By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO.

Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face”. I think that about sums up 2020 for many. Sometimes plans go sideways and I’m gonna get a little personal. In 1987, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack and I found him later that day. In 2002, our second daughter was surprisingly born with Down syndrome two months after my long-term company (WorldCom) notoriously went bankrupt. Up in smoke went seven-figures in stock options and I was subsequently impacted by a massive company RIF a couple of months after that. After a complete career shift in launching GM Ryan 15 years ago in 2006, I was struggling to build momentum as an entrepreneur of my own small company. The level of risk I had assumed was pretty much everything, I had no safety net, but I did have a mortgage, wife and three young daughters counting on me. It was the most stressful time of my life. And in 2009, after I had broken through and was building success, the great recession threatened to crush my business and finances again. 

But 2020? WTF was that? A pretty big punch in the face repeated with more punches for good measure. Lives lost, businesses lost, emotional toll and stress at unprecedented levels for hundreds of millions of people across the globe, racial injustices, political leadership disgraces, relationship strains in many forms, and all kinds of negative macro and personal ripple effects that nobody can see. No Tony Robbins spin – 2020 was really fricken bad for a lot of individuals, families, businesses, and more.  

Ok, so I’m stating the obvious with all the negatives and certainly some businesses actually benefited from the economic conditions, some people got to know their kids again working from home and not on the road, we all value mental health that much more, and we all might be a little or a lot more empathetic towards one another now. I’m sure there are other positives for some (I did shoot my first 74 ever in golf in 2020 so it wasn’t all bad!).

Important lessons are often best learned through times of significant struggle……adversity reveals character……rough seas make skillful sailors, and many other cliche yet accurate expressions, right? I learned resilience when my father passed and motivation to emulate his character and accomplishments which has never left my mind. I also had the support of those carefully placed in my path and learned the value of true loving relationships. Having a child born with special needs went from thoughts of uncertainty and burden to the greatest privilege and gift I’ve ever known. There is nobody I’ve learned more from than my now 18-year-old daughter, Devin. The challenging career setbacks sharpened my skills and pushed me to get better, and to bet on myself. The financial setbacks motivated me to be even more resolute in my desire to achieve what I had lost and take calculated risks to accomplish even more towards financial freedom. And I can’t help but believe there must be some big lessons to take out of 2020. I don’t know what they are just yet and I know it’s sometimes hard to see in dark times. Part of the way to the light is a personal process to take inventory of what we have vs. what we don’t, and to make a plan to achieve what we want personally, financially, and spiritually. It’s time for a new plan after getting hit in the face. We need to be ready.

The sun WILL come out again. This season of life WILL pass. We need to be ready. I’ll admit 2020 took the wind out of me at different times, but I’m devising new plans and confident about the future. We (yes “we”) cannot let circumstances prevent us from achieving what we want for our families, personal goals, and mental health. When you’re going through hell, keep going! No matter how rough last year was for you, know massive opportunity and positive change is waiting for you if you’re prepared for it. And if you had a good or even great 2020 personally or professionally then that’s awesome…but go easy on your neighbor and practice gratitude in your life. 

What will “normal” look like for you when normal does return? Make a plan, actualize what you want in life, and get back on the road you want to be on. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Here’s to a truly happy new year!