The only thing that sounds as crazy as offering someone a congratulations in advance of persevering through an ongoing economic crisis is the idea of accepting it. But if you don’t (or attempt to avoid it altogether), you’ll miss what a hardship promises to teach — as well as tomorrow’s reward for having endured it.

“This time, like all times, is a very good one,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “if we but know what to do with it.”

The “Ag Entrepreneurs: How We Did It” and “Our Dealer Story” podcast series show that our industry remains interested in understanding how manufacturers and dealers weathered the farm crisis of the 1980s. These and other dramatic stories from those times extol the benefits of rallying the team around a singular mission, with lots of evidence of hard work, smarts, courage, agility, faith and luck. Ultimately, hard times refine individuals and organizations for generations to come.

These stories of the 1980s are told — and retold — for what they can teach us of grit, perseverance and boot-strapping, in part so younger folks understand and relate to the contemporary principles that were “formed in the fire.”

Now, a new generation is poised to earn its own lessons first-hand. The response to this chapter will sculpt future leaders and the approaches, strategies and best practices that become standard setters for tomorrow. It’s the “privilege” of getting to see “battle-tested” action, so to speak.

Years from now, we’ll likely look back at the spring of 2020 and talk about those companies who refined their business models, who developed personnel, who out-hustled the competition, who gained share of wallet and who knocked down the conquest sales (as you’ll read in our next edition of Farm Equipment on our 4th study of farmer’s views of major-line brands, it’s “open season” out there). I recently heard of a couple of dealers (small to mid-sized) who are convinced that times like today’s bring a rare competitive opportunity to emerge on higher ground.

Consider the words of 21st Century Equipment Owen Palm, delivered in late December to prepare his employees for what was ahead 2020. “The pace of change has never been this fast, and change will never be this slow again.”

2020 will be what you make of it — for years to come — so use it well.