Tim Elmore’s Favorite Things from 2020

By: Tim Elmore

Each year, I usually post a list of my favorite books I’ve read the previous 12 months. This year, I am going to mix it up and go wider. Below, I have listed “a few of my favorite things,” (thank you Julie Andrews) thinking this might stimulate your mind and imagination. No doubt, 2020 was a strange and difficult year for most people around the world, so I want to call your attention to some of the good things I’ve experienced this year. Enjoy.

Two of My Favorite Books I Have Read This Year

  1. Think Like a Monk. Upon his college graduation, Jay Shetty surprised his parents by choosing not to enter corporate life but instead to become a monk. For two years, Jay lived in India, practicing the disciplines of focus, sleeping on the floor, solitude, a nutritious diet, meditation, and simple living. In this book, Jay reveals what he learned and believes that monk living (which is focused) vs. monkey living (which is scattered) is a mindset and can be enjoyed by anyone who is willing to embrace the disciplines. This book challenged me to recover some habits I practiced decades ago as a young professional but had lost as life became more demanding.
  2. Dare to Lead. This book was released in 2018, and I finally finished it this year. In it, popular research professor Brene Brown unveils how her life themes of vulnerability, authenticity, risk, trust, and bravery make us better leaders. The book is a deep treatment of the soft skills that brilliant leaders practice, including difficult conversations with colleagues, initiating vulnerability, and courageous decisions. In a world where many think the best leaders are merely great strategists, Brene makes a convincing case that the issues are really matters of the heart. Each of her books I’ve read is refreshing and makes me rethink my own leadership style. Leaders who keep people at a distance never become their best.

Two Amazing Films I Saw This Year

  1. The Butterfly Circus. I re-watched a short, independent film that I have seen at least a dozen times over the years. It was produced in 2009 by Joshua and Rebekah Weigel and tells the story of a disabled young man, Will, whose deformity qualifies him for a freak show during the Great Depression. It was his only way of making ends meet. He joins Mr. Mendez, a circus master who transforms each of his performers to leverage their apparent weakness as strengths. Grab a Kleenex for this one. It is a redemptive story of the power of grit, belief, and community. It is excellent to spark discussion afterward.
  2. Short Term 12.  This is another independent film that I have watched over and over since 2013. It is an award-winning movie based on a true story, written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton who worked in a home for troubled teens. The story is about a dozen at-risk kids who face tragic circumstances, including abandonment and abuse. The film stars Bie Larson, John Gallagher, and Rami Malek, to name a few, and received a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It is well worth watching, but prepare yourself for tragic situations and strong language as the film stays true to real life. Another great discussion starter.

Two Interesting Surprises I Got This Year

  1. Perspective. One surprise for me this year was—I got infected by COVID-19. My wife and I both did. We don’t know where we got it, but it coerced me to sleep for ten hours a day. My symptoms were nowhere near those who are hospitalized, but I had a fever, lost my sense of smell and taste, and was exhausted for five weeks, through October and some of November. As you might imagine, it gave me perspective. I gained a new appreciation for my health (a type one diabetic), for my wife and family, for the work I get to do, and for life itself. I had energy again once I recovered, along with a renewed sense of purpose.
  2. Affordable Education. Even prior to the pandemic, colleges faced a crisis mostly because of student debt, which is higher than credit card debt in America. (It reached a staggering $1.9 trillion in 2019.) Families are looking for affordable higher education. Less expensive options are attractive to the members of Generation Z, who not only wonder about the safety of learning on campus but the value of a college education these days. A company named Outlier (who created the online learning platform MasterClass) offers remote college courses for credit through the University of Pittsburgh. The courses include subjects like calculus, psychology, and astronomy and are taught by professors from schools like Yale and NYU. The videos are high quality unlike lots of online courses from schools.

Two Intriguing Inventions I Witnessed This Year

  1. A New TV. Outside of the development of a speedy vaccine for COVID-19, by Pfizer and Moderna, these two items captured my imagination, only because the people or companies that invented them thought outside of the box. The first is the Samsung Sero. It is a vertical TV. Priced at just over $1500, the Sero isn’t like most televisions because Samsung designed it with more than TV viewers in mind. It was created for other platforms, such as social media posts, streaming services, and gaming, the kind of platforms you usually view on your phone vertically. Sero has wheels so you can move it around your house too.
  2. Clothes… Made from Clothes. A Swedish company, Renewcell, recognized that some 85% of all textiles are sent to landfills. They decided to tackle the problem with Circulose, a natural biodegradable raw material made by recovering cotton from worn-out clothes. The process is powered by renewable energy and uses eco-friendly chemicals to break down and strip color from discarded fabrics that may otherwise be thrown out and lost. Last spring, H&M became the first retailer to sell these clothes, with Levi’s close behind. This could be a game-changer and set the pace for other industries.

Two Favorite News Stories I Enjoyed This Year

  1. Protestors Protect a Police Officer. My favorite story this year took place on the streets of Louisville, KY. When a police officer raced to a location to protect a fellow officer under fire during protests, he found himself alone in a corner, surrounded by protestors. Obviously, their message was Black Lives Matter and Anti-Police Brutality. When they saw Officer Galen Hinshaw alone and vulnerable, they began closing in on him, ready for a street fight. That’s when some of the protestors were moved with compassion. Officer Hinshaw later told the story: “Those guys stepped forward and recognized that I was in danger and formed a human chain and prevented me from getting injured.” It was a picture of people seeing the big picture and refusing to demonize others.
  2. Student-Led Service Projects. These stories are too numerous to cite each one. In the midst of a pandemic, high school and college students have stepped up to serve those who are more vulnerable. Liam, a junior at Yale University, took a meal to an 85-year-old woman, and it became a small movement. He recruited 1,200 volunteers to take food to shut-ins and give them a “virtual hug.” Christa saw that healthcare workers were so swamped by COVID-19 patients, they didn’t stop to eat. She organized restaurants, grocery stores, and volunteers to take food to the workers so they could eat as they served. I love how today’s empowered generation doesn’t always wait for adults to serve those in need.

Everyone I know was ready to turn the page and leave 2020 behind. I simply want us to remember that the best of human nature can surface in the toughest of times. For some, the interruption of the pandemic became an introduction to something amazing, which might have never happened in the busy routines of our normal lives. Let’s carry this with us into 2021.

Tim Elmore’s Favorite Things from 2020