Thinking about “the day after” COVID-19~Forget reset, it wasn’t meant to be anyway.
As the blanket of COVID-19 covers more of the world and the number of people infected increases, the degrees of separation with the virus is decreasing. These days are filled with a colossal amount of information and noise, and it’s a lot to process…A LOT. Several weeks spent trying to understand, navigate and make sense of it all has been overwhelming.
Many of us are undergoing levels of grief and mourning. Our internal grief shows up in stages we’ve may be familiar with, but haven’t connected it to this current state. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance may be happening individually; the isolation en masse. We worry about loved ones in clustered areas and far away, overworked first responders; life and death for not only those directly infected, but side effects of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. There has been an outcry for getting back to normal, missing our pre-virus lifestyles and craving a reset. I was one of those people.
Then I received a newsletter from my friend, Lucas Spivey of Culture Hustlers, whose program helps creatives become sustainable, asking if we really wanted to go back to “normal”. Huh?? Then the words he wrote shook me out of my crisis haze: You don’t have to go back to normal. Maybe normal kind of sucked anyway.
Many of us have seen the memes about clearer skies, spending time with loved ones, slowing the pace of our busy lives and wildlife returning; real or imagined ~ spoiler alert, there were always swans near Burano and those dolphins were off the coast of Sardinia (not Venice canals), not a new phenomenon. Still, they made us smile and gave us hope. In a news cycle filled with mixed and misinformation, political finger-pointing, scarcity of everything from pickle relish and toilet paper to medical masks and ventilators, who wouldn’t want to see pictures of elephants after a night of drunken debauchery?
Back to the reality of stark state of things…
Not the current frenzy of spinning plates of home life, parenting, and work. Not the mental measuring of 6 feet of social distancing, trying to remember all the words to all the songs you can sing while washing your hands for the umpteenth time, and how long should you keep non-perishable containers before it’s safe to touch them. I’m talking about the realization that while some of us are scrambling and experiencing varying degrees of inconvenience, like trying to find a package of flour…not the gluten free kind, others are worried about choosing between rent and utilities, let alone how and where to get their next meal. These are not the just welfare recipients or the working poor, they are our coworkers and neighbors. 6.6 Million people filed for unemployment last week; this number does not take into account all who are jobless or underemployed.
We are grateful for broadband providers that have extended internet access to those who didn’t have access, but did we stop to wonder why in one of the richest countries in the world they couldn’t connect until now? While the Digital Divide has existed for some time, even with free wifi, what do you do if you don’t have access to electronics? Distance learning doesn’t teach if you don’t have a computer, and even if you’re provided one free; who can educate you on how to use it, so you can get up to speed to do the work?
The system is not broken~ once more for those in the back, The SYSTEM is NOT BROKEN. The system* works for those who the system was designed for, that isn’t all of us. In a Forbes article last year, the report showed salaries of CEOs in major companies were 278x those of their average employees. CEO salaries grew more than 1000% since 1978, while workers increased at a rate of 12%. In the startup world, one of the many troubling statistics show that though the businesses owned by black women have increased by 164%, only 2% of venture funding goes to women only founder teams and minority women get a fraction of that. Aside from the myriad of sad data in developed countries around the economy, there are incredibly tragic facts worldwide, like access to clean water across the world we are not considering. Access to medical supplies, staffing and tests are stretched thin in the United States, it will be exponentially worse in other places. Crisis amplifies the cracks in the system.
We are combating against an enemy, the likes of which we have never encountered before. It will test our resilience, relationships and fortitude. Some will live, some will die. We’ve never done this before and we’re all figuring it out as we go along. It’s complex and hard; it will be worse before it gets better. The good news (and yes, there’s good news) is we have an opportunity to change the narrative. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Chaos and war may not be how we want to think of this, and while “opportunity“ ”is a strange word to throw into that mix, but these are indeed strange times.
Victor Hwang, former Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation noted in 2018 that we were in a time of transition. In planning for a convening of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, he said we were at a point in history where emergent forces were coming up against the powers that be. The conflicts we were witnessing: Brexit, Racism, Me Too, Occupy Wall Street, were part of tension that would continue as part of a 20–30 year cycle of change. Recognizing that the work we are doing is part of this and the evolution of economic development.
In times of crisis, particularly in complex, interdependent systems things are accelerated and amplified. We see how people are reacting to the circumstances; good, bad and ugly…it’s character building, as well as character revealing. CEOs and policymakers are showing what they value and “leadership” is being redefined in many ways. Who is profiteering? Who is collaborating? Relationships are being tested, and over the course of time, birth rates as well as divorce rates will spike. The world is watching and it will change the way we live, who we trust and value forever. This forced pause has offered the opportunity to stop and focus.
“Amazing things happen when we Stop. We create space to Formulate, to get a clear picture of where we want to go and what we want out lives to become. We take the time to Evaluate, understanding exactly where we are and what our current situation looks like. And we make the time to Rejuvenate, investing in ourselves and our energy reserves through intentional steps forward in our rest, health and relationships.”~ Freedom to Focus by Michael Hyatt
I had a hard time thinking about the current situation as the ‘new normal’. While I crave much of what life was like, there are things I don’t miss, nor do I want to return. Recovery isn’t quite appealing…I want regeneration.
“Whatever your personal beliefs and experiences, I invite you to consider that we need a new worldview to navigate this chaotic time. We cannot hope to make sense using our old maps. It won’t help to dust them off or reprint them in bold colors. The more we rely on them, the more disoriented we become. They cause us to focus on the wrong things and blind us to what’s significant. Using them, we will journey only to greater chaos.”~ Margaret J. Wheatley
In her book that foreshadowed this inevitable series of events, Margaret Wheatley asked, Who Do We Choose to Be? There was an invitation to the ‘nobility of leadership’. Global problems such as poverty, climate change, violence, dehumanization exist. The face paint, cover-up and duct tape has been removed to reveal stark truths magnified for more to see. Now is the time to decide what we value, who we are and where we want to go. Forget the past, we need to build for what’s next.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” ~Rumi
A few years ago, I embarked on a journey as an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. Long before that, I worked to catalyze communities, because it was what I was drawn to do. I’m grateful for my co-collaborators, because “Now More Than Ever We Need Ecosystem Builders” as my eloquent friend, Jeff Bennett shared. I don’t want to go back…reset…recover. The bandage has been ripped off, for me, it’s time to grow and foster a vision that’s more equitable, compassionate and bountiful for all.
~What kind of world will you help design? ~
Community & Ecosystem Builder, Collaborator, Catalyst, Speaker/ Facilitator. Lover of words, ideas and people.