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But as I reflect, I am also reminded of the real meaning of the season. It's not about filling the social calendar, buying presents or crossing items off a to-do list. Instead, it's a time to slow down and contemplate the ageless concepts of peace, joy and love. Both personally and professionally, it's a time to focus on those goals that have been achieved during the year rather than on what hasn't been accomplished-and perhaps even more importantly, it's an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and set new goals for the coming year. Rather than zeroing in on all the frustrations and events that are beyond our control (e.g., the flood of low-cost imports, the war in Iraq, continuing threats of terrorism, etc.), it's a chance to renew our efforts toward those things that are within our "circle of influence" (to borrow a phrase coined by the popular 7 Habits author Stephen Covey).
The year 2004 has certainly held some disappointments for our industry, but some positive developments have also emerged. For instance, after the difficult economic environment of the past few years, many companies are now in a much better position to compete on a global scale with a stronger brand, a more streamlined production process and/or new manufacturing technologies. Ceramic armor has saved the lives of numerous soldiers, and advances continue to be made in both materials and processes to further improve armor performance (see "Pure Protection"for an example). And a renewed emphasis on alternative energy is providing new opportunities for ceramic materials and components-a development that we will be covering in a new supplement next year called Ceramic Energy (published in April, September and December).
Looking ahead, 2005 appears to hold even more promise as the global economy continues to improve and additional new markets are discovered.
This is the season to appreciate the lessons of the past, embrace the present, and move forward with optimism and hope. From all of us at Ceramic Industry, we wish you a joyous, peaceful holiday season and a happy, prosperous New Year.