In early March, I sensed a large, asteroid-sized finger drifting into our atmosphere. It had a slow grace, but equally ominous shadow; and for a few days it left me feeling vulnerable, insignificant, and nervous. I felt it descending closer to earth with an irrefutable trajectory and presence. Instead of hurtling and cracking the planet asunder, it carefully pressed on a global pause button, unused until now.
The sun kept rising and setting; the weather kept swirling and shifting; we kept aging and nature just found more space to thrive. Every other wheel of life went into lockdown and the cycles and flows of connection, activity, enterprise and money simply stopped. We had to face just being with ourselves.
I piggybacked the imposed pause, and took a short break. I emerged with a quiet respect for the big forefinger squeezing down upon us. Coasting with little expectation or pressure during my hiatus, I reflected on how to exit this holding pattern on the front foot and in a proactive manner to take charge of my situation. I made three decisions.
Choice number one – I will not break apart my sense of purpose, meaning and focus in life to satiate a quoti-vational message to not waste this crisis.
Choice number two – my standard answer to the question of how I am doing will be based on the here and now – on today. I wont attempt to capture the amazon-wide blur of a months emotion in a short sentence.
Choice number three – when people ask me what I think about the current situation and where I it will end up, my honest reply is ‘I don’t know’. What a simple, but energy saving relief.
Since this reset, I have engaged with the world at a sober pace, and as an inquisitive observer of patterns, trends and emerging realities. I have filled my day with appreciation, and quite frankly, I am well. Along the way I have also stumbled upon some insights that have galvanised my immunity to the panic. I have learnt some enduring lessons, which I hope not to forget.
So, I share these thoughts here – in jumbled untidiness. They are not gospel truths or even that profound, but they have made my progress through this time more meaningful and less of a burden. I encourage you to think about what you have alighted upon in your own heart and mind as you consider mine below:
Joy is what I seek – I have asked myself three questions daily. What brings me joy? What do I look forward to getting back to after lockdown? and, What do I not look forward to getting back to? The answers to these three questions have guided my daily presence, kept me grounded and at ease with wherever this trajectory of events may lead.
I will waste this crisis – The day I decided to waste this crisis was liberating, and I allowed myself to act contrary to thoughtless commentary that keeps pushing us to use this time to solve some of our biggest, existential questions. I resolved that this was in fact not the ideal time to change my life, pivot my business or reinvent myself, this is a good time to be present and soak up the evolution as best I can.
We have enough – This period has confirmed that while my family does not have a lot, or an excess of anything, we certainly have enough. My urge towards minimalism is being satiated and I am calmed by the gratitude of being in this position. The years of living within our means and making smart, daily financial decisions is the most important pillar of our family’s and business’s ability to weather this crisis.
Daily rhythms trump busyness – I have doubled down on boundaries by protecting family meals and the space between work and the rest of life. I have stuck to practices such as quiet time in my garden and playing mini-Olympics with my son each day. I have deliberately forced transitions such as gaps between meetings, limited the number of calls and created time to reset my energy throughout the day.
The zen of homework – Garmin tells me that my house and garden work is as effective as pretty much any other exercise I could be doing. I have always appreciated a beautiful, crisply-clean home and abundant garden. Each day I tend to this humble little cottage and thrive in curating our little oasis.
Excess mortality matters – The day I learned about excess death rates put the news ticker scrolls of infections and casualties into a neat perspective, and eased my sense of dread considerably.
We are evolved to help each other – I have been touched and inspired by the extraordinary help that has flowed across our society. Let’s not forget how we supported each other when it mattered most. Redress, restitution and integration has the power to transform our lives.
Creativity is blossoming – Entrepreneurs in particular thrive in the challenge of surviving. New ideas germinate in the crash of opposing concepts, failing assumptions and crumbling traditions. Now is the time to experiment and explore the breadth of fanciful notions with joy, not anguish.
I still don’t know you – I have loved peeking into the lives of colleagues and clients, seeing new parts of their identities through the backdrops to our conversations and work. It’s made me more curious and intrigued, and reminded me how multi-faceted and diverse we all are.
#Stuckintrafficmustfall – I will never again choose to structure my day to include a stint of time sitting in the grinding, slow-rolling, fume-belching stagnation of commuter traffic and crummy radio dialogue.
Business attire is dead – The trappings of business etiquette have finally proven to add no value to the quality of output. Not a single call of mine has been suit to suit, only face to face, person to person, alive in our individuality and homes.
Our generation’s challenge is clear – Inequality and climate change are the biggest opportunities for us to define and shape the identity of this century. My simple realisation is that poverty alleviation is quite different to sharing and uplifting our society into a state of equilibrium.
Local is lekkerer – My neighbours, my street and my suburb are the sturdy ground to my sense of community, and investing in the lives, welfare, businesses and success of the many neighbourhoods around me is a sharp place to start a revolution for good.
Governments are what? – According to recent global research by the Edelman report, people trust their governments more than business right now. We spend most of our lives at work, time for a new grasping of the responsibility that comes with that contract.
Tend to your stakeholder ecosystem – This is the time to tangibly support all your stakeholders through deed and deliberately, tangible ways. The nett effect is a greater slice of mindshare, which may just be the source code of future market share (if that’s what you are after).
Real health is determined by the stadium, not your seat – Beyond the mask-wearing, sanitising stupor and alarm bells, surely the rigour and box-ticking of organisational health and safety must extend to the living conditions of the people in your ecosystem.
Everyone is in the people business – Case closed. All human capital and stakeholders should matter more than ever now.
When that giant finger of fate heads back into the murky darkness, I sincerely hope we will remain connected to the life, work and relationships that bring us the most joy. I will keep it as simple, and profound, as that!