As an avid planner, I plan most of my day, week, month, and year well in advance. It’s part of the God-given skill-set of long-term strategic planners. I can’t help it. My paper calendar precedes entries on my digital calendar, and almost every waking minute is accounted for, even if it’s just for planning or rest.
2020 started very similarly. I took a few days to debrief the outgoing year. I assessed what went well, expressed gratitude for milestones, considered what could have been done better, and noted goals that I and my company, the Vicar Group, LLC, were positioning for. Along with planning, I decreed the banner word for the year. This is a tradition that is not done lightly or casually but with great contemplation and reflection. This word was to be the flag, the banner, under which all my activities for the year would fall. The banner word would serve as the standard and guidon for the year.
As 2020 approached, I decreed the banner word of the year for the Vicar Group, LLC, and for me personally, would be “Launch.” I would like to say that the heavens opened up, and angels descended, proceeded by trumpet blasts, and unfurled scrolls with the word “launch” and specific instructions. That did not happen. The word came as a quiet but powerful thought and intention that reverberated deeply within me as I penned it by hand in my notebook.
As is the norm for me, I set out to research the word, to define it in its entirety, its complexity, and its simplicity- with synonyms and contextual uses. That search lead me to explore the requirements for launch- as in a rocket launch. I found that “The Year of the Launch,” as I coined it, was not just for me and the Vicar Group, LLC. Our nation was in the midst of its Launch America campaign.
My research for “launch” was replete with references from NASA, SpaceX, Elon Musk, and details that, generally, I would have had no in-depth knowledge. I studied payloads, trajectory, and gleaned principles for launching rockets while making applicable business and life references. The concept of launch, when examined closely, applied to launching an organization, a new division, a friendship, a family- just about anything in life. I followed NASA and SpaceX attentively noting the nuances of their history-making launch while gleaning wisdom for my endeavors.
In February 2020, COVID-19 hit globally, and our collective way of life changed in an instant. Our lives as we knew them came to a grinding halt. It was like watching a massive multicar pileup on the interstate and trying to avoid it all. How could this be? Surely this would terminate “The Year of the Launch.” It didn’t. It accelerated it.
I went about encouraging everyone I could that this was a time replete with opportunity for growth and expansion. Improvise, adapt, and overcome, which was ingrained in me during my time in the United States Marine Corps, took on new, fiery, and vibrant meaning. I told my teams, boards, and those I consult for that there was significant opportunity before us despite what was happening around us. Yes, we were distanced from family, friends, and colleagues. In some cases, we mourned the loss of those close to us. However, we had the opportunity to pick up the baton and run on for them as part of their legacy.
Opportunity was everywhere. Suddenly every meeting that I previously had to decline due to location in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, and worldwide was now virtual. Meetings and conferences were a Zoom call away. I could meet with teams, panels, and experts virtually, and not be the exception in my telepresence usage, but the rule. It was all at hand. The teleworking option that I rolled out in beta for my company, IDRA the Agency, in 2010 was now an expectation in 2020. The world that I had to convince that teleworking was viable in 2010 was now scrambling and asking me for best practices in 2020.
I launched from my Emerald Coast Pied-e-tierre replete with every luxury imaginable into a beautiful executive property. I launched into a renewed commitment to purposeful rest and work-life balance while encouraging others to do the same. Seeing egregious, unethical behavior in one place, launched and positioned me to share my experiences and be a part of positive change in another. I was in the throws of the exhilaration of launch, living out the possibilities and charting into new and strategically targeted territory. I strategically partnered with federal agencies in defense and intelligence on missions that ran congruent to mine. Vicar Group, LLC launched a digital magazine to bring knowledge and information to our constituents. We conceptualized a television show, to bring the topics I am passionate about to life in another medium. I expanded our company’s training menu from 25 titles to include 127 titles in Spanish and English. I, and my company, Vicar Group, LLC, entered into a publishing agreement that made it easier for us to distribute content in different formats, including ebook, audio, and paperback. The first of the titles, Marketing Basics: Strategies & Tools to Help You Reach Your Target Market, was launched to celebratory reviews. It was the year of the launch for me in every way.
In my research of shuttle launches, I learned that there comes a point when you are longer fighting against the earth’s atmosphere. You break free of its weight, constraints, and its limitations, and you soar, unrestrained, unresisted, and beyond the reach of the earth’s baseline- moving, living, being above it all. I felt that I, in many ways, was moving into that place.
Little did I know that when I followed NASA, SpaceX, and astronauts Doug and Bob on their journey, that the very rocket that I cheered as it launched into orbit, would later land a few miles away from me on my favorite beach getaway, Perdido Beach, as I was anxiously awaiting and watching for a successful return and completed mission. On the day that I began drafting this piece, SpaceX was in the middle of another historic launch of four American astronauts aboard the Dragon to the International Space Station. Coincidence? I’m of the opinion that there are none.
I believe that there is a set time for everything. Despite the chaos, uncertainty, and tragedy of 2020, I know that I, and many of you, are in of immense opportunity. Regardless of the circumstances- no matter how it looks or is packaged – there is opportunity before us.
We don’t know what the new year holds, but good is cloaked within the klipah, the shell, of obstacles and adversity. Trust that all of heaven and earth is conspiring on your behalf to make all things work together for good.
What will be the banner word for your new year? What does the flag of your year read? Is it hope and optimism or doubt and fear? Is it anxiety and depression or peace and love? You choose. I hope that you can find optimism in what I’ve shared and can prayerfully chart your own path to a year filled with hope, positivity, and successes in the new year.
Originally Published on December 30, 2020