I left Hong Kong after three weeks in China on January 6th. Days later the epidemic arose. Still in Hong Kong were my wife’s parents, two sisters, and their five children ages 13 years to 18 months – all hunkered down. And in the last 50+ days of isolation, we’ve video-called them several times a week and learned from their experience. They worked from home, their schools went on-line, mandatory social distancing, and on and on. In an international, multi-cultural city of 7 million, life changed overnight.
First, a little perspective. In 1918, my grandfather joined the cavalry during World War I and almost died of influenza, which swept the world. He never left Wisconsin during his service and watched thousands of his fellow soldiers die. He started his family during the Great Depression and raised them in the shadow of World War II. Perspective.
This is not the first pandemic, nor likely to be the last one in my lifetime. I have gleaned much from my sisters’ experience in Hong Kong and hope these learnings provide you with encouragement that you’ll need over the next few weeks and months.
Take advantage of this time. In our hurry-up, hustle-bustle world, slow down, spend time with family, invest in yourself. Spring cleaning started this past weekend, much to my chagrin, but inspired by my wife. For many faiths, this is a time of introspection, fasting, and atonement. Invest in yourself, take the debris off the exercise equipment in the basement and start the healthy lifestyle you promised yourself. Bike, hike, walk, explore. Read – not a series of blogs, but a book or books.* Below we have some DBD recommendations for you no matter what your genre. And yes, use Kindle amigos.
Second, social isolation is physical, not mental. Use technology to connect with friends across the globe. Take those long walks in the woods – social distancing doesn’t mean you cannot commune with nature on a spring day. I’m having dinner virtually with my daughter and future son-in-law tonight – courtesy of Zoom. Sure, it seems like a great time to binge watch Netflix, but hey, you do that even when there’s not a health challenge. We are social animals and you should recognize and satisfy your need to connect with others – especially you relationship-types out there! And now is a GREAT time for stewardship by distance. People are home, not traveling, and yes, a little bored. Eager to connect. Call your Top 20/Next 30. No agenda. Just, “How are you? What is concerning you?”
Third, be aware, but not anxious. This is strategic thinking time. I love this chart, because we have increasingly spent more and more time in the lower-left quadrant of urgent but not important. Now is your time for the upper right – not urgent, but important. Your organization is going to need your strategic thinking. Now is the time to breathe and think deeply about the short and long-term needs of your organization. When the cloud lifts, you need to be ready.
In my early days, I worked with the American Medical Association during the hysteria and misinformation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I learned then to heed the counsel of medical professionals and epidemiologists. Through the fog of countless “opinions” and “rumors,” I learned to take their health recommendations seriously. Today is no different. I am choosing to stay at home for the next two weeks and am practicing social distancing. If not for myself, then for the millions of vulnerable Americans, like my friend that recently began chemotherapy, or my friend’s daughter that takes immunosuppressants for the liver transplant she received years ago.
Perspective. This too will pass. We will all receive and apply learnings. We will all be better for this experience in the end, as painful as it is today. Stay in touch.
Here are some choice books for your edification:
- “Prisoners of Geography”, by Tim Marshall - some good lessons on this global pandemic
- “Heat”, by Bill Buford – biography of career change
- “The Glass Castle”, by Jeannette Walls – amazing autobiography of resilience and redemption.
- “Salt, Sugar, Fat”, by Michael Moss - the science and consequences of good and bad diet.
- “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, by Samin Norsa – a feel good lesson on the science of cooking.
- “Beneath the Scarlet Sky”, Mark Sullivan
- “All the Light We Can Not See,” Anthony Doerr
- “And the Mountains Echoed”, Khaled Hosseini
- “The Traitor’s Elblem”, by Juan Gomez-Jurado
- “419” by Will Ferguson – a techno-cyber-science thriller about cyber-warfare
For you business over-achievers:
- “The Ideal Team Player”, by Pat Lencioni– a great lesson on how to find the right people for your organization.
- “Never Split the Difference,” Chris Voss – lifetime of lesson in negotiation and human nature.
*For you movie nuts, email me your favorite movie – I'll send back three recommendations you’ll like just as much, if not more. Dan.email@example.com. And don’t send me “Ishtar.”