Turning Your Endings into New Beginnings

This recent article in the New Yorker caught my eye.

Soon I was laughing out loud.

Let’s just say I relate. After all, who knew I’d be pursuing a new career after my 70th birthday and lovin’ it.

Changes!

I’ve seen a lot of them. Whatever era you hail from, there’s an iconic playlist anthem about starting over. Whether it’s Stevie Nicks (Landslide), David Bowie (Changes), or Beyonce (I Was There), changes and fresh starts play a decisive role in our lives.

The global pandemic is winding down, and there’s a lot of “churn” and foment happening.

Starting over. Reboot. Makeover. Shot at redemption. Fresh Start.

Call it what you will. We’re at that point again.

Not every New Beginning comes about because we want it. Sure, many do.

We can get excited about moving to a new place or starting a new job. But sometimes, the process of a Re-Do can feel more angsty than positive. We might be leaving someplace where we’d rather stay. Even if the outcome is good, proper, and necessary, there are always memories and baggage to sort through. The new beginning which follows can feel more overwhelming than exciting.

So, how do you cope with these situations? How do you do it in such a way as to take something positive away from experience?

It’s not quite as complicated as you might think. And no, it’s not just a matter of a fresh mindset, though this can help. Sometimes your endings will take a little more work to shift them into new beginnings.

Here’s my brief guide.

Start with Saying Goodbye

There comes a time when you will have to let go of the past to make friends with the future. It’s really up to you what this looks like. Some people find journaling about the process helpful. Others need to process verbally and talk things through. Depending on your circumstances, counseling or coaching may be a good idea. Whatever you decide, remember to give yourself time to process. Some baggage takes a little time to unpack. It’s never good to rush the “goodbye stage.”

 

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” –  “J.P.” Morgan

Look for the Silver Lining

OK, maybe this fresh start wasn’t at the top of your list, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent opportunity to accomplish something you’ve intended to do—Hunt out the good in the situation. Who knows, it might be you even have reason to celebrate this fresh start you didn’t see initially.

Get Your Head on Straight

Once you’ve started looking forward, it’s time to assess the situation. What are your options? What do you need to accomplish, and what would you like to do? The great thing about a fresh start is it’s a chance to fix other stuff too. For example, you might need to move right now, but this doesn’t mean you can’t work on a few other things on your wish list, such as making sure you’re moving somewhere with a home gym or workout option nearby to create a new exercise plan.

Take a Reality Check

Not everything on your wish list needs to be dealt with immediately. Some things might require funds or other resources which aren’t available just yet. Others are simply too much of a fresh start all at once. There’s a lot to be said for pacing yourself and not setting yourself up for failure. What’s reasonable here?

 

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” —Steve Jobs

Take Stock of Lessons Learned

If you’re being thrust into a change, chances are you didn’t have the optimal outcome in whatever was just ending. The good news? You can still take away something good from experience. So, before you get too deep into the fresh start, take a moment to ask yourself what you learned from the previous situation. There are lots of knowledge nuggets in endings that will serve you well going forward.

Adopt the Choice

No one likes being told what to do. If you feel like this fresh start is being forced on you, it can easily lapse into resentful feelings of victimhood regardless of the good you’ve found or the goals you’ve set. There comes a time where you need to step back and say, “Yes, I do want a fresh start,” making this situation your choice. This puts control back in your hands. Whatever happens from here is more like you want it to be.

Adjust Your Mindset

No fresh start will go well if you harbor resentment over the change. This is especially true if you feel forced into things. It might be you have to do some things you’d rather not initially, but this doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the change and still get some good out of it. Start looking for the best outcomes. If you need an added adjustment to the situation, try making a list of all the positive things which can come from having a fresh start right now. Find an outcome that excites you and makes you feel better about this Fresh Start.

 

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

Know What to Hold Onto

You don’t need to ditch every aspect of your life because you’re engaged in a new beginning. There are things from before which were good and will be valuable moving forward. Take stock of these things, making a list if necessary to remind yourself you already have some great resources you can use in this fresh start.

Take Breaks

New beginnings can be draining, especially if there’s a lot of physical or mental work involved. Schedule some breaks when possible to prevent burnout or overwhelm in the new situation.  A little playtime can do wonders for keeping your spirits up. The nice thing? You don’t have to go all out on these breaks. Even an afternoon outside or with friends can change your mood for days. You get the most benefit from breaks when you take them regularly, so be sure to add them to your schedule nicely spaced out. That way, they come often enough to be beneficial, but not so often as to keep you from making positive strides on your fresh start.

Try Again

Sometimes the most daunting thing about a fresh start is the actual getting started. You might find yourself holding back, not wanting to take chances, and certainly not volunteering for new activities. While this might seem sensible, it’s the worst thing you can do. New beginnings are all about taking chances and trying new things. The way to get started and find a better attitude? It may take a few false starts but accept you won’t be perfect at whatever you’re trying to do, especially not on the first try. Remind yourself it doesn’t matter if you fail. This gives you another opportunity to learn.

You like that, right?

Try a Mission Statement

If you’ve come this far, you’ve set some goals for yourself and even feel like you have a reason for this fresh start. You may want to take this information and turn it into a personal mission statement that outlines your goals and what you want out of this next chapter. Why? Sometimes everyone feels discouraged, and it’s this statement which you’re going to come back to time and again to re-energize yourself. So it might help write this down and post it where you’ll see it and feel inspired throughout your day.

Appreciate Your Strengths

Look, you just came through a tough time, and you’re still going. This alone is worth more than anything else on this list. So take a moment to realize just how far you’ve come and how wonderful it is you’re moving forward.

Take it One Step at a Time

Nothing happens overnight. There will be various stages to your fresh start, involving many smaller goals and lots of small successes. Celebrate each marker as they come, and you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere (because, of course, you are!)

 

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Ask for Help

Hey, no one ever said you had to take on a Fresh Start all by yourself. There’s a lot to be said about support systems. Invite trusted individuals into your process by letting them know what you’re doing and asking for their encouragement. If you have mentors, go to them for advice. Or find a mentor if you don’t have one already. Remember, the key here is you want support for your New Beginning. The last thing you need is to “get the stink eye” from people who will only be critical or put down your efforts. This is the perfect time to create boundaries and keep those out while at the same time keeping your tribe close to where they can encourage you the most.

Persist

How are you at being stubborn? If you’re still not feeling it and are struggling to get going on this Fresh Start, the best thing you can do is just keep plugging away. Go back through your list and remind yourself of everything here. Try again and keep trying. The funny thing is that this persistence will pay off in the long run, especially if you can maintain a positive attitude and be open enough to try new things. Sooner or later, the fun will creep in, and you’ll realize just what a glorious opportunity this is. In the meantime, the very fact you’re still carrying on is something to take pride in.

Don’t be afraid of new beginnings. Don’t shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings. Embrace new chances at happiness. L.E

You’re still in the game, and you’re still trying. So take a minute to give yourself a hand for being amazing!

Until next time .

Early in my career, I was a 6th-grade teacher in an inner-city school that was politely ranked as “difficult.”

One of my early moves was to make homework optional.

My learning agreement with students was that they would have to put in the work if they actually wanted to learn anything.

While I could teach them almost anything, I couldn’t actually make them learn anything.

It helped if I could spark sufficient interest and curiosity to kindle inner motivation. Then suddenly, students were delving into topic areas on their own and enjoying it.

While I couldn’t force kids to learn, it was up to me to provide a positive learning culture and present opportunities. One little guy who struggled to read suddenly became an avid reader. He was keen on hot-rod cars. I accidentally (on purpose) left a couple of hot rod magazines lying on my desk. He asked to take them home. I said he could bring them back and read to me the parts he liked the best.

And a reading program was born!

While there’s some overlap in the understanding of these terms, it’s generally known as unstructured learning, leveraged learning, and self-directed learning.

One enormous benefit of my stint in the teaching profession was that I became steeped in the “Socratic Method” learning system. This allowed me to perpetually channel my inner 4-year-old to ask questions. That’s something I cherish to this day.

This learning approach has worked well in becoming a leadership practitioner in Project Management and then as a Founder and CEO.

How It Works

Everything we learn in formal education is well structured and predefined.

First, teachers and professors tell us what they think we need to know. Then at regular intervals, we cram to prove that we understand what they’ve been saying all along.

The process takes anywhere from 12-20 years, and we compete with peers to get good grades.

When we hit the real world, many of us hardly apply what we’ve spent years learning in a formal setting.

That’s unless we pursue specific things for what we currently do or intend to do. (I.E., Accounting, Law, or Medicine)

 

“We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies,”  Ken Robinson, the author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

How It Can Work

The real question is, how do you learn the hard, essential things that matter to your success in life and career? How do you explore and dig deeper into complex topics you deeply care about?

In the mid 90’s, I came across an article published by the Center for Creative Leadership that put forward some bold ideas about how people learn at work.

70% of what we learn is from hands-on, on-the-job training, problem-solving, and just plain doing it.  20% is from trial and error, failure, peer learning, and observing others, and 10% from formal classroom training and courses.

Much like your daily weather forecast, it’s not highly prescriptive. The great thing about this model was that it recognized that up to 90% of our work-related learning can happen very informally.

This new way of looking at things spawned a whole new movement of “learning organizations” characterized by strong teamwork, and a high capacity to solve problems.

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.”
— William Crawford

I embraced this style of unstructured learning many years ago. I followed curiosities, read many books, and reached out to experts I knew who succeeded in the things I was interested in.

Many significant achievements that I’ve been a part of over the past decades are directly attributable to unstructured, self-directed learning.

It’s also important to recognize that everything necessary we’ve learned or accomplished is because of a teacher or a guide. In my instance, many teachers. It just wasn’t formal. Quite often, they didn’t even realize they were teaching me.

Consider this: If you or I set about to climb Everest, where conditions are harsh, and every step could be a life or death decision, we’d definitely want a Sherpa guide.

Hard skills don’t lend themselves to some YouTube instruction or easy hacks. I’d like someone experienced to show me that way and teach me step-by-step on the path forward. Right?

While mastery is the goal, I consider myself an ever-learning practitioner in the topics of Leadership, Human Behavior, Faith and Spirituality, Organizational Development, Investing, Coaching, Consulting, Writing, and Film Making, to name a few.

 “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” Richard P. Feynman

Unstructured learners find and stick to learning methods that work best for them.  They find a “flow” that creates an environment and routine to sustain the creative learning process.

Build your own “learning scaffold” that can be used over and over again.

I’m amazed watching my grandson assemble complex and functional Lego creations from a bucket of random pieces. He has a personal creative learning process that he developed, follows, and repeats with every new product he produces.

 “Perseverance, pleasure, and the ability to retain what you learn are among the wonderful byproducts of getting to learn using methods that suit you best and in contexts that keep you going,” Kio Stark Handbook for Learning Anything.

If you don’t love the process of learning, this probably won’t work. Sometimes, it’s necessary to master a new skill or topic to advance your career, but this is when you find your bigger why and hold on to that motivation to keep learning.

The Basics

Here are some of the basics that can help you become a successful unstructured learner:

  1. There’ll be core content and foundational basics to whatever topic or discipline you pursue. So, immerse yourself in the basics first.
  2.  Find topics that augment and support your life’s purpose — it’s fundamental for sustaining the process.
  3.  Know what learning methods work the best for you and then explore, search, and discover. Build a personal learning scaffold that you can re-use.
  4.  Channel your inner four-year-old and ask endless questions. It takes at least 5 “why’s” to start getting to the bottom of things. Ignorance can help you dig deeper and learn faster.
  5.  Know what you don’t know — and use that to ask the basic questions. It’s astounding to me how ordinarily smart leaders deflect and B.S. their way through stuff when all that is needed is a simple “I don’t know.”
  6. Find a guide and/or cohort of like-minded people who share your interest.
  7.  Create your own feedback process. Double down on what’s working

Every unstructured learner invests in their unique process. Build your learning method and make it your own. Tricky things, topics, domains, and skills take time to master.

If you’re curious enough, don’t be afraid to invest in hard skills that will serve you for life. Commit to a process you can sustain.

Don’t rush it and burn out. Learning anything new will probably change your life for good.

The joy of mastering new skills or figuring things out on your own is a fantastic and worthwhile experience.

Until next time.

P.S. This October, I’ll once again be offering LeaderLab TM, a high-value blend of Executive Training and Coaching for successful applicants.

Watch for details in your inbox in the coming weeks. 

 

 

Resilience

Photo by Biegen Wschodni on Unsplash

I love this time of the year. The unmistakable scent of damp earth, cut grass, and fresh pollen evoke the real prospect of new growth and possibility.

Knowing that it’s getting warmer and lighter every day here in the northern hemisphere is such an appropriate metaphor for coming out of the darkness and hibernation of this past year.

It’s a great time to be alive.

An operative word for this time is resilience.

Our world has changed in ways we haven’t fully processed yet. A lot of strong conversations are taking place.

I believe that resilience is our current best response.

Resilience buys us time to adapt!

 

“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.” Dean Becker

 

Foolproof planning these days requires a more perfect knowledge of the future.

That’s just not available to anyone right now.

Resilience is that deep commitment to a mindset and a skill set that builds and rebuilds ecosystems that work even when things don’t work out as planned. Especially when things don’t work out!

Resilience buys us time to adapt.

Flexibility in the face of change is where resilience comes from.

As leaders, some look to us and rely on us.

I’ve often wondered why building resilience isn’t a key business imperative. My observation is that quite often just being human is at odds with work life.

Work can routinely bring stress, negativity, setbacks, and outright failures — and most of us are challenged to combat the effects.

We often equate resilience with overcoming extreme hardship or impossible odds.

Adequately understood, resilience can serve as an ever-present, daily mentor, helping us rebound from the collected frictions and pressures of work life.

Most of us just motor on— unaware of the increasing toll of emotional depletion — and building resilience isn’t considered.

I’ve been fortunate to have highly resilient people to learn from in my life.

I’ve also had personal challenges and circumstances where I could apply what I learned.

Here are seven observable characteristics of my resilient friends and mentors.

Networks of Support

Having a robust support system is an integral part of resilience. It really doesn’t matter who has your back in life – parents, friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, or colleagues. Real friends (not the Facebook kind) will give you understanding, guidance, and comfort when you’re struggling with a problem. They help you define your priorities and provide honest feedback just when you may need it the most.

Asking for help or counsel from the people who support you is a valuable life skill.

From my decades of work with marginalized populations, having a solid network always was a key determinant of capacity to rebound from the impact of life trauma.

“Others” Mindset

Resilient people aren’t very self-absorbed. They give freely of themselves to those around them. It may appear counterintuitive, but being generous or devoting time to a worthy cause (like volunteering) are helpful strategies to take the focus off your problems.

Helping others can help expand your life skills and problem-solving abilities. Giving back to yourself is also helpful. Proper care of your health and periodically rewarding yourself contribute to thinking and acting “resiliently.”

Stick -to -itiveness

Doggedness, grit, hardiness, stamina – call it what you will. Resilient people learn to accept emotional pain and stress as part of life.  They don’t allow their difficulties to define them. All the resilient people I know avoid personal pity parties. Instead, they recognize their feelings, acknowledge the problems being faced facing, trust that their ability to meet their problems, and believe they have the strength to maintain their emotional balance.

Change Happens

Accepting the fact that things are going to change is a fundamental part of resilience. When your goals, plans, ideas, or hopes are ruined because of unavoidable circumstances, a flexible and positive attitude will allow you to focus on new projects or new hopes. If you accept the things you can’t change or control, you’re free to put your effort into the things you can change and control.

Choice of Attitude

Most of the time, we don’t get to choose the obstacles and difficulties that life puts in our way. We always get to choose our attitude toward adversity. During hard times, it’s helpful to find something positive to think about and imagine a positive outcome. Even if you don’t have all the answers and even if the solution to your problems isn’t apparent, you can choose to believe that things will work out. You can tell yourself that your issues are manageable. You can choose to see yourself as a fighter, not a victim.

Reframe Perspective

When a resilient person faces adversity, they’re likely to avoid making things worse by jumping to extremes. Resilient people tell themselves that their troubles won’t last forever. They don’t see every bump in the road as a catastrophe; they understand that things can’t be perfect. Having realistic expectations of themselves, others, and what can be achieved is the answer.

Humor

It’s been said that “laughter is the best medicine.” And really, if you can drum up some self-deprecating  humor and laugh with others, you will lighten your load and lighten up!

Appropriate laughter and humor are beautiful ways to connect to others. They help release the feeling of stress that adversity causes you.

Laughter is also good for your body – it changes your body’s response to stress.

Conclusion

Can we strengthen our capacity to think and act more “resiliently”?

Absolutely, yes.

Think how a trainer at the gym helps you concentrate on certain muscle groups for strength and endurance. Similarly the various components of resilience can be exercised and strengthened.

Check the work of Dr. Fred Luthans. It points to evidence that resilience can be learned.

Another helpful article from Harvard Business Review – How Resilience Works 

Have a great month!

 

 

 

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

 

A PERSONAL STIMULUS CHECK

True confession: It’s hard for me to stay motivated these days.

 And that’s unusual for me. Usually, I’m a pretty motivated self-starter type, but I hit some invisible wall and have to dig way deeper to stay motivated.

My whiteboard of “to-do’s “is glaring at me from across the room. I have trouble deciding where to start, and then a sense of overwhelming arises.

Maybe it’s the S.A.D. Season and my vitamin D levels are down.

Maybe it’s the mild cognitive impairment brought about by ever-lurking pandemic fatigue.

Yeah, that’s probably it.

“He who moves not forward goes backward.”

– Von Goethe 

 

What I Know Works 

Well, first, I have to remind myself that this is a weird time when millions of lives have been lost. Millions of more jobs have been destroyed. 

In a few short months, we’ve had to reshape how we work, socialize, learn, and generally do life.

 “The future ain’t what it used to be.” 

― Yogi Berra

If you’ve ever endured a significant house renovation, you’ll know the unsettled feelings that accompany the chaos. Walls and wiring get ripped out; spaces are re-configured; everything is re-routed. Life for many folks is something like that.

The temptation is there to be scared and anxious about a thousand stupid things. 

But really, the job these days is to do the best we can and take it one step at a time.

And then take those steps. 

Motivation Is A Task

Intrinsic motivation is indeed part of every project that you and I are working on. It’s a task to check off. I frequently have to motivate myself to stay on target with my work, relationships, spiritual, and life goals. 

Why? Because some people are counting on me to show up. 

The same goes for you. 

If my goal is to be healthy and “eat well,” and I crave cookie dough ice cream, it’s my job to say, “I’ve got a better plan, and that craving will have to wait right now.” 

An acquaintance of mine is a competitive bodybuilder. He works out daily, sometimes twice a day, and eats a lot of food but according to a rigorous and well-constructed plan. When he’s in training for an event, he would MUCH rather chow down on a double cheeseburger with fries than another five ounces of steamed chicken breast and asparagus.

So motivation is something one must consciously choose.

Grit Is A Factor

Let’s face it. Perseverance, determination, willpower, and sticking to it don’t get much air time these days.

I mean it’s just not sexy. 

We live in a culture where people expect immediate results. There’s Nexus lanes, movies on demand, coffee drive-thru windows, high-speed internet, Instagram, and Door Dash.

If you want something right now, all you have to do is spend a few bucks. 

Unfortunately, people carry this idea into the work world where success is anything but instant or without effort.

The reality is that it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and time to experience success.

Success often comes and goes in cycles. This intermittent nature of success can be too much for some aspiring leaders to handle.

It doesn’t take much to be motivated when things are going well. But how will you respond when you go through a rough patch? As your energy slips, will you stay the course and continue striving toward your goals?

You see, grit isn’t necessarily the same thing as success, but it’s positively correlated with success because how can you overcome obstacles 

unless you’re willing to grind out through all the failures?

It seems there’s no such thing as easy on the stuff that’s worthwhile.

People who train hard and run a marathon don’t ever say, “Wow, was that ever easy! “

Grit is a critical factor that determines outcomes.

 

Take Some Steps – The Passion Thing Will Follow 

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” 

Yogi Bera

 

There’s this pervasive, unrealistic life theory out there that says you have to be passionate about just about everything you do all the time, or else why bother. Wrong!

True – it’s great when you can find that sweet spot in your work, where you feel challenged, rewarded, and fulfilled all at once.

Statistics and life experience tell us this is very much the exception, not the norm.

It is also true that sometimes there’s great wisdom and sound judgment in knowing when to throw in the towel.

 It shouldn’t be the default response when things start heading south.

All too often, I see initiatives, jobs, and vocations getting ditched because someone “just isn’t feeling it “(aka discouragement, overwhelm, disillusion, unmet expectations) 

 I think it’s a net result of the digital era where we’re all a part of a massive cognitive disconnect between what’s virtual and what’s real. 

I’m bombarded every day with smiling faces, successes, and achievements of others on Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, etc., which leaves me feeling “what’s wrong with me” or “I must really suck at life.”

But it takes doing something to actually “do something.” You can quote me on that.

Being persistent and consistent at doing the right things is what builds your influence and a leadership presence.

Sometimes that means just showing up and doing the work even when you’re not “feeling it”. 

Just do the work. The passion thing will follow. Trust me. 

The vast majority of leadership is a mental attitude. 

One of the most significant mental challenges for leaders is self-motivation, especially during slow or tumultuous times. If you find yourself struggling to move forward, you’ll need to get a grip.

“90% of the game is half mental.”

Yogi Berra 

Can we take this one step at a time? 

Until next time

Lorne

 

Regret Has A Dark Side 

Here Are Three Ways To Overcome It In 2021

Well now. Didn’t see that coming!  Regrettable. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Painful. Difficult.
It’s like the cosmos did a once-in-a-century hit-and-run and there’s no going back to the way things were.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all in some kind of in-between space and dealing with some form of loss.

It’s been a universal public stress test and a very uncomfortable patience-builder.

I firmly believe that we have been changed in profound ways by this year, and probably will continue to be.

Our hopes rise and fall like a yo-yo in tandem with the daily tally of new infections, hospitalizations, deaths, jobless claims, government relief action and inaction, the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines, school opening and closings, and so much more.

Too soon to breathe a collective sigh of relief?

As much as I’d like for that to happen, I think we’re still in for more uncertainty at least for a while longer.

You see, I’m writing as much to myself as anyone else.

I resolved a long time ago to live life with as few regrets as possible.
How’s that going?

Pretty much OK, but I’ve got to admit, the impact of the past year has brought this area back into sharp focus.

Regret comes up a lot. It is a recurring conversation theme with many of my colleagues, clients, friends, and acquaintances.

No one seems immune. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming professional or a hardworking barista, sooner or later you encounter the effects of cumulative loss.

Personal freedoms lost. Opportunities lost. Health or income losses. Time lost. Pandemic fatigue is real and I think we’re all allowed the occasional crank-out or bout of cynicism.

Even the indomitable Michelle Obama is admitting to low-grade depression due to quarantine.

The long term effects of regret (a form of grieving) are well documented. Not only is it detrimental to our mental health, but it also has physiological effects as well.

The litany of nasty side effects can include sleeplessness, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and eating disorders.

How To Face Regrets Head On 

Practice Intentional Change Adaptation 

Innumerable changes have been foisted on us and there are numerous rationales we feed ourselves that make us resistant to change.

How many times have we needed to “pivot” in 2020? (plans changed, course reversed, gears shifted, etc.)

We all know people who haven’t been able to change with the times. Sooner or later they slide into irrelevance.

Our brains are just wired to prefer the familiar.

The good news here is that we can be intentional about metabolizing change. How we feel about it is less relevant than trying to understand why the change is needed, then make the necessary personal or professional adjustments.

Another piece of good news is the more you engage with change the easier it becomes. Keeping a clear sense of personal mission and an end goal in mind makes moving through changes easier.

Fighting the irrelevance that comes with not changing helps keep things on track in the face of discouragement, delays, and setbacks.

Have A Self-Care Routine That Works 

Well-being is a key aspect of living a truly successful, satisfying life even through challenging times. What does that actually mean?

It means tapping into a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm that supports your health and well-being.

It should, at the bare minimum, include getting enough sleep, fresh air, recreation, and a balanced allocation of time and activity in the seven areas of optimal living (Body, Mind, Spirit, Work, Love, Play, Money)

Body – Our energy levels, diet, stamina and strength, sufficient sleep.

Mind – The ability to focus and learn new things.

Spirit- Care for that intangible life force at the core of our existence.

Work- Meaningful and financially rewarding career, business, or profession.

Love- The quality of our relationships.

Money- How we utilize finances.

Play – Our recreational options.

All of these areas are vital to our existence. If even one of these areas is short-changed, or out of whack, personal well-being gets messed up pretty quickly.

Lead With Gratitude 

This actually works if you dig in and do it.

There’s plenty of scientific data to back it up.

In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude author John Kralik set out to write 365 thank-you notes over the course of a year.

Initially, he did it as a way to feel less hopeless during a time when he wasn’t sure his life was worth living. But with each letter he wrote and tracked, he was able to literally count his blessings.

At the same time, the act of sitting down each day with pen and paper helped to retrain his brain to focus more on the good things in life and less on the bad.

But Kralik didn’t just write letters. He also made a practice of answering simple “how-are-you?” with things he was grateful for rather than complaints.

“Gratitude gives us a break from regret and despair”

Personally, I’ve found that gratitude gets me out of my own self-absorbed head, and soon it becomes just plain fun.

It is so much more helpful than focussing on all the ways life is unjust or imperfect.

Does that mean I’m turning a blind eye to poverty, racism, social justice, climate change, and other important issues?

Nope.

Color me weird, but gratitude regularly reminds me of the important things I’m standing for, fighting for, and want to see change.

It also is a great way to sustain and build relationships. Relationships are necessary for any good fight. We can’t be in this alone. Telling people that we value them and their contributions is the very least we can do.

For me, giving thanks each day has made truly tough times more bearable. For that, I’m thankful.

Thanks also for the important work you do!

Until next time,

Lorne

 

2020: Blessed, Stressed, and Downright Hard.
(Revisiting The Big Why ) 

Too soon to debrief 2020?
C’mon, admit it. You’ve been thinking about that as well.
It wasn’t as though you didn’t have a plan. Getting lambasted by massive upheaval has seen a lot of plans, hopes, and dreams go flying out the window.
(not to mention jobs and in some instances, personal and mental health, and well-being)

LEADERSHIP IS HARD 
Finding personal motivation for hanging in there when the going is particularlychallenging is a key to forming resilience.
Having a clear personal reason for leading—a  “Big Why”—is not only a good strategy but it’s the secret sauce for developing sustainable resilience and tenacity that perseveres when resistance arises.
Usually, I’m pretty resilient. My rear-view mirror “take” on this past year is like that great line from the 1976 flick Gumball Rally.
(1st rule of Italian driving)
“What’s a behind me,…. is not important!
For whatever reason, when I face the worst, it fires me up to become positive, driven, and eager to be part of building a better solution.
On the other hand, the monumental difficulties of this last year have caused the empath part of me to be working double overtime.
I need to hit the pause button every once and a while to remind myself and those around me, that there are still a lot of good things going on and we can we live hopefully and with courage in this coming year.

Author Simon Sinek burst onto the public scene making one point: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” in his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” (52 million views), Sinek lays out his view that the key to bringing change is to “start with ‘why.’” Your inner motivation or purpose is directly linked to rallying others to buy-in to a cause.

START WITH WHY
In the talk he draws a diagram of three circles; the center circle is labeled “why” and two outer rings are labeled “what” and “how.” “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he says. The key factor for bringing change to the world is not in the strategies (the what) or the tactics (the how) but in the motivation (the why). For Sinek, the key to unlocking change is to find those people who share at the center of their being your same central beliefs and motivations and engage them in joining you.

Leadership, at its core, is about gathering people together to create value, in order to accomplish or produce something worthwhile that needs to be done. That mission is usually focused on a need or pain point that if addressed, benefits everyone, and makes our world a better place.

In this way, leadership is born not of the desire to lead but—at the center of our being—a desire to serve others in light of the painful realities of the world. It flows not from a desire to achieve, succeed, or accomplish, but to serve others at the point of real need and in turn experience that as one’s own calling.

For most of us, this is straightforward enough. For those of us whose leadership is characterized by words like transformation and mission, we are eager to make a difference and meet those needs. It’s a big part of how success is measured on our scorecard.

The prolonged Pandemic threat has had a blunt-force-blessing effect by forcing an examination of the status quo, plus adding some new perspectives.
Existential threats tend to do that.

  • The business world as we know it is transforming and resizing.

  • We’re personally needing to adapt, transform, and resize our worlds as well, to accommodate imposed changes.

  • Relationships have taken on fresh new meaning and value.

  • Simplicity, complexity, and uncertainty seem to cheerfully co-exist everywhere.

  • Usefulness and people’s time have become a new form of currency.

As I engage with executives and leaders, the recurring themes are eerily familiar; Survive, stay together, deal with rampant anxiety, regain a market share, return an organization to sustainability, or even “save the company.” The question before any leader of an organization is to “save the company for what?”

Fact is, the end-user of whatever product or service you work hard to produce, may not care all that much if your organization survives.

What they do care about is if you care about them!

Resilient leaders endure through resistance because of the deep care they have for people in pain in the world and the deep belief that their organization, institution, or company is meant to meet that need. The Big Why (Purpose) is both critical for an effective strategy and vital for forming the resilience to see it through.

It’s All About Purpose 
One of the best statements of “Purpose” comes from the ubiquitous Agent Smith character in Matrix Reloaded. I always liked Smith’s banal politeness, even while he’s trying to kill you.

“There’s no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist.
It is purpose that created us,
 purpose that connects us,
purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us;
it is purpose that defines, purpose that binds us.”
Agent Smith

I doubt if Mr. Sinek could say it any better.

Thinking It Through 
How would you describe your personal “Big Why”?
What is your deepest reason for life and service?
What is your motivation for developing resilience as a leader?
How does your ‘Big Why’ help you face the challenges that come from leading and serving other people?

Until next time.
Lorne

 

 

 

 

 

The First Time I Got Fired 

One of my first summer jobs in high school was working on a concrete forming crew. It was grueling, sometimes dangerous work setting up heavy oil-soaked panels in the hot sun, but I kind of liked it. I took pride in building the forms straight, strong, and true.

Being quite young, I didn’t know much about leading people.

My boss was one of the partners and he was always in a big rush. He had a furious temper and would unleash a stream of expletives at the slightest provocation. On top of that, he had a pronounced stutter which only got worse as his emotions flared.

One time he and I were working together setting up big panels on a windy day. It was a struggle as wind gusts kept pushing over the panels.

Even back then I had a problem-solving, “make it better“ mindset.

I tactfully suggested that if we slowed down a bit and set up bracing as we went, it would prevent the blow-overs.

He declined, and we forged ahead with the setup as if going harder would solve the problem. The second time the whole wall blew over, he cut loose with the predictable torrent of non-stop cussing.

I stifled a snicker.

By the third time it blew over, the absurdity of the situation overcame me, and I started laughing. Couldn’t stop.

Beside himself with rage, he turned purple and cut loose with a tirade of unfiltered, stuttering wrath.

Only this time it was aimed at me.

His crescendo ended with him screaming “you’re f-ff-f-f- ff f-f fired! *

Confidence Can Be Taught

Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few firings. In retrospect, it was always for the better.

Each time it was a learning experience that matured me, made me smarter, and grew my self-confidence.

Since those days, I’ve gained even more confidence in accurately reading situations, and working with all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations.

Let’s face it. As leaders in this mid- pandemic era, we could all use an extra shot of realistic confidence.

Gaining confidence in leadership is a learned process.

The same goes for competence.  

In fact, confidence and competence go hand in hand.  

Join me for LeaderLab, a 6-week online learning experience beginning on October 5. 

It contains straightforward and practical ideas on how to build your own confidence and competence as a leader and how to strengthen and develop your efforts going forward.

This training comes from decades of earned experience paired with lessons the wisdom of others.
This is immediately applicable to you, no matter if you lead a team of hundreds, or only yourself.

“My personal mission is to offer you the tools, programs, and strategies to enhance your leadership competence and confidence” LE

Peek at the agenda and see if it resonates. 

The Agenda

•          Working with Yourself
•          How the COVID Era has Changed Leadership
•          Leading When You’re Not In Charge
•          Leading and Managing Change
•          Making Tough Decisions
•          Working Effectively in Teams
•          Understanding & Improving Systems
•          Thinking Critically (Without being Critical)
•          How People Think/Organizational Culture
•          Effective Communication/The Feedback Loop 

Features Include

•          Six weekly sessions live group learning sessions via Zoom (recorded)
•          Email and phone support with scheduled check-ins
•          Two 30 minute 1-1 personal coaching sessions with Lorne.
(ICF Certified Leadership Coach)
•          Highly interactive co-creating approach.
•          Course materials adapted to your specific needs.
•          Weekly sessions begin Monday evenings October 5 through November 2
•          Start time 6:30 pm Pacific Time
•          Each session 60 -90  minutes in length with lots of time for Q &A
.          My results-oriented guarantee

Space is limited to10 participants and spots are beginning to fill,  so if you’re thinking about it, or have further questions let me know.   
Web Link for LeaderLab 

Until next time,
Lorne

*PS  I was invited back to work one week later, but by then I had found something else.


Hang in there with me for a bit. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part-er
I’m trying to capture the prevailing mood of what’s happening these days.
We’re navigating the vague ambiguities of just about everything, and I’ve got
to admit, I’m struggling to come up with the words.

There’s a new kind of antsy with the current “half normal” weirdness we find ourselves in. It’s distinctly different from the zombie apocalypse weirdness of the total lockdown. It’s distinctly different from the zombie apocalypse weirdness of the total lockdown.

The best descriptor is the secret phrase that got me through French in high school.
“Je ne sais pas.” ~ Simply “I dunno.”

August usually signals one of the more carefree months.
“Normal” means barbecues and beaches, a buffer time to ease off a bit, and recharge.
Later on, comes that creeping back-to-school, back-to-work, Sunday-night feeling.
 
But in August 2020?  What kind of school? What kind of work?    

What this will mean for many of us is a return to the home office (or couch) where we’ve been Zooming in varying degrees of casual since March.

 

Take a simple idea and take it seriously.”
—Charlie Munger

This pithy quote stuck with me and served as a visceral kick-starter.

The Idea: What if I start talking with fellow leaders about the toughest challenges that they are facing right now in our COVID-impacted world?  

One of my projects over June and July was to invite 40 Leadership Conversations with leaders I know.
A huge “thanks” to those of you who participated in this.

I started personally inviting leaders to a focussed 15-20minute conversation with me around”
What is the toughest leadership challenge facing emerging and existing leaders in your sector today?”

The conversations have been rich and varied.
I’m still wrapping up, collating, and compiling results.

Why 40 Conversations? 

Well, that seemed like a nice round sample number.

A bit of a stretch for me, but doable if I buckled down
(BTW, if you’re wondering “why didn’t I get a call on this?”, there’s still time.
More is better and I’d love to hear your story, so just hop on  my scheduler, pick a time, and we’ll make it happen.)

Why now?  We all have a bit more time.

Bigger Picture Why? 

I need help articulating current realities for an Executive Leadership course I’ll be offering in October.

Leadership realities are often way more fluid than can be captured in the latest business bestseller. LE 

Our Topic? What is the toughest leadership challenge facing emerging leaders in your sector today?

Here at HeyWhat’sNext? HQ,  I like to ask the hard questions, keep us on our toes, mix things up, try new things.

This month is no different.

Most leadership newsletters give you a litany of best practices.

Boring.

How many give you an opportunity for real-time feedback on leadership issues?

Here’s “40 Conversations” Part 1 Let’s get to it.

Today’s Toughest Leadership Challenge: Tackling Uncertainty 

THBigee: Dealing With Uncertainty

The one thing that was top of mind for most everyone I spoke with was the topic of “uncertainty”.  Most leaders I know are Ok leaning into a certain amount of the unknown. COVID has ratcheted this up to a whole new level.

Privately, it has everyone a bit freaked out. It casts a pall over everything.

A trusted friend, who is always a good bellwether on all things leadership says, “Yeah it’s very weird. Usually, I have a sense of plans and direction, but suddenly all my reference points have been wiped out. It’s hard to know if we’re even moving in the right direction.”

When we come up against situations that are charged with anxiety and ambiguity — a pandemic, a recession, a job loss, an unwanted family change — most of us have trouble thinking about an upside. We can easily become paralyzed by circumstances. It’s tough to see the bigger picture let alone figure a way forward. Scientists call this a status quo bias.

There’s Always Options 

The key here is not to get stuck in “paralysis by uncertainty”  It easy to be overwhelmed by the array of possible negative outcomes. Start rethinking things in the broader context.

To my way of thinking there are three distinct mental models that are clear options when thinking through the chaos of uncertainty.

  1. Victimhood
  2. Survivorship
  3. Accept and Navigate

Victim Mentality

One is that of defeatism and victim mentality. “Nobody ever tells us anything” and “They’re doing it to us again” are some of the common narratives of this mindset.  It’s surprising to me how many “progressive” organizations, actually have little open and transparent communication. So “us against them” rumors are an easy way to explain what’s going on and why.

It comes quite naturally. Most people can quickly identify what’s wrong. It’s less instinctive to focus on what’s right and build upon that. It takes much more courage to correct a problem than to point and complain about the problem while waiting for somebody else to fix it. For some, it brings on personal existential crises.

Left unattended, cynics and naysayers can easily hijack our emotional well-being. You might need to point out that raising complaints without possible solutions can be unproductive and even harmful. If team members or co-workers insist on remaining a victim, I’ve gone so far as to encourage, or even help them to find another work setting. Unfortunately, with this mindset, things aren’t that different in a new job,

Survivor Mentality

The second mindset is that of a survivor. These are the “let’s just get by” folks. Imagine a body of water where the surface is the status quo.  Survivor mentality says “let’s just wait and see what happens” while furiously treading water. Sooner or later survivor mentality succumbs to victimhood or eventually “gets it” that change is necessary and either adapts or looks elsewhere.

Navigator Mentality

The third mindset is that of a navigator. These folks look at an upcoming change and say “Hmm, this is really happening. How can I make this work for me and others on my team?”

Leaders who foster a climate of openness and welcome genuine dialogue about what’s happening earn a whole lot more respect and trust. It’s been my experience that with the right leadership coaching approach, staff colleagues and even family members can unlearn victim and survivor mindsets and actually become navigators.

Challenging the fear-based narratives by weighing objective evidence against imaginary outcomes needs to be on-going. Keep desirable alternatives or what you would prefer to happen front and center. Harness the power of imagery —you have a clear picture of what outcome you want from this situation. Ask yourself, what would a successful outcome look like? What would you be doing with the key players involved? How would you be feeling? What mindset have you adapted to rise above the difficulties and problems?

If anything, over-communicate and be very “present” during times of high uncertainty. Make the vision of the future, the picture, a very real presence in your communication. If they see a vision that you have, they will find new ways there. If they don’t see your vision, they will only find ways to do the tasks.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.
French philosopher Michel de Montaigne

During times of necessary, non-productive downtime, we often get stuck imagining extreme either/or outcomes.

Creative leaders who are adept at managing uncertainty think realistically in terms of probabilities.
I.E. It’s possible that a meteor can land directly on your house, BUT it’s much more probable that it won’t.

They also think in non- binary terms that include “both /and”.

If we can remember there is a context vaster than we might initially have thought, filled with more options than we might have envisioned,
we are much more likely to find what I call the best minimum viable outcome.
(A Minimum Viable Outcome is the most  basic outcome you want to achieve)

Most importantly, with that broader mindset, we can weather the discomfort of unproductive uncertainty with greater optimism and calm.

Remember Those Options? 

I recently reread Victor Frankl’s account of his years in concentration camps. I was struck by his observation of how critical it was to their
survival that his fellow prisoners could find meaning in their lives, even with their suffering.

His conclusion is a powerful testament to the potential for growth even in unthinkable circumstances.
He wrote: “Everything can be taken [from a person] but one thing: the last of human freedoms
— to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The opportunity to exercise that freedom is available to all of us — and it is key to finding a way forward in uncertain times.

Stay safe! Stay strong!
  
Until next time.

Lorne

 

I’m not a patient person, so waiting in line for anything, anytime, is a detestable activity to be strenuously avoided. Some part of me decided a long time ago that there are some things that life is just too short for. Waiting in lineups is one of those things. Let’s just call it one of my useful biases.

Lineups represent “waiting” in general. That Invariably triggers other stuff. Waiting for that promotion that never seems to come, that colleague who procrastinates, the boss who can’t decide, the deal that takes forever to close. (There’s got to be a support group somewhere for folks like us)

Mass enforced waiting due to the COVID 19 Pandemic has made our collective psyche more than just a bit uptight.

That may in part explain some of the dramatic social upheaval dominating our headlines.

It’s taken the waiting game to a whole new level.

It also has reduced our attention spans so if you make it all the way through this post, then congratulations! A special treat awaits.


“Please Wait Here” has become the iconic symbol of our times. 
Seeing that you’re just standing here, I could tell you a COVID joke, but then we’d have to wait for two weeks just to see if you got it.
With much of our world experiencing some degree of disruption, distancing, or discouragement, this obviously isn’t the happiest of times.
Waiting has become an unavoidable part of it. ANYWAY…,

Let’s all resolve to come out of 2020 smarter, better, and stronger.

As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me. Lorne 

Photo Courtesy of Raquel Garcia in Unsplash ​

Why Waiting Can Make Us a Wee Bit Bonkers
(it’s actually not the wait that drives you crazy)

In researching this, I learned that there is a bit of an art and science to waiting.
I came across an excellent piece written by business author David Maister who wrote on this topic some years ago.
I’m borrowing heavily from his key points. 
  

Occupied Time Feels Shorter Than Unoccupied Time.

That’s why business often strategically place mirrors in high wait zones like elevators, waiting rooms and even gymnasiums. What better way to occupy a wait than the inane activity of looking at yourself or others while waiting for that “UP” arrow or taking a mandatory rest between reps.
Then there’s always that default activity of looking at your smart phone. What better way to appear cool and confident while trapped in a wait zone? Mea culpa on that one myself.

People Just Want to Get On With Things (rather that wait to get going) 

Anticipatory stress while waiting for something to happen makes it feel like we’re waiting much longer than we actually are. That’s why physiological stress symptoms like tension headaches or stomach nerves often appear ahead of key meetings, presentations or difficult conversations.

 Anxiety Makes Waits Seem Longer.

“Waiting + Anxiety = Seriously Not Good”

Waiting plus a strong undercurrent of anxiety is crazy-making stuff.
We’ve all had the experience of choosing a line at Ikea, the bank, or the airport, and stood there worrying that we had indeed, chosen the wrong line.
A debate with yourself ensues as you try to decide whether to move, or switch to another line. The anxiety level ramps up and the wait becomes intolerable.
Being a leader in circumstances where your entire team is anxious and wanting to switch lines is especially difficult.

 Open-ended Waits Are Longer than Waits with a Time Frame 

At the doctor’s office, patients who arrive early will sit contentedly until the scheduled time, even if this is a significant amount of time in an absolute sense (say, thirty minutes). However, once the appointment time is passed, even a short wait of, say, ten minutes, grows increasingly annoying. The wait until the appointed time is finite; waiting beyond the point has no knowable limit.

Unexplained Waits Are Longer than Explained Waits

If the doctor’s receptionist informs me that doc just got called out to an emergency and offers a re-schedule, I can wait with greater patience.

Airline pilots also understand this principle well. On-board announcements usually reference baggage being a bit late, fog over landing strips, safety checks, or waiting for the air-traffic controllers’ runway instructions. Explanations may have varying degrees of veracity, but they are way better than no explanation at all.

Unfair Waits Are Longer than Equitable Waits

In traffic jams, (a vehicular form of lineup) where you don’t know the cause of the delay or the timeline for getting going again, the level of anxiety is demonstrably high. Situations like this are fertile ground for incidents of road rage.

In other wait situations, facilities have a “take a number” system where you are served in strict numerical order. Often the number being served is prominently displayed so that customers can estimate the expected waiting times.

 The Higher the Perceived Value, The Longer People Will Wait

This explains why ardent fans will camp out on the sidewalk days in advance of an event to get priority positioning for their favorite band or artist.

Disney Corp. marketing folks work this to perfection. They are so successful that they get parents with young children to happily stand in line for an hour for a four-minute ride — a pretty remarkable feat.

This illustrates the principle that wait tolerance largely depends upon perceived value of service, -perhaps with the emphasis on the perception.

Solo Waits Feel Longer than Group Waits

One of the remarkable things to observe in these Pandemic times is to witness how conventional social isolation suddenly has become cool. People with zero connection now have a common threat and a common bond

Total strangers suddenly turn to each other from 6 ft. away to express their exasperation, wonder collectively what is happening, and console each other. What this illustrates is that there is some form of comfort in group waiting rather than waiting alone.

WAITING IS NEVER EASY! Sometimes having a better understanding and awareness of a situation helps. It doesn’t make the waiting time any shorter, but it does make it more acceptable or bearable to those of us who wait.

You still here?

Here’s that treat I promised.

See STAY IN QUEUE from Laboratoire Ferdinand Lutz Enjoy.

FYI – I’M PRESENTLY REACHING OUT TO SOME OF YOU FOR HELP WITH AN IMPORTANT RESEARCH QUESTION. IT’S FOR AN ONLINE COURSE CONCEPT I’M PLANNING FOR THE FALL. IT WILL BE SPECIFICALLY FOR EMERGING LEADERS AND EXPERIENCED LEADERS WHO WANT TO “LEVEL UP”.  Thanks to those of you who already helped out in this way. Thanks also to those of who have booked a future research conversation. I appreciate your valuable insights.

If you are interested in knowing more or participating in this, I’d love to speak with you about this. Just click the link below and book a time for a 15-20 minute Zoom conversation.

Until next time,
Lorne

Click here for a ” time 

 

 

Climbing Out of the COVID Rabbit Hole and Looking Back, Forward and Up

It feels like I’ve been in a rabbit hole for the last 8 weeks. 

Photograph by Richard Barnes. Set Design by Jill NichollsWho knew Hey What’s Next?, would be THE question on everybody’s mind these days?

It feels as if we’ve been under some kind of weird siege and we’ve had to “hole-up”
until there’s some sort of all-clear signal. My personal time/space continuum has gotten seriously messed. Tuesdays feel no different than Saturdays and it all just kind of melds together.The crisis has been physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, political, and existential.
It’s individual and collective. Hope you and yours are doing ok.

I’m more grateful than ever for coffee!  My morning coffee ritual has been one of those little things that help “ground” me. One of those familiar and comforting constants that stays the same when all else seems to have changed.

What’s helping keep you grounded and going these days? (In a good way) However small or weird it may seem, if it’s working for you, please share. It may help others as well. Shoot me a note and I’ll share it with everyone next time. Deal?

BTW. Feel free to pass this along and invite other readers. Easy signup here. 

Yup. I’ve had that holed-up feelin’ for about the last 8 weeks now.

Finally, it’s semi-safe to pop my head out and have a look around. (appropriately masked, gloved, and socially distanced of course)

Much like the fierce rabbit characters in “Watership Down” (a tale of survival and adventure) we all had to scurry to our respective warrens and hole up ‘til the outside threats of danger subside. The pandemic has upended things with breathtaking speed.

Our hopes and plans for the future have been compressed to almost nothing. We’re flying blind into a foggy future. If we make plans or draw assumptions that don’t embrace uncertainty as an all-encompassing factor, we’ll get messed for sure.

Side Note Rant Re: Uncertain Times

The ubiquitous phrase “these uncertain times” bothers me in several ways.
It dismisses the pain and disruption that many people are experiencing right now.

Yeah, we’re feeling uncertainty alright. But many are feeling far worse as well. Some are dealing with the certainty of being painfully sick. Others are worried sick about their loved ones. Millions are grieving the certainty of loss, while others are living in fear of layoffs that are certainly coming. Hordes of people are feeling intense loneliness, confusing disruption, or getting squirrely with cabin fever. So, these are not just “uncertain times.” They are also painful times, distressing times, sad times, frightening times, and so much more. “Uncertain times” seems like such a woefully inadequate description.

It also feels like a phrase coming from a position of considerable privilege, people who haven’t lost their jobs, who aren’t worried about their health, whose loved ones are well, and who are relatively comfortable during this pandemic. The worst thing in their lives is right now is the inconvenience of uncertainty.

Truth slap!  I’m probably one of these people, at least so far. My angst these days is mostly due to uncertainty related inconveniences.  My decades in the housing and health sector taught me that there are those around us who are poor or powerless, people whose lives are regularly disrupted or devastated by things beyond their control. They live with a measure of uncertainty that—honestly—is rare in my life.  I need to remember that millions of others are struggling with much worse.

I’m thinking of those, and I want to be compassionate and helpful in tangible ways.

Looking Back 

Realize this. Our generation has never had to face a world event of this magnitude. My pattern-seeking, data gathering brain immediately goes into hyperdrive to make some sense of it all.

Just one hundred short years ago, the civilized world was reeling from the effects of WWI.

By the end of 1918, twenty-million people had been killed. In that same year, 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic broke out. Combined these two world events killed approximately 50 million people, which included mostly young, healthy people.

Then came the roaring 1920’s and people felt good for a while. That is until the Great Depression began, putting 15% to 25% of people out of work for years. And what was it that ended the Great Depression?  World War II, which caused the deaths of about 70 million people between 1939 and 1945.
For almost the first half of the 20th century, the world was slogging through one big honkin’ disaster after another. Those were hard times, but people got through them, and later prospered like never before.

COVID-19 is a big problem, but in hard comparison to past world-shaping events, it’s not quite as catastrophic.
Our familial grandparents and great grandparents had to walk through all this stuff. Both world wars, a global depression multiple economic collapses, political revolutions, and much more.

Each time, they didn’t acquiesce and say “well, I guess this is the new normal… we’ll be at war or depressed forever.” Yes, those events shaped them and changed their worldview, but it wasn’t like they emerged into a completely new way of living.
They adapted and moved on. They innovated.

I suggest we’ll do the same.

The takeaway? Own your mindset. Protect it

“It’s entirely possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time.”

Yes, it’s a tough time, and there’s a chance of more difficulty before it gets better. It’s important during this time to stay clear-headed and acknowledge the challenges while maintaining a sense of hope in the midst of it all.

Hope is not just a feeling. It can also be a plan.

Looking Ahead  

Of course, the immediate future presents a difficult set of problems.
All the easy ones are already solved.
Difficult problems are precisely what we as leaders sign up for, right?

Here, in no particular order, are a few emerging trends that I think will become more mainstream.

URL (virtual connecting) AND IRL (in real life)
It’s like these two very different things got popped into a high-speed blender and totally homogenized. Can’t say I’m totally used to this yet, but adapting.

Touchless – I love hugs and handshakes.  This won’t be okay, at least for a while now.  On another front, public touch screens and keypads will still be the enemy, too. Touchless payments and digital transactions will be a big part of the new normal.

Concise and to the point- We’re in attention overload. Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock, pointed to the overall mental state brought on by unrelenting change.

This pandemic has been the tipping point factor that’s caused a lot of people and situations to hit a wall. The result is that people will begin to need everything to be brief, compact, and repeated. More prompting and instruction could be the new protocol.

Green(er) – It’s hard to want to go back to driving my car everywhere when I see satellite images of how air pollution has dropped since we all were forced to stay home. Luxury travel and exotic vacations via planes and boats all are going to get a serious re-think.

Different /Better Work – Work colleagues have seen us in our jeans and a hoodie now. Kids and dogs are increasingly a part of Zoom business meetings. Why do we have to stay so formal? And why waste so much time?  Meetings for the sake of meetings has never been my thing!  Learning to teach, lead, and manage remotely just became the new must-have skillset.

Gig Economy – and work from home. Job monogamy has been in decline for some time now It appears we’re going deeper on this one. Big corporations are taking notice and following.
We have a capacity for more fluid interactions. More than one boss. More than one team.

Creative Renaissance – What’s happened during quarantine? A lot more art. More music.
A lot more business creativity. It seems forced downtime gets the creative juices flowing.

Take a moment to think about whichever ones resonate with you.
Better yet, shoot me a note or book a “let’s just talk” time. I’d love to hear
your thoughts and ideas around this.

Looking Up 

Generations of writers have used the “peaks and valleys” of life analogy, so let’s go with that for a bit.

Each successive change in life comes with its own built-in dip. You know – a downside, a trough, and an upside. Change management researchers tell us we can’t avoid the dip. We just have to find our way through it.

This infographic courtesy of J.M.Fischer explains it beautifully.

On the downside of the curve, we experience a whole range of seemingly unrelated random negative emotions (of fear, anger, denial)

At the bottom, or the trough is where the existential questions arise. Who am I? where am I going?

The trough is the fertile zone for finding resilience. Bill George in his book True North calls these times “crucible moments”

This is where we re-prioritize, rediscover, or perhaps reconnect with a personal faith tradition. We human beings are after all spiritual beings with intellect, creativity, will, and purpose. (not just a bunch of sophisticated bio plumbing with a survival instinct)

Other sample questions might be:
What brings me meaning and joy? What do I really want?
Where do I want to be? What do I want to build?
What do I have control over/absolutely no control over?
Where do I need to fight?
What do I need to surrender?

By processing the negative emotions that come on the downhill side and digging deep on personal meaning, goals, and direction, then and only then, can we begin to contemplate processing forward and looking up. Here’s where individuals find their resilience factors

If you can find your way past “the trough” then there’s really nowhere to start looking other than up.

Face it. Everything just became so different. Life and work just got more intertwined than ever, and really, none of us have enough time left on the planet to hide and worry.
The pace of change in and of itself can be mentally exhausting and physically draining.

There’s an additional undercurrent of anxiety and It doesn’t take much to set people off or get a little bonkers. I’ll pick up on that thought next time.

Meanwhile, stay safe and strong.

Until next time,

Lorne