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What the biggest stories of 2009 can teach you about your work life

For the next 24 hours, media outlets around the world will be broadcasting their annual "Year in Review" montages that highlight the big news events of the past year. To coincide with these reviews, I have assembled a list of some of the biggest headlines of 2009 and what we can take from them and apply to our working lives.

Fall of the Big Three automakers

The story: The nation's big three automakers-Ford, GM, and Chrysler-faced record financial losses; only Ford avoided bankruptcy. All closed hundreds of dealerships across the country, affecting thousands of workers.

The crisis was precipitated by rising energy prices and customers seeking cheaper, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Automakers, whose focus had become manufacturing gas-guzzling monoliths, began to see sales slide and suddenly were faced with a surplus of automobiles.

The take-away: Think ahead. Anticipate trends, look for opportunities, and adapt. It's not enough to rest on your past successes. Keep your skills updated. It may not mean getting another degree; it could be as simple as taking a computer class or professional development workshop. Everything evolves, and so must you.

Ditching of US Airways Flight 1549

The story: This plane made an emergency landing, a "ditching," in the Hudson River right after takeoff from New York's La Guardia airport last January. All 155 passengers were evacuated safely and pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became an instant media hero. The landing was hailed as a miracle.

The take-away: Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity. You will be called upon at some point in your career to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Be prepared to shine.

Tiger Woods scandal

The story: A classy, cool, and collected character in the world of professional golf. Elegant. Poised. A model man and athlete. Until word got out about his double-digit extramarital trysts.

The take-away: Damage-proof your reputation and image. If you're going to do something stupid, be smart about it. Your name and image, the way others perceive you-your brand-can make or break you. Comb through Google, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, personal website, etc.-and make sure the image you put forth compliments the professional image you want to project.

The Death of Michael Jackson

The story: The worldwide outpouring of grief following the unexpected death of Michael Jackson in June was unlike anything we'd seen in a long time. From New York to Paris to a prison in the Phillippines, fans were devastated by the death of the fallen star.

The take-away: We each have unique gifts and talents; when we identify, tap into, and use them in service to others, we can literally transform the world. There really is power in connection.

Inauguration of Barack Obama

The story: The rise of a community organizer to junior senator of Illinois to President of the United States speaks to the power of setting goals and having a clear vision and strategy to attain them. It also illustrates the power of having a network and the courage to reach for the stars.

The take-away: Even the most solid, impressive credentials are no substitute for hard work, perseverance, and the audacity to think big. It also helps to have a community to hold you accountable for reaching your goals. Obama had all these things and made America believe that yes, we could.

We did. And so can you.

Set your sights on great things in your career in the New Year.

Here's wishing you a happy, prosperous, phenomenal 2010. May all your wishes come true.