How to Define a Good Year

We’re nearly three weeks down the road known as 2017, and I still can’t quite shake the dust off of 2016. I’m not writing the wrong date on my checks. I don’t even write checks. Well, not very often. But I find myself strangely perplexed by this question: Was 2016 a good year?

What’s your initial response to that question?

The consensus across this great land seems to be that 2016 was a stinker. Many people were dismayed by the political rancor that reached an all-time low (or high, depending on how you measure your rancor). It was even worse for liberals, because their candidate lost the presidential election. And since liberals have the most microphones, their cries are heard the loudest. It was strange (to me) to see how many people seemed to have their self-worth tied to a political candidate. I know of one liberal who “unfriended” a long-time conservative buddy because that friend voted for Trump. He didn’t just unfriend him on social media, but in life. Seems extreme, and not particularly helpful to the healing process.

My immediate reaction to all the end-of-the-year angst was to take the opposite view. The presidential election was a no-win event for me, but we’ve survived many bad presidents over the years – some would say over the last eight years. So I didn’t define the quality of my year based on the election or the political campaigning.

But was 2016 really a good year for me personally?

Well, I made less money in 2016 than I made in 2015, and twice we had what the business folks call a “cash flow” issue. So, financially speaking, it could have been better. And while Grow Like Jesus and Forging Grit both hit the bookstores and were well-received by those who read them, well, frankly, not that many folks read them.

On the other hand, I was incredibly blessed by the work God gave me. I finished books with the CEO of a global PR agency, a former rodeo bullfighter, and the family of an incredibly inspiring quadriplegic; I interviewed the fastest man in the world in Jamaica; I wrote book chapters featuring (among others) a female Syrian refugee living in Boise, a film director who immigrated from Mexico, and the Indian-born CEO of Adobe; I started a project with a former Israeli super spy turned rabbi who teaches people to deal with stress; and I started another project with a couple from Australia who has created an amazing framework for understanding how the attitudes of our heart shape our behaviors.

On the home front, we added two kittens and a grandchild to our family. In addition to the work-related Jamaica trip, my wife and I visited South Padre Island, the Dominican Republic, and Hawai’i. While our income was down, we gave away more money than we gave in 2015, and we never failed to pay our bills, never went hungry.

But here’s how I really know that 2016 was a good year: I grew like Jesus. Not every day, but overall, I’m confident I grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). My relationships improved with my clients, my friends, family, and, most importantly, my wife and my God. I struggled through many, many days. I sometimes lost confidence in myself. I worried too much about the future. I battled the thing we call life. But I never felt alone. God gave me a wonderful wife to help me through it and His rod and His staff, they comforted me.

So was 2016 a good year? No doubt about it. And if I fix my eyes on Jesus, 2017 will be, as well.


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2 thoughts on “How to Define a Good Year

  1. Bill Farris

    Amen Stephen. Well said. One of my favorite choruses is “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of the world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.”
    May God bless you and your family real good in 2017.

    1. Stephen Caldwell

      Thanks Bill. Love that song, too. Blessings, Stephen

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