Summing Up 2011: Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

At the end of the year, I spend a lot of time reading reflective posts about 2011.

Trying to sum up the year in such a present state of mind is challenging in its own right. Speculating on any year when it isn’t 100 percent positive (or 100 percent negative) is tough too, and that’s exactly what 2011 was: mixed up.

But even more than that, 2011 seemed like a year where everyone took for granted everything that transitioning from 2010 hoped to offer. We took for granted that 2011 was going to offer a much better economy, better employment, better business, better technology, and a better political system. We felt entitled to all of that and when it came to the end of the year, we feel like it should have been better.

Well, not so fast.

Everything is Amazing

The title of this post is taken from an appearance that comedian Louis CK made on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. You can watch the short, four-minute clip below:

For those who can’t (or don’t care to) watch it, he talks about how much we’ve come to take for granted some of the major leaps in technology that have come during his lifetime (telephones, ATM’s and even, airplane Internet). My favorite part of it is the part about air travel in particular:

Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it’s like a horror story. They act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 40’s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound. They’re like, “It was the worst day of my life. First of all we didn’t board for 20 minutes and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there.”

Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero? Wow, you’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, “Oh my God, wow you’re flying!” You’re sitting in a chair in the sky but it doesn’t go back a lot.”

Truly it is amazing, and you have to kind of hit yourself to remember that. I remember doing a trip that involved a half a dozen legs and stop overs. Six cities in eight days. But here’s the amazing part: I traveled 12,000 miles in a little over a week. A week! There was no conceivable way I could have driven the trip. No, maybe the circumstances weren’t ideal but it is still something pretty amazing.

Article Continues Below

Looking ahead to 2012

And that’s pretty much the point: we’ve been fairly lucky to make it to this point in 2011. Not as many people are being laid off. Some companies are hiring, others are investing. Some companies are saving and are on the cusp of hiring again. There is still some uncertainty but it isn’t the constant negative that some of the last three years have brought with them. Yes, 2011 wasn’t the break-through year that many had hoped for, but lots of great things still happened.

I’m not going to go Pollyanna on you, though, because 2012 might not be much easier. But here’s what nobody will tell you: 2004-2008 involved working hard, too. Go back to the late 90’s as well, and though people won’t admit it, they worked their tail off then, too. The results might have been bigger, and when looked back on in retrospect, might look bigger than that fish you caught at the lake last summer. But if it was coming easier for you, it was also coming easier for competitors too and you likely had to work hard to take home your piece.

I believe 2011 was a better year to be in HR than 2008, 2009 and probably 2010 were. Believe me, I know. And 2012 will probably be a lot like 2011: a few more HR technology pieces, some new legislation, possibly a new government, new mergers, new HR vendors, and new employees.

I don’t make grand predictions about the next year anymore. You can read those in plenty of other places. But what I want to make sure of is that we appreciate how much of a departure 2011 really is from the past couple of years, how much work it took, and how much we still have left to go.

And lastly, take a moment to reflect and be happy, if only for the foundation 2011 will provide as we move into the next year.