2020 in Hindsight: Navigating Rapid Change

There’s a saying that hindsight is always 20/20 – and who doesn’t want to see 2020 in the rearview mirror?

Despite what might be a strong desire to pretend 2020 was an anomaly and worthy of saying goodbye to, it’s important to identify, focus on and solve our immediate challenges while we keep building towards the long-term goal. The Earth-changing events we have experienced this year may have a deep impact and influence particularly in the moment; however, when we look back, they should just be blips on the radar of our journey.

Yes, we need to understand how and why these events influence our past performances; we should also understand how our reactions to these events may have led to a particular outcome, but that outcome doesn’t need to be viewed as a success or failure. Rather than dwell on the dread of a difficult past or present, we must learn and absorb the lessons and apply what we’ve learned to the course of action ahead.

Learning the Lesson

The concept of having 20/20 vision when reflecting on previous events shouldn’t be about dwelling on what went right or wrong, but rather about the hows and whys that got us there and applying these truths to what still lies ahead.

Sure, 2020 is a bit out there from what we might think of as a normal teaching moment situation. It’s easier to react and to build mental muscle memory when we face more common everyday types of micro-challenges. These smaller challenges may be painful in the moment, but in retrospect they’re generally just short disruptions. We eventually figure out how to adapt, resolve and overcome these smaller events without disrupting the big-picture because they don’t, or at least shouldn’t, distract us as much as a bigger problem. We ought to just act according to our personal philosophy or business principles and keep going.

It’s the extreme cases that truly test our fortitude because it feels bigger. But if we maintain the focus on our mission, vision and values when the challenge is amplified, the big tests we deal with should fall in line just like any other challenge. Being retrospective about any business hurdle we’ve jumped over shouldn’t be an exercise in regret, but each event should remind us that we kept moving toward the same objective regardless of how high that hurdle actually was.

Moving Forward

Trust the instinct. Your gut reaction isn’t just a guess because it’s actually tied to the principles within. So keep going. Gather research, adopt a new technology or use some previous 20/20 vision to apply something tried and true in a different way, but always keep going.

Focusing on our core values and our long-term objectives regardless of the obstacles we might need to address in the moment reduces the need to wonder later if some action we took (or decided not to take) was really the right thing. There becomes less need for overanalyzing a previous event if everything we did up to that point was according to a set of ideals. In short, stick to the big picture objective while letting some of the plan evolve.

There is much yet to learn from a year that most of us hope is truly a one- and-done anomaly. From pandemics to politics, super-charged emotions have fueled a bit of a “let’s hold our collective breath until 2021” mentality. No matter which way we look, or where we turn, it might feel like there’s no escape from the uncertainty. Again, that’s when it’s so important to keep going.

The Road Ahead

The thing is, at the time I’m writing this, 2020 isn’t over yet and if we keep holding our breath, our challenges will get exponentially more difficult to overcome. We as individuals and as businesses must continue to act, to build and to grow. Regardless of what we face and how we face it, there’s really never any time like the present. This IS in fact the time to let the plan evolve, accommodate rapid change, try new things, launch that new product or service or do whatever it takes to hit your objective – as long as the data and your instinct tell you it’s right.

There will be plenty of time to analyze and overanalyze 2020, but it should happen sometime in the undisclosed future. We should focus on the now and the first step in front of us — with an eye on the future we want to shape for ourselves as individuals and organizations. Sometime, in that nebulous future, when we take the time to look back, we want our hindsight to be crystal clear – that despite every challenge we faced, we did everything we possibly could to keep moving forward.


“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. We walk around all our lives thinking about things that will never happen. We worry, dread, and fear what hasn’t happened and what probably never will.”
-Mark Twain