I Can’t Wait Until Things Go Back to Normal
That’s going to be a long wait. A few years back, a good friend said to me, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” I think that waiting for back to normal is inappropriate clothing.
I’ve heard this pandemic called a crisis, a national emergency, a hoax, and a war. On the other hand, a good friend said it best: “I see this as a pause.” I suppose viruses may have some sort of community or agenda, maybe part of some cosmic plan, but that’s way above my pay grade. On the other hand, a pause gives us the possibility to discover and change.
Living by the Chesapeake Bay, I have a metaphor to help. All my life I’ve loved sailing. 90% is beyond my control: wind, current, tide, the lovely chaos and regularity of waves, atmospheric pressure, humidity. Okay, enough. The payoff? The 10% that I do control I give my absolute focus. My senses (all of them — wind actually has different taste depending on how its morphing), my mind, my instincts, all contribute — once I’m clear about the limits of my control.
Management is about controlling other people. Leadership is about controlling yourself.
I’d like to suggest that we can take this pause as a chance to tune up our assumptions. Our biases. Our attitudes. We’ve got opportunities galore: Are we personalizing the virus (how crazy is that)? Open to the idea that social distancing adds value to communicating more effectively each time we have the chance? Are we finding that we suddenly know our neighbors now when we used to know their cars? When we’re no longer around bothering our kids and grandkids, will they remember us as brave or frightening?
Try this. Grab a pencil and a marker, then draw three concentric circles. The center is what you can control. The next one is what you can influence. Finally, the outer layer is neither.
Keep this visualization with you. When frustration or turmoil seem to be sucking your energy, focus on the circles. Let go of what fills the outer circle. Also, keep the circle of influence small so you don’t either over- or underestimate yourself. Then put your energy into the center: your attitudes, your fears, your frustrations. Be as specific as possible and then ask yourself, Where’s the tiger? By that I mean, what wreckage of the future are you imagining? Be rigorously honest with yourself and you’ll find that it’s not what might happen that scares you (out of your control), but how you’ll feel and react if this fictional future comes to pass (in your control).
Push forward, not back
The pause needs room to find us. As Leonard Cohen suggested, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Our courage is visible as we trudge along right now. So are our cracks. The habits we have that are not loving, but simply practiced, will push back against illumination. Pushing forward means discarding the crap in the cracks to make room for better.
I’m practicing three behaviors to help me push forward. Like losing weight, they are simple but not easy:
To think of myself second: how can I push forward to give before get?
To listen until others’ thoughts are complete before I speak (W.A.I.T.: Why am I talking?), and then I speak to clarify, not to argufy.
Finally, to embrace uncertainty, not as a sign of weakness, but out of respect for the truth about power.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo
About the author
Mac Bogert is President of AZA Learning and a regular columnist for the Learning Counsel. He began his career as an English teacher. For the past 25 years, Mac has focused on the intersection of leadership and learning. In between, he is a musician, professional actor, yacht charter captain, staff development consultant, curriculum designer and author of Learning Chaos.