Thanks for this year. (What, are you crazy?)


My thank you to 2020

First and always we remember the thousands who died, including Dan O’Brien, our young Super who died on Christmas eve. It was a year of trial and testing. Yet, it was a good year. We’re healthy and here. This is part of our new definition of “good”. Good has suddenly become more accessible and achievable. Our relative helplessness humbled us. And humility is always good. The pandemic brought fear and anxiety for sure – which is not so good. However, this anxiety caused us to examine our core and drove us to the wisdom of past leaders like Nelson Mandela:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

Nelson Mandela

Our generation has never faced such a powerful foe.

While this fear exposed some selfish behavior, the common threat also connected us in some glorious ways. In this connectedness we’re learning to triumph together. For TOCCI it came in 2 forms.

The Triumph of the Practical

We quickly retooled safety to restore work on site. Before masks were endorsed, we implemented full face shields and hygienic equipment. We followed with task planning to distance workers and sequenced site staffing. Under the courageous leadership of our Supers, jobs quickly came back to life. We retained a Lean expert to drive efficiency and schedule recovery to take back our losses.

The Triumph of the Soul

We engaged the battle for our character. You may have read David Brooks’, “The Road to Character”, where he distinguishes “resumé virtues” from “eulogy virtues”. Resumé virtues are often inflated but cherished by the professional marketplace while eulogy virtues are those recognized and celebrated by others—ones that count most like courage, kindness, strength, persistence, and calmness in crisis (unflappable).

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

Isaiah 48:10

This kind of virtue is formed under fire, much like the purification of metals which only give up their impurities under intense heat, causing hidden flaws to surface like dross. And if COVID wasn’t enough heat, add the pain of George Floyd’s death and the stark realization of our own latent prejudice. In this furnace of 2020, we should take solace in Theodore Roosevelt’s observation:

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

Theodore Roosevelt

Lessons Learned + Purpose Engaged

In 2010, we began implementation of a distributed digital workplace. But it took 2020 to kick it in the butt. And we are thankful. Over the past 9 months we’ve tightened our team. Our common struggle helped us rely on and appreciate each other. We’re a better company for this. The great uncertainty of COVID inspired weekly all-hands meetings with fresh transparency. We drove close to the edge together. We even developed our own Microsoft Teams app called “Stand Up Sally” for daily and weekly small team accountability and assistance. We’re thankful for these improvements which may never have come without 2020.

Office staff spent unprecedented time at home. Our appreciation of design and space and function grew immensely. In meetings with our talented design partners, we saw how the lessons of 2020 were helping them forever change what home looks like. And on a deeper level, this time alone with “home” helped us realize anew the despair of housing disparity. Never has the lack of a safe, warm home been more obviously wrong to us. We are thankful for this pain of conscience. It’s driving us to develop systems to produce housing that’s more affordable without sacrificing good design. May real social action be one of the changes which survive the cure.

We are truly thankful for the good this difficult year has worked in us. And with you, we will endeavor to go forward, for good.