While I was never a huge fan of the TV series Mission Impossible—the opening theme song sent my heart pounding and the action-packed episodes gave me agita before bedtime—there was something reassuring about the premise that nothing was impossible. No matter how daunting and dangerous the mission, that crack team of secret government agents dispatched behind the Iron Curtain or to neutralize a Dr. Evil–like upstart in a far-off lair always completed it. You could say the team took to heart the famous Audrey Hepburn quote: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible.’”
But is nothing impossible? These days I wonder. Even those with Ted Lasso–like levels of can-do optimism probably have serious doubts about whether the world can overcome its myriad hot-button mega-problems. The seemingly impossible mission of addressing Global Warming is demoralizing enough. (Can’t we just agree to agree on a plan?) Then, there’s the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, where we seem to be fighting more with each other than with the virus itself. Hopes of eradication are fading—and the dismal possibility that Covid-19 will become endemic are increasing. The vaccines might have created a false positive about their ability to protect everyone who received them, but the fact that they were developed in record time and made available worldwide at a speed like never before should be a rallying cry for us humans: The seemingly impossible became possible yet again. I still (want to) believe.
Meanwhile, in our little corner of the world, the pandemic continues to generate big problems—ones that can seem insurmountable at times. For example, the epic supply chain woes. Shipping containers have become an impossible game of Tetris. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that a worldwide lockdown would disrupt the flow of goods. But some industry experts predict things might run smoothly again until this summer or later. That means the people assigned to solve this mission really have their work cut out for them. Of course, where there are millions of sales to be made, there is always a way. And it isn’t just our industry trying to nudge those ships to the docks; the entire world of commerce wants to get things moving again. Money talks—and a ton of it moves container ships. The optimist in me believes the flow of goods will resume sooner rather than later.
Of course, monumental industry-wide problems often become magnified as they reach individual companies and, eventually, individual employees tasked with trying to solve them. It can be a scary and stressful job, but somebody’s got to do it, right? Some have no alternative but to “choose to accept this mission.” Take Elena Brennan, designer and owner of Bus Stop Shoe Boutique and the writer of this month’s A Note to My Younger Self (p. 19). As a small business owner, Brennan warns her not much younger self that her entire world is about to be terrifyingly upended. She confesses to many sleepless nights, soul searching and countless what-if scenarios about the business she lovingly built over 14 years. What if it’s suddenly all over? There is no pandemic playbook, yet Brennan’s heartfelt letter reveals—spoiler alert—how she adapted her business and came through her mission impossible. It’s an inspiration to us all.
Then there’s the story of Minnetonka’s mission impossible—one that the 75-year-old, family-owned company has embraced. It has nothing to do with the pandemic directly—although that has been challenging, too—says President Jori Miller Sherer, the subject of our Q&A (p. 10). Minnetonka’s latest mission is to formally address its appropriation of Native American culture. Miller Sherer believes it’s the biggest and most important mission the company will ever face. Minnetonka’s comprehensive plan addressing appropriation goes far beyond a one-time donation. This is a company-wide cultural metamorphosis. It’s about doing the right thing.
Miller Sherer’s candor about what led to this shift is refreshing, as are the extensive steps the brand is taking to meet its new goals. And unlike those 50-minute Mission Impossible episodes, this mission is open-ended: Miller Sherer believes the company can continue to learn and improve.
On that note, so long 2021. You were no 2020 in terms of abject fear and despair, but you sure left room for improvement. Here’s to a brighter, more prosperous 2022 for us all! May you complete any impossible missions you choose—or are forced to—accept successfully! Cue theme song…