A lot of people like to make cheap jokes about 2020.  A trend is to refer to it as the “year that shall not be mentioned.” Clearly, 2020 was a lousy year globally and personally for many people, but should we be pretending like it never happened?

(To save time, I will skip over the topic of how it is lazy humor to mock 2020.  Think of it as poking fun at the Detroit Lions or Cleveland, Ohio.  Too easy.  If you want to show us a sense of humor, put in a little effort).

But, back to the year 2020 and why I’m not going to completely write it off.

Adam Sandler.

Back in 2006, Adam Sandler produced and starred in the movie “Click.” In the movie, Sandler played a stressed, time-stretched workaholic architect and family man.  He lived in the suburbs with his wife and two children.  Sandler’s character faced all the typical time pressures we can all relate to in life.  Until he goes to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and is given a magical remote control by a Godlike figure played by Christopher Wilken.  (The movie also includes Henry Winkler and a fully clothed David Hasselhoff).

The universal remote control allows him to fast forward through things he wishes he could skip.  At first, it is household chores, but then he starts skipping other things that help him get past the boring things to move on to the more important.  As the movie moves along, he starts skipping things he enjoys about life to get to things that seem more important at that moment in time.

When he fast forwards through something, the remote control learns from the moment, and the next time he is doing the previously skipped event, it skips again.  Great when you’re doing a household chore by yourself.  Not great when it involves time with your child and wife. Sandler’s character finds himself sorry for trying to fast forward through life.  He even misses some of the things he once dreaded.  By fast-forwarding, he missed out on experiencing life.

In 2020 we had a pandemic, and of course, it didn’t go away when the year ended.

In 2020 we had a lot of civil unrest, and it seems to be growing in the new year.

In 2020 we had a divisive election, and of course, the divisiveness didn’t go away when the election was over.

We shouldn’t expect the pandemic to end because the calendar flipped.  Political and civil unrest didn’t start in 2020, so we shouldn’t expect them to end in 2021.

2020 also brought a lot of other sad and disappointing events in our personal lives.  When they happened, people tended to say things like “what would you expect in 2020,” or “what a 2020 thing to have happened.” I lost one of my best friends in 2020.  In three weeks, I had to pick up the phone and call 3 different friends about their dad’s death.  People lost their jobs.

For many, 2020 was the worst year of their lives.  Hopefully, it is a long time before we have another year like 2020.  But before we wish we could have just hit fast forward and skipped 2020, let me share a few things.

Less travel and time commuting meant more time at home.  I spent about 50 more nights in my own bed this year.  I found out my wife can stand to have me around full time.  For some reason, the more time I spend with her, the more she likes it.  So much for thinking; she needs a break from me.

2020 also meant more time with friends because I wasn’t always leaving to go somewhere or rushing to the next event.   I can honestly say I have better friendships than a year ago.  Why?  Because I slowed down my life.

I have better relationships with coworkers.  As we all talked about how the world was falling apart, I stopped to ask the people I work around how they were doing.  They stopped to talk to me about life.  I got to know them better, and as we all know, relationships grow when you invest time in them.

Less rushing and a slower-paced life mean more time with loved ones and less time with strangers.

If life slows down any more, I will have to start playing with the dog!

The cliché is, “once things got started, they snowballed out of control.” For me, 2020 showed me the opposite can be true.  Once you stop and take time for people, you make better connections with people. In 2020 things slow down and one thing led to another and my life starts to snowball into control.

My family’s 2020 had lots of positive events, but I’m not going to make this into a Christmas letter. I’m sure when most people stop and reflect on 2020, they can find plenty of happy events.

I’m not asking you to declare 2020 as the year of the century.  I am asking you to resist dwelling on the negative and writing off the entire year.  Don’t need to click through or skip over an entire year.  Everybody is making easy jokes about 2020. You can be the person who leads by learning from your life during a pandemic.

Happy 2021.