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Cherish the freedom, and make some plans

The curtain has been lowered, and the curtain has been raised.

Last year, a challenging one for many businesses — big or small — has ended. And this year, still full of promise, has just begun. It is time for a bit of retrospection. And time for some serious strategic planning.

I, and every other business operator in this country, am determined to make 2010 an unqualified success. The Red Admiral butterflies, of all things, may provide the perfect metaphor as we close the books on one of the most trying years and embark on one that, in our moments of fear, might be just as challenging.

Let me report what I recently read about the Red Admiral butterflies. It boils down to this: when scientists subjected Red Admiral butterflies to the erratic buffeting of a wind tunnel, the insects proved remarkably adept at innovating — modifying their normal flight pattern to continue moving quickly, efficiently, from flower to flower.

When the world has changed, and the landscape has been rendered unfamiliar, the ability to be sensitive to the shifts, be infinitely flexible, and be willing to adapt is literally critical.

In reviewing 2009, I’ve had to come to terms with answering some questions. How was business? What was my most unexpected challenge? What was my most unexpected success? What were my customers saying? How did the recession change my strategy for better or worse? What lessons did I learn?

Now using the very same questions, I could write down answers based on what I want to be able to say about my business this time next year. I think I’ve just created my list of New Year’s resolutions for the business — a forward projection or visualization of success.

After deciding what I want to be saying about the recreation center next December, I should then work backward, month by month, and day by day, establishing priorities. This approach will guide me in attaining the day-to-day objectives.

This process is similar to a training program for an athlete that utilizes periodization. This concept is based on the fact that, to achieve maximum performance, a regimen has to be varied and be modified, over a period of time, waxing and waning in cycles to enhance every factor involved in competition. If, for instance, a member wants to run a three-hour marathon in 12 months, a trainer would develop a month-by-month, 12-month program for the runner. What you think about, you can, in fact, become.

The word “capitalism” carries a slightly negative connotation to some. I sincerely hope that capitalism, a system that has created so much wealth throughout the world, hasn’t become a dirty word to all. But if that “c” word bothers you, add “economic freedom” to your lexicon.

Over time I think it has been generally accepted that American-style economic freedom does a wonderful job — by, for instance, separating the effective from the ineffective, the productive from the unproductive, and the good from the bad. As rule, well-run businesses thrive, and poorly run businesses fail — it’s survival of the fittest, and, as in nature, that’s the way it is.

I remember several years ago seeing a nighttime satellite photograph of the Korean peninsula. The photo clearly shows South Korea bathed in the brilliant light that bespeaks its economic prowess, contrasting dramatically with the complete darkness of dictator Kim Jong-il’s economically lackluster North Korea. It’s a stunning, graphic depiction of the vast differences between economic freedom and economic government control. This image is powerful, but even more powerful is to use a nighttime photograph of the entire world to demonstrate the power of economic freedom and the wealth it produces.

The future is promising because our country is one full of entrepreneurs; individuals who are adept at identifying and filling needs. They meet challenges, overcome obstacles, and succeed despite barriers.

So, cherish your economic freedom. And now let us welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.