Steak in the Ground

Where will you put your steak in the ground in 2021? Most years at this time I reflect back on events that have happened since the previous Christmas. This year, my memories have wandered much further back. I’m not sure why, but it seems to be having an effect both on how I view 2020 and on how I plan for the year to come.

I remember the smell of the fire burning before my mom switched the fireplace from wood to gas logs. Christmas never felt the same after that. I remember putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it alone while my parents were at work, then wrapping all the Christmas gifts for the entire family without ever peeking in the boxes for me. Perhaps it’s the similarities between Christmas 2020 and many from my childhood that have taken me back.

For whatever reason, everything seems to remind me of something from the way way back. A food poll published by FiveThirtyEight triggered the memory of an oft told family story reflecting upon an incident in which a relative’s girlfriend was dumped for nothing more than ordering steak well-done (with steak sauce, gasp). I don’t know if that story is true or just a way to elevate the teller’s and listeners’ reputations as a discerning diners.

What does feel familiar is a comparison between the percent of poll respondents who said they prefer their steak medium-rare (38%) to the number of people who, according to Longhorn Steakhouse, ordered it that way from May 30, 2016 – May 21, 2017 (22%). One could argue that this is because Longhorn Steakhouse orders do not accurately reflect the orders of those polled. That is certainly possible but saying one thing and doing another also rings true.

If 2020 has made anything clear, it is that as a culture we’re more than comfortable seeing evidence of something and behaving as if it were something else than dealing with difficult truths. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just keep us from getting the steak we prefer, it can lead to victim blaming, risky health choices, escalating violence, political chaos, and continued social injustice. Because we must first see a problem before we can solve it, denial will forever keep us from making forward progress – personally, professionally, and as a community.

Denial is a powerful tool for maintaining the status quo. But as 2020 has also shown us, change is inevitable. When we face change by holding onto the past with white knuckles, we miss the opportunity to make the future better.

We already know that much of 2021 will be similar to 2020. Given that, it seems foolish to develop a long list of intentions for the New Year. Instead, I intend to let myself see what is and face difficult truths. That is enough. From that pivot point, I can address any problems that arise in informed, prudent, and productive ways. If we use this approach collectively, we can improve all our lives. This is where I intend to put a steak in the ground (and yes, I know it’s stake).

Wishing all of us the strength, clarity, and the insight to improve individually and as a whole in 2021.