In the spirit of my annoyance over those overwhelming, uninteresting, almost certainly irrelevant lists of the “Top 10 X of 2009,” I’ve developed my own. Though it’s a far cry from David Letterman, at least it’s not the perennial Top 10 Break-ups of 2009 (thank you Time.com), so lay off.
In fact, my list is not even really a top 10, but just a ten. I hope this doesn’t deter you from reading all the way to the end. Here goes.
10 Things I Have Learned in 2009
10. The amount of email I receive in a day is on an upward slope and will never plateau. Eventually, I will be able to do nothing else. I saw an interesting video  about email’s negative affects on productivity.
While I don’t agree that I would be more productive without it, it’s certainly interesting food for thought. I’d say my biggest email lesson of 2009 related not to my office deluge, but to my mobile device: I don’t need to check my email everywhere I go. I’m not that important.
9. A recession will reveal a lot about people. On an individual basis, I admit I’ve been both impressed and disgusted by people’s actions. In local Madison news this week, a young man offered to help an elderly couple shovel their snow, then robbed them over hot chocolate. However, this holiday season I’ve noticed the charity drives and bell ringers are out in full force. I’d like to think most people are using the economic climate as a reminder that what’s bad could be worse.
And from a business perspective, I’ve spoken with scores of struggling manufacturers over the past year who are bending over backwards to ensure they stay afloat — for their employees and communities. Whether these ties are broken by hardship sometimes depends on the fierce survival instincts of the American workforce, with strong management at the helm.
8. I cannot hit a fast-pitch baseball in the batting cages. My dreams of a career in the majors have been shattered.
7. Skepticism is both over- and undervalued. I say this because I am what you might call an “optimistic skeptic.” I want things to work, and have confidence that they will, but not before I pick apart the details. I learned this year that team-building, a concept I’d always found fuzzy and feel-good, actually works. Based on my own office team’s experiences, the more you know and feel comfortable with one another, the better you communicate. It took me a while to see past my own cynical impressions of teambuilding (i.e., cheesy trust fall exercises and ropes courses…) to get to the good. On the flipside, a little skepticism is what keeps you on the right track, in my opinion. It’s dangerous to buy into every flash in the pan business technique, marketing or training strategy.
6. Speaking of skepticism: You can teach an old dog new tricks… if the old dog is a magazine editor and the “trick” is Twitter. In that same vein, I must admit: I was nervous about IMPO’s August launch of a daily e-newsletter, and our upcoming transition to a new website platform—namely, all of the tech savvy it would require. I went to college to be a writer and suddenly I am expected to manage a website? Turns out I can. Who knew?
Follow IMPO on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IMPOmag 
5. I cannot eat a 5lb bag of oranges before they start to turn. I’ve tried about six times in the past year, and my dedication knows no bounds. It’s impossible.
4. Manufacturing’s place in America is not a given. After watching water fill the lungs of GM and Chrysler this past year, I’d say this is evident. Still, these conditions, by default, developed something of an awareness campaign for the plight of manufacturers. Suddenly America as a whole was taking an interest in the success of the industry… and it’s about time.
Make sure to check out IMPO’s Jan/Feb issue for an interview with John Ratzenberger. Best known for his role as Cliff on Cheers, he’s since taken a serious interest in rescuing America’s economy by renewing the focus on skilled trades. Maybe it takes a recession to get manufacturing goals a place in our national consciousness, but it’s folks like John who have been helping in the meantime.
3. If you want a career in reality TV, here are the ingredients:
- Put on a lot of weight
- Have 13 children
- Be an aspiring performer, chef, fashion designer, boy band, etc.
Combine, and pure gold will emerge.
2. One of my favorite parts of this job is hearing feedback from IMPO readers… even when I’m accused of being too young, too optimistic, or—my favorite—a socialist. (For the record, I’m not.) For the most part, I’ve learned a lot of valuable things about your firsthand experience in this marketplace, and please know I don’t mind the criticism or disagreements. It makes me better at my job… although the positive, supportive emails are nice too! Please feel free to write at any time (firstname.lastname@example.org), and if I don’t get back to you right away, it’s only because of my email avalanche (refer to No. 10).
1. Top 10 lists are absurd.
Happy holidays, and thanks for another great year!