Objective judgement, now, at this very moment
Unselfish action, now, at this very moment
Willing acceptance – now, at this very moment – of all external events
That’s all you need.
~ Marcus Aurelius
We are inundated at this time with the Covid-19 pandemic. And, frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being at home and not with friends, family, coworkers and clients. I’m tired of not knowing how much longer this will last. I’m tired of figuring out my cash flow projections to see how long it will take before I must start dipping to my emergency funds. I’m tired of focusing on C19.
I realized I had unintentionally slipped into focusing on what is going wrong rather than what is going right. I teach this skill and, still, I must be reminded! Our brain tries to prove what we say is true. So, if all we focus on is the bad, that is all our brain sees – ways to prove the world is bad. If, however, we can focus on the hope, on the collaborations, on the innovations that are coming out of this, our brain sees both the obstacle and the way through it.
I began reading the book The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I’m only 19 pages in and already I can tell this is a book that follows my beliefs that if we pause in a crisis, look for ways to use the obstacle as a stepping stone into our greatness rather than a barrier, we can achieve our goals. It’s not a frou-frou book. It’s tactical.
Disclaimer: since I haven’t read the rest of the book, the examples will be mine (don’t hold them against Holiday!).
We humans are resilient. We bounce back. It is in our nature to hope, to innovate, to figure things out.
So, what are you going to do in this time where we are being set apart? You still need to lead. How will you do that when you are all separated, and you are all a little or a lot scared?
Using Marcus Aurelius’ beliefs as the framework to triumph through trials (reread the quote above), Holiday says that “overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps … Perception, Action, and the Will.”
He defines perception as “how we see and understand what occurs around us – and what we decide those events will mean.”
An event occurs, we have an immediate thought, that informs our emotions, which informs our actions (or inactions). This is why two people can be in the same crisis and one person believes the sky is falling and another person looks for ways to turn tragedy into progress.
For example, some of our restaurants are becoming innovative during shelter in place, meaning, no dining rooms are open, only take out and delivery. Some are keeping their employees and feeding the hungry kids who can’t get meals from school. There are sewing circles in churches making face masks. There are breweries making hand sanitizer. There are car manufacturers making ventilators. There’s a nonprofit who’s connecting out of work hospitality shift workers with nonprofits who are out of volunteers. It’s their perception of what’s going on and a mindset of how they can help first – even when they’re in need as well.
I have my clients take three deep breaths to get the oxygen flowing back to their brain. It enables better access to their problems solving abilities!
Stop. Observe. Reflect. Synthesize. Decide.
Stop playing into the madness that is around us. Observe what is truly going on, not what your scared brain assumes is going on. Reflect on the issues and opportunities during this crisis. Synthesize the information so you can solve the root cause not the symptom. Then decide where you’re going so you can act.
Wow. Lots more to say about this. So, I’ll turn this into a 3-part series over the next 3 weeks.
If you want to hear more about how to lead through a crisis, I will be on a panel for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Facebook Live series.
In the meantime, take three deep breaths. Try to weed out the panic and assumptions to focus in on the truth and the opportunities. Then decide on a course of action. It may very well change in the next few days or weeks, but having the next step is crucial in moving forward.
Next week, ACTION!