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Tough Lessons Learned From 2020 That We Can Carry Into 2021 Because the ole "whatever doesn't kill you..." adage has never been more apropos.

By Julia Olayanju Edited by Bill Schulz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Naypong | Getty Images

As a teenager, I remember loving Robert Schuller's "Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do". At the time the actual title did not mean much to me then but, well...that perspective has changed.

As I reflect on the year we've had, I can't help thinking about how the many leaders that have emerged due to the way they responded to the crisis. Their courageous acts have resulted in countless lives being saved.

While this may be difficult to imagine, many valuable lessons can be gleaned from 2020. Here are three that stuck with me...
Related: What Will Happen In 2021? Here's What People In 1921 Predicted.

1. Prioritize

This year we were all forced to stay at home during the lockdown which yielded the unexpectedly positive side effect that was spending quality hours with loved ones while taking time to stop and smell the roses (and sighing with relief that, indeed, you still have your sense of smell).

A friend told me that she and her husband actually sat on their front porch and admired the beautiful view they had from their home, which is something they hardly ever did. Prior to the lockdown, they were both busy New York attorneys that left home early in the morning and returned late at night.

In times of crisis, attitude really is everything: A survey of 2000 Americans, conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Crockpot in January, found that those who take their time, and considered themselves "laid back", not only adapted more easily to life at home, but were also more likely to see the light at the end of the quarantine tunnel versus their self-described "quick working", higher-strung counterparts.

2. Perspective

This year it became apparent to leaders, both in government and private organizations, that it is not enough to talk about issues of equality but rather to invest in employee training to tackle unconscious bias.

I spoke with Nathalie Molina Niño, an investor who spent a considerable amount of time in 2020 advising female entrepreneurs on how to obtain PPP loans to support their businesses, on her takeaways regarding last year's racial unrest.

"Communities of color, as with all economic downturns, have been most impacted—with the biggest difference in the COVID-recession being that we're also overrepresented among the dead," recounts Molina Niño. "This is why I'm more convinced now than ever, that abolishing all forms of modern-day redlining (like the PPP policy) should be top of mind for anyone leading in the next economy. "

Related: The Hottest Franchise Categories of 2021

3. Persevere

The headlining heroes of 2020 were, of course, the healthcare workers who stood strong and continued to do their best to save lives even when protective devices they needed were not available. Yet the year's stories of resilience weren't just in the hospital hallways, but the marketplace, as well.

Persevering could mean keeping your spirit alive while shutting down a business or riding the emotional rollercoaster that comes with pivoting a company. The story of Elle Wang, the founder & CEO of Emilia George, is a great example of the latter. The pandemic hit 3 months after she launched her premium clothing line. With all public places closed, her fabric mills stopped production.

"It seemed other than crying," recalls Wang, "the only other option was to pause or close the business before we ever had a chance to build it."

In April, at the peak of the pandemic, they realized there was a shortage of masks so they decided to re-purpose the fabrics that were meant for clothing to make Covid coverers and, after the product received instant recognition, received a letter from the National Institute of Health, requesting 100,000 stat. They prioritized the order and delivered it in 1.5 months. Wang maintains one of her proudest moments was when Dr. Anthony Fauci donned their life-saving aide at a Senate hearing. Their brand has since grown, expanding to stores like Neiman Marcus and others.

"If you can just persevere for a little bit longer, you may end up somewhere you never ever imagined," advises Elle. "Cry, it's fine, as long as you keep hustling."

Related: 5 Ways to Make This Your Best Year Ever

While none of us knows what lies ahead as we enter the second month of 2021, I know we can do this much: Hope for the best, hold our loved ones dear, treat people with dignity and when the going gets tough? The toughest persevere.

Julia Olayanju is a scientist and entrepreneur. She advocates for early nutrition education in public schools and promotes a healthier food supply. You can read more here:

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