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Looking Back, Looking Forward

2012 was a year of loss and life lessons; for 2013 I'm looking for the good — in a Mason jar

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One Facebook post suggests that every time something good happens, you write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in a jar. OneWed.com
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As the curtain closes on 2012, it is time to reflect. Was it a good or bad year? A year of regrets? Thrilling achievements? Narrow escapes? A year of loss? A year of massive change? 

I’m willing to bet that for most of us it was all of these. It is the times in which we live. And because we don't live our lives looking in the rear view mirror, we are also looking ahead. What have we learned in 2012 that we can add to our toolkit for 2013? 

My company, The Alexander Group, is celebrating a record year. We remember the lean years of 2008 and 2009, when our firm, our industry and the economy itself were dangling from a fiscal cliff. So count us relieved and grateful. Grateful that our longtime clients continued to trust us to recruit executives. Grateful that we have attracted new clients that are welcoming us to their team. 

What have we learned in 2012 that we can add to our toolkit for 2013?  

But 2012 has not been without loss. Our colleague Robin Weiner died in October, after a long battle with kidney cancer. Robin inspired clients, colleagues and candidates with her dignity, courage and refusal to give up. Robin left a void in the fabric of our firm. Our holiday card honored Robin by donating to the National Kidney Fund.

Ray Brizendine, who worked with our firm from 1993 to 2003 and ran our San Francisco office, died unexpectedly at the age of 41. Ray was one of the smartest people I have ever met. He was urbane, witty and sophisticated, and could live the high life better than anyone. He was born for it.

He joined us after having graduated from Rice, and he quickly progressed to managing his own clients before he was 25 years old. We knew that The Alexander Group would not be Ray's last career stop. He planned to work two years with us before attending graduate school, but stayed for more than a decade. 

After earning his MBA at Berkeley, Ray joined a major software company in human resources where we became Ray's search firm of choice. Ray's company was sold and he then changed jobs several times — no doubt jarring for a guy who was a creature of habit. Sadly, most of us at The Alexander Group and many of his other friends lost contact with him. Ray died suddenly in August. Part of Ray's spirit never left our company, and the imprint that he made on us will be part of our collective spirit forever. 

One child born

I'm reminded of "When I Die," the old Blood Sweat and Tears song that says, "When I'm dead, dead and gone, there will be one child born in this world to carry on . . . to carry on."

In our case there were two children. Shortly after Ray and Robin died, two of our employees had babies on the same day. What are the chances for this happening in a 30-person firm? To us it seemed a like a cosmic wink. 

 Shortly after Ray and Robin died, two of our employees had babies on the same day. What are the chances for this happening in a 30-person firm? To us it seemed a like a cosmic wink.  

What are the takeaways of a year with euphoric highs coupled with such palpable losses? 

Robin wanted so badly to live, even in the face of indescribable pain. It made us focus on how we choose to live our lives, both personally and professionally. Robin was grateful for every day and always told us how grateful she was for our friendship. 

Ray was so independent and seemingly confident that he appeared invulnerable. And there is a lesson in that. Sometimes those most invincible need our help the most.

Do the people in your life — past and present — know that you value them? Many of us wish we could have had one more conversation with Ray. 

Where the Mason Jar comes in

Social media is a great source of advice — some of it useless, but every once in a while there is a magical nugget. One Facebook post suggests that every time something good happens, you write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in a jar.

At the end of the year you look at the jar — hopefully full of scraps of paper each representing a success — and celebrate the year. Ah, gratitude.

Count us grateful. Grateful for the gifts of 2012 and looking forward to collecting scraps of paper during 2013.

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