The year started with my mom experiencing a medical emergency where she could have easily died. The year closed with my mother-in-law passing away in December. It's difficult to remember exactly what was sandwiched in between those two events.

I'm not big into thinking years (or even decades) are radically distinct from one another. 2019, though, is a year I’m excited to see end based on the hope that January 1 will provide a fresh start.

Conversations with multiple people in the last few months suggest that many join me in feeling that the conclusion of 2019 could have arrived weeks ago.

2019 brought strained business relationships and new, frustrating relationships unlike any I’ve experienced in my career. The death of someone who I saw nearly daily at church created an absence I never could have imagined would sadden me so profoundly. The always-present anxiety that there is more to do than we're accomplishing paired too easily with a feeling of being one step ahead, at most, of business calamity. We invested to develop business formulas with tons of promise that have yet to deliver in our world. I trudged through creative blocks that I don't fully understand, can't explain, and have been unable to completely overcome. Aspects of the business that I used to love turned into drudgery. Prolonged personal separations upended constants in my life; these created a scramble to imagine what living and working looks like within new environments. Big questions I've tried to avoid turned into screaming alarms demanding attention. The very areas that have sustained and re-energized me dependably for years deteriorated and felt empty. Lingering personal questions about my own leadership and personal direction marked the year.

I'm being bleak, I suppose, because of a lesson learned working in a public company: when you’ve had a negative year, get all the negatives into that year’s numbers so you have a healthy, fully-advantaged start for the next year.

While I really do hope to put all these things in the rear view mirror of 2019, I must acknowledge the great positives this past year:

Ten years into Brainzooming, we have a fresh overhaul to our visual and online identity. We developed a newly-expanded relationship with our largest client. I found a creative retreat with wonderful people where I can go and be the more relaxed, fun, and adventurous version of me that disappeared years ago. We adopted a new sense of data-driven experimentation. There’s now a road map for disrupting our own business and reformulating it with tangible plans for how we can implement it. We completely reworked the foundation of our core curriculum in strategy and innovation. Our team completed multiple client engagements outside the US. We envisioned and implemented new ways to serve all our global readers (from 207 countries this year). An amazing friend wrote a prayer for me. I got an orange car (even though it seems like an accident magnet, which is very different than an Idea Magnet).

Mike on a swing at Lowe Mill

With the last two Brainzooming articles of 2019, I firmly believe that one important start to 2020 is to return to my voice instead of the voice I’ve been trying to morph through others’ strategies. No matter our business strategy, our intent has always been the same: to develop tools that make strategy, innovation, branding, marketing, and creativity accessible to everyone, especially those of you who don’t think you understand them.

That’s what drives us.

We are dedicated to making it easy for you to get the tools and resources you need in the ways you need them delivered to improve your success.

That’s what 2020 is going to be all about. I hope you’ll continue to join us! – Mike Brown

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