Jackie Gingrich Cushman

"Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out."—Basketball Coach John Wooden

Many people are glad that 2008 is ending. It’s been a long year of campaigns and financial crisis. I’ve quit watching the news and opening my 401k statements. I figure that neither of them will help me make the best of what I’ve got.

The start of a new year allows us to reevaluate what we want to do, where we want to spend our time and how we will measure our success. Taking time now to think through what worked last year, and what did not, will provide us with a playbook of items to continue, and of items to change.

Our Christmas night dinner reminded me of the importance of a few key items that are helping frame my strategy for the New Year.

It helps to have the right tools. I made scalloped potatoes for the first time. A bit chancy perhaps, serving my guests a dish that I had never made before, but I forged on. Santa thoughtfully gave me a mandolin (the cutting tool for vegetables, not the instrument). Having never used one before, I was not sure if it would really be helpful. But after slicing the first potato, I was singing Santa’s praises. There is no possible way that I could slice the potatoes as quickly, or as thinly as the mandolin does. While you might not want to pay the extra money for the right tool – sometimes it really does make a difference.

If things don’t turn out right, do the best you can with what you have. After leaving the potatoes in the oven for the called for hour and 15 minutes, I pulled them out. The potatoes were cooked all the way through, but the black areas between the top layers of the potato slices showed where it was burned. Since it was just a thin layer of milk – I simply pulled the burned milk layer off, and left the potatoes. It must have tasted satisfactory, because by the end of the meal, the casserole dish had been scraped clean by our guests.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.