Change Was Inevitable This Past Year – Growth Was Optional
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

This past year has been a year of rapid, and at times painful, change. So much of what we once knew seemed to be swept away. Our personal and professional lives were significantly altered. As we pass through the pandemic, we can begin to assess what has changed and how we have responded. We can also choose to grow from this experience. It may be the most challenging part of living through and beyond this crisis.

We have all been changed. I am confident this is true. No one I know can claim that the past year has had no impact on them. The critical question I have begun to ask myself and others is what growth has occurred over the last year? Even in the worst crisis, there is learning and development to be had.

What have you learned from this past year?

For me, I have seen tremendous change and much growth during specific periods of my life. This year has been one of the most challenging of my entire life. I can think of only two experiences rivaling it. The most difficult year of my life was when my daughter was diagnosed with a rare childhood disease and began chemotherapy treatments. Thankfully, she is a healthy and wonderful twenty-something today. This remains the most significant answer to my prayers in my entire life, and I count my blessings each day for this miracle. That year changed me. I became more resilient, gentle, forgiving, faithful, and interdependent with others. Friends, family, and colleagues loved and supported my family and me. Community was no longer an abstract concept to me. I felt it. It saved me and my family. I was forever changed and became a better person because of it.

Another challenging year for me was my first year at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In different ways, it changed me profoundly. I was successful in a small high school in a small town in Nebraska. I was given an amazing opportunity to go to one of the finest leadership schools in the world. Just being there and remembering its prior graduates left me in awe. How was I going to survive, much less thrive, at such a place? It took every fiber of my being to make it through that first year. That year, I learned to continue when I thought I could not take another step. I survived on little sleep, under tremendous stress, and found a way to do well academically. I learned just how vital teams – and teammates – were to success. And, one of the most lasting lessons was the value of integrity and building trust. My foundation as a leader was established that year, and I am so grateful for that. This coming November, I will join my classmates and celebrate 35 years since our graduation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been another one of those life-changing events for me. I am just beginning to capture the lessons I learned and how I have changed. I know for sure that the world around me has changed rapidly and will not return to what it once was. I am now a different person. I have shared some of these findings in my weekly thoughts and messages. I plan to share more.

For now, I can say that I have already realized some crucial areas of growth in my life. One, for sure, has been my renewed sense of being fully present in each moment. I love to create the future. I do believe we can accept what is occurring, or we can influence it profoundly. I choose to seek to influence the future and help create what it will be. However, in doing so, I can miss the present moment. This year has reminded me that I only get this moment – every other potential moment is not guaranteed. I must seize this moment – or it is gone! COVID has taken many things from us. However, it gave me a sense of perspective and urgency to live each moment more fully and not rush to the next one.

What will you take away from this very challenging year that makes you a better person?

Take some time to answer this for yourself. It will help you makes sense of your life and what is next. It is vital to spend time learning from your experiences. When we learn in all situations, including our most difficult circumstances, we gain a sense of balance in the new life we now are called to live. Failing to grow is a choice, as is embracing growth. Choose growth.

And remember, Carpe Diem. Seize this moment!