Humility creates space for curiosity, creativity and cooperation.

Albert Einstein posited that the more you know, the more humble you actually become. Socrates was quoted to say, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

The interesting thing about recognizing that you don’t have all the answers is that it makes you curious — curious enough to engage and explore new learning. Humble curiosity causes you to lean-in and listen differently in conversations.

Humility also creates space for creativity. I recently interviewed Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel, about the incredible success of their joint venture with Dallas Jenkins, director of “The Chosen.” I was fascinated that humility played a significant role in the venture ever happening.

Harmon shared with me that while VidAngel was racked with setbacks and struggles with its model, they met with Jenkins. Jenkins was on the rise as a star director until what he thought would be a career-rocketing film flopped. Harmon told me the fact that both sides were reeling from humiliating setbacks and challenges was the reason they were able to come together. Absent those humbling moments, there never would have even been a reason for the two groups to connect or explore working together.

Born of that humility, their creativity swelled and their cooperation leveraged the results. “The Chosen” is the first multiseason television series about the life of Christ, as witnessed through the eyes of those he impacted. It has grown to become the largest crowdfunded TV series of all time and has been viewed more than 65 million times in 180 countries.

Harmon told me, “We underestimate our ability to do the very best we can in the place that God has put us in our lives, to actually change the culture around us.”

“The Chosen” not only is a testament of the space humility creates for curiosity and creativity, it is the epitome of cooperation and collaboration. “The Chosen” may be the most significant project that brings together evangelical Christians of all traditions, a Jewish rabbi, Catholics and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All have cooperated, collaborated and creatively contributed to the success of the series. Season 2 was filmed in Utah on the “Goshen Set,” owned by the Church of Jesus Christ headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The “Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden, was perhaps the greatest college basketball coach ever. Wooden won 10 national championships in 12 years, including seven in a row. If ever there was someone who may have earned a pass for some well-earned pride, it was Wooden. But he was the essence of humility. Forever curious. Forever learning. Forever teaching. Forever bringing gifted athletes together in a spirit of creativity and cooperation. He taught his players, “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be thankful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Confucius was said to have taught, “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

Resilience will provide energy, strength and hope in the midst of dark days. Humility will create space in our homes, neighborhoods and countries for curiosity, creativity and cooperation. Such space will be desperately needed to tackle the difficult issues of such trying times in the world.

In hindsight I can clearly see that resilience and humility were going to be vital virtues for 2020. Hopefully we can apply the 20/20 hindsight of 2020 as we march into the opportunities and challenges awaiting in 2021.