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 Nicholls

Who 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

 

 

“WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING IN 2020?”

I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with motorcycles,

I love the steady feel of the throbbing engine. The rush of wind that pushes on my face. The freedom of the open road that stretches endlessly into the horizon.

I hate it when mishaps happen. Something inevitably goes wrong. An unaware motorist suddenly pulls out. They don’t see you. A random patch of gravel suddenly becomes ball-bearings beneath the wheels. An eighteen-wheel trucker decides to have a bit of fun at the bike boy’s expense and starts crowding my lane. Yeah, it happens.

I get it that there’s something primal and thrilling about testing your mortality in different ways. (I never totally got why people actually enjoy sky diving or scuba diving)

My biking friends admit their wheels represent a suppressed alter ego. Often the bike sits dormant, gathering dust for months or years.

Just having that stylin’ ride sit there represents the ultimate freedom and adventure (Motorcycle Diaries).https://youtu.be/u6jz_b80V5g

It may reinforce a latent rebellious streak. (Easy Rider/Born to be Wild) https://youtu.be/egMWlD3fLJ8

Maybe a bit of both.

One fateful day, I had three very close calls riding my bike around town.
All of them were other drivers doing something incredibly stupid. The cosmos was trying to tell me something. I wanted to see my kid graduate. The bike got sold shortly thereafter

Years later, a bit older and wiser, I got re-inspired by reading the Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Promising myself and my wife I’d be as safe as I could be, I signed up for a hardcore Motorcycle Survival Course. Recommend!

I got gutsy little dual-sport and explored a lot of high country in the wilds of Northern British Columbia.

WHAT’S ALL THIS GOT TO DO WITH THE START OF 2020?

Life lessons learned on the bike have served me well. The lessons are readily transferrable. They’ll carry me into 2020 and beyond.

Number One 

“YOU ALWAYS GO WHERE YOU LOOK!”

This holds true literally, figuratively, and metaphorically. If you’re cruising a bike or cruising through your daily life, (or a decade), exactly where set your sight is critically important. In biking, this is an immutable law. It means the difference between life and death. At very least, a massive fail video and a whole lot of hurt.

This rider was admiring an oncoming Corvette. Fortunately, both parties were OK. See https://youtu.be/-2R4D1vBOM8

Having your sights set on things that are important and meaningful for you personally, at work, and in the community has a drawing effect. Setting waypoints and having a personal GPS system helps get you there.

See this month’s Winning Habits Challenge.

Number Two 

“COUNTER INTUITION IS YOUR FRIEND!”

Once you hit a certain speed, the laws of science and physics dictate that you push left to turn right. This is another immutable law of successful riding.

Every human instinct screams “wrong” but it’s actually “right”. If you ignore the science of this and attempt to swerve to avoid an obstacle at speed, you’ll actually be steering right into it.

This has happened to more than one newbie rider. See https://youtu.be/VVE79XT8-Mg
The silver lining here? He hit a fire truck full of trained paramedics.

Countersteering varies by speed, size of bike and geometry of the turn, etc. but if you ignore it, seriously bad things happen.

Navigating life in the 20th century at speed can be perilous.

Going with only your feelings and gut instinct when a preponderance of data dictates otherwise, leads to schmuck-ups.

Knowledge is a great equalizer. We have more knowledge available to us than ever before. In exchange for effort, the person with insight has an extraordinary advantage over the one who doesn’t.

Learn to read, research and interpret the road signs of life and respond with your head and your heart.

Number Three

“GOING FAST IS OVER-RATED!”

Yup, it’s a thrill. Gaining top speed is easy to measure and a lot of fun.
Getting there first and fast has an allure for a lot of folks.

I had an early brush with the effects of high speed. It left an indelible impression. I wrote about it here.https://lorneepp.com/whats-in-your-backpack/

There are times when celerity is exactly what’s needed.

Here’s the thing.

In today’s hyper-fast world, I’m convinced that “slow down to go fast” is the only way to go.
It may sound counterintuitive, but when every instinct is telling us to run faster, it’s time to slow down and check to see if we’re running in the right direction.

You’ll always need time to master the basics and context of any endeavor. Then and only then can you scale up and gain momentum.

The other new 21st-century wrinkle?

With all this new knowledge coming at us, we need to regularly call a “time out” to stop and evaluate.
You see, there’s hard data based on solid tangible facts and soft data that only appears that way.
Soft data leads to making assumptions that may or may not be true. Hard data leads to asking the right questions.

Unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can’t just click our heels and magically return to a simpler, slower time. However, we can pause, look at the data, and assess what the latest change means to our personal or corporate world.

For most people I work with, there are dozens of factors that matter way more than functioning at break-neck speed.

We usually look at culture, systems, and processes first. Beyond that, there’s trust, accountability, teamwork, bravery, empathy and a whole lot of other skills that matter way more than horsepower.

Yours truly exploring on Vancouver island

 

I don’t ride much these days.

That said, it wouldn’t take much if the right opportunity presented itself.

You see, a part of my brain got stuck at 18.

I still have trouble acting my age.

Until next time.


Where are you looking in 2020?
Got your three words figured out?
I’d love to hear about it.

Drop me a line.
I personally read and respond to all my emails.

Lorne                       
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You might just win a referral Taco on me. It’s been known to happen.

January Winning Habit Challenge:

Three Words For The Year?

Simple But Never Easy!

My challenge every January is to come up with three words that represent the strategic directions for the year. Two isn’t enough and four’s too many so three’s about right.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. It’s just a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in 2020.

That’s why I’ve been taking the time to thoughtfully select three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just check out #my3words.

My Process

I spend time reflecting on the past year, what’s worked, what has not, what was unclear and what was missing. More importantly, I try to gain a clear picture of what I want my next year to look like.

Sometimes the words come out of the goals I have set, other times I will jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually take time to talk through my goals and my three words with my wife Margaret and several close friends. That’s always helpful.

It shaped my ideas into something more tangible. It also reaffirmed that we’re in this together and no matter what goals I have or words I choose, they are meaningless without mutual support.

My Approach

I try to interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or on top of my workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and center, not only pointing me in the direction of my goals but grounding me in the interim work that needs to be done to achieve them.

Here Goes 

I’ve come to think of my words as three keys that unlock potential in the coming year.

So far I’ve settled on  1. NETWORK  2. ENHANCE 3. SIMPLIFY 

Stay tuned. I’ll expand on this more next month.

BTW    

It’s WAY more fun if you actually share your three words once you’ve got them figured out. 

I love hearing people’s three words every year. It’s truly one of the best parts of every year for me.

Use the hashtag #my3words so that others (like me) can find what you’ve got to share.
 

 

 

September is always a reality check time for me. Time to park my liminal “summer brain” and get back at things.

If you’re part of my community, I can only assume you love doing meaningful work that benefits others. You’ve been working hard, so it’s check-in time to see if you need to make adjustments down the home stretch.

Remember back in January? We started out with a brand-new year. It was a clean slate with some fresh goals and aspirations. You may have even joined me in the three-word challenge.

Well, now we’re at the nine-month mark and it’s time to hard evaluate.

What are you going to do with your next 4 months?

Do you have a clear plan in place?

Last year at this time I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with some of the personal and professional goals I had set for the end of the year. I worked with a coach to create a plan of attack to achieve what I had in mind. 

We focused on having a simple plan and taking consistent daily action. It was amazing how empowering and exciting it was to see the plan on paper. Once I had someone guide me through what to do, it demystified the process and made it extremely doable. 

Oh, and besides just FEELING good about my goal. I actually hit it.

It’s crazy what a simple plan can do.

If this sounds like a plug for coaching, it absolutely is! (I can’t help it. It’s what I do)

But plans of action aren’t just for personal goals like finances, fitness, personal development, etc.

They are extremely effective in business too.

Some Relevant Questions

So, how have things gone so far this year? Did you execute your game plan well?

What does your scorecard say? More specifically, are you getting the results you wanted to achieve? If so, how do you know? 

How you choose to keep score is up to you. Look, this is your game. You set the rules. But you must have some way to track the results of your efforts. Otherwise, how will you know what’s working and what’s not?

So, let’s break it down. 

What do your results to date tell you?

What’s working well?

What’s not working? 

What’s confusing? 

What’s missing?

Your Four Options

The way I see it, you’ve got four basic work options for the rest of the year.

Stick to the Plan

Adjust the Plan

Get Back to the Plan

Make a new Plan

Yeah, I get it. Every situation is different,

The “make a new plan” option is only for extreme circumstances at this stage. A big rock has dropped into your pond and changed everything. Some compelling data has come to light and you’ve got to change course or go back to the drawing board.

The other three options are far more probable. We get distracted and veer off, we need to make adjustments, and sometimes we just need to keep working the plan.

It’s also true that we experience setbacks, negative change or crisis points in our personal and professional lives.

Whatever your circumstance, lean in with your strengths. Don’t waste energy, trying to compensate for your weaknesses. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting everything done on your lengthy to-do list. 

Maybe some of those things didn’t belong on the plan in the first place. That’s not excusing -making. You instinctively know when something doesn’t quite fit and when you’re making rationalizing noises. 

We can’t direct the wind, but we can always adjust our sails.

So, take a wee break. Look at everything you’ve done so far.

 Choose your approach. 

And then get back out there and let’s bring this thing home. 

Until next time,

Lorne 

p.s. If you’d like a personalized strategy chat about where you’re currently at your business or professional career and where you’d like to go, let’s find a time and schedule a friendly, no obligation call. https://lorneepp.com