Town Talk Features

Lessons Learned & Shared

The COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for many a tough break in St. Louis over the past 10 months, from shuttered businesses and lost jobs to family health crises. The silver lining is that difficult times offer key lessons about resilience, perseverance and priorities, skills we can learn ourselves and impart to others. T&S asked prominent businesspeople and leaders to share their insights on how 2020 made them stronger—and how they plan to approach the new year.

Isaac Bruce
NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver | Isaac Bruce Foundation
Last year taught me how important preparation is in life. With everything that has been going on, it puts you in a position to realize that you shouldn’t be afraid or anxious in these situations. Instead, use your years of experience and observation to gain insight. I also found that making virtual visits and appearances in place of in-person events created new opportunities I wouldn’t have expected.

This year, I’m planning on expanding my foundation, which focuses on education, literacy and sports initiatives for young people. I want to create new programs and grow existing ones. I’m also looking forward to my NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement. My 2020 class is being combined with 2021, and it will be an exciting long weekend.

Carolyn Kindle Betz
Enterprise Holdings Foundation | St. Louis City SC
I learned a lot about myself in 2020, and, like many of us during this pandemic, I realized there were things I had taken for granted. I just assumed I would be able to attend a sporting event or concert, go out to dinner and meet friends whenever I wanted, so I didn’t have the level of appreciation for those things that I do now. Also, I am very grateful for my family. We did the best we could to have fun and make sure there were plenty of laughs.

I am looking forward to things getting back to normal, or at least a new normal, where we can go out and spend time with friends again—and of course, enjoy all of the exciting things we have coming up for St. Louis City SC. The year 2021 will be another important one for us, and I can’t wait to create memories with our unbelievable soccer fans.

Paul Hamilton
Hamilton Hospitality
I’ve realized that you should appreciate what you have and never underestimate the power of the unexpected. You have to be flexible and roll with the punches. More than ever, I appreciate my wife, Wendy (pictured); she really has been there for me, and we have grown even closer. I also truly appreciate my staff and customers because they stepped up to the plate for us last year.

This year, I’m looking forward to a return to some kind of normal in terms of our restaurant business. I doubt it will get back to 100% right away, but we are hoping there will be some pent-up demand. As long as we can continue to serve people safely, I think the business will be there.

Tania Beasley-Jolly
Tania Beasley-Jolly Consulting
This past year made me realize how much of a planner I really am. It also taught me that I can be nimble in facing personal and professional challenges. I’ve never been a big fan of curveballs in life, but I definitely learned more about how to deal with them! I also realized how much we need culture and the arts in our lives; they are at the core of our being. Watching entities like the opera and local theaters get creative with virtual programming has been good for the soul.

My lessons for the year ahead: Don’t wait to do something that you have been wanting to do, and get rid of anything that isn’t serving you well. If something doesn’t fit my ideology or lifestyle anymore, I don’t do it. Life is too short to hold on to things you no longer need.

Rob Connoley
Being patient and planning ahead are the two biggest lessons I learned from this situation. In the restaurant business, we’ve had to pivot so many times, it’s been confusing for customers and draining for staff. I’ve learned to rely on those who know what they are talking about, like experts who tell us the pandemic will not be over quickly. We need to step back, take a deep breath and work on planning instead of reacting.

This year, I think things will continue in a cycle similar to what we’ve seen in historically. After the flu pandemic a century ago, people were ready to party again, and I think that will happen this year as well. We also are switching to food packing materials that are beautiful, reusable and compostable, and we are continuing to provide special occasion meals. People always will need to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries!

Patrick Murphy
Nine Network
I think the pandemic brought out a lot of latent creativity and resilience in people, including myself. Many people have taken more of an interest in things like landscaping, baking and art because creativity is closely linked to being happy and fulfilled. I also learned that for every bad thing in life, there’s an upside if you look hard enough. No one I know has rolled over and given up; it’s in our nature to find another way.

I’m continuing to take on creative opportunities for myself in the new year. The Nine Network asked me to make my book, Candy Men: The Story of Switzer’s Licorice, into an hour-long documentary, so I’m looking forward to that. Reedy Press invited me to do a book on the Irish in St. Louis, and I am working on a concert at The Sheldon celebrating the 200th anniversary of Missouri statehood. We may need to do it virtually!