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Two revelations from a long, strange year


We’re fast approaching the one-year anniversary nobody wants to celebrate:  the COVID lockdown.

It was this time last year that I did a few things I haven’t repeated since:

  • I flew to Miami on a flight without a single empty seat.
  • I swam in the hotel pool, walked the streets of South Beach, and drank a couple of beers on a busy patio.
  • I attended a small two-day workshop — 18 of us sitting close to each other, mask-less, around a large table.
  • Later that week, I rode a sold-out train to Toronto for a dinner meeting.  The five of us ate at a crowded restaurant without a care in the world.

And that was the last time I did any of these things.  In the words of those famous philosophers, The Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it’s been.   Along the way there’s been impatience, frustration, a dash of sadness – and also empathy for those more deeply impacted by COVID beyond the restrictions of lockdown protocols.

Through it all, I’ve also had time to reflect.  (Haven’t we all?)  In particular, COVID has helped me learn two things about myself:

  1.  I miss travel – but for an unexpected reason.

Sure, I‘ve missed vacationing.  But I miss my everyday travel too – whether it’s planes, trains or automobiles.  When I travel, my pace seems to slow and my creativity increases.  My best thinking seems to come while gazing out the window on the train or driving alone over long distances, just me and my music.  I’ve missed this traveland didn’t realize how much I’d come to depend on it for “thinking” time.

So, to compensate during the pandemic, I now walk up to four times (and 10 km) a day – almost always with Joe, the fifth member of our family (and the only one with paws).  Walking fills part of my travel void – and still offers dedicated time when my thinking somehow gets clearer.

And now It’s a no-brainer.  When COVID is over, my walking habit will stay.

  1. A new mantra is managing my mindset.

Early on in COVID I found myself consumed with two thoughts:

  • Why can’t things go back to the way they were?
  • When will this be over?

But, as the year went along, I surprised myself with my patience.  That’s not the normal me… yet it somehowbecame me.  In hindsight, seven months of golf season helped.  It was fresh air and socialization trash talk and routine.  Without those things, who knows?  My  patience might have gone kaput.

Over time, I stumbled on a simple mantra for managing my attitude:  no time travel. How often do we hear professional athletes spit out tired cliches like, “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”  Or after a bad game:  “No use in looking back, that’s behind us.”  It’s their way of staying in the present.  They don’t time travel.  They take it a game at a time.

And it works.

I can’t go back either.  And I also can’t fast forward to the end of COVID.  So I do my best to focus only on the here and now… and what I can control.

The lessons we each take away from COVID for ourselves, our businesses and our teams will be different.  

Yours won’t be the same as mine.  We humans have different habits, thought patterns and behaviours.  We’re unique, not clones.

We’re constantly discovering new things about ourselves and those we work with.   How resilient are we?  Can we manage through this uncertainty if we put our minds to it?   Yep, COVID has been horrible.   We all agree on that.  And… there are also silver linings – lessons learned – in everything we do.  Even our deepest struggles and biggest challenges.

So now what?

What good do we take away from this long, strange trip?  How do we keep “learning from our learning?”  How do we sustain it?

For me, there are two things.  I’m going to protect my walking habit as “thinking” time.   And I’m not going to time travel.

What about you?

  1. What have you learned about yourself (or your team or company) during COVID?
  2. How will you make your learnings stick?

If you’re open to it, REACH OUT and share your thoughts with me.  I’m interested.