21 Mar A crisis is a time to build momentum, not lose it
“There are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen.” And what a week it’s been.
On the macro level, the loss of life, economic hardship and debilitating uncertainty seem to accelerate with each passing day.
On the micro level, every single person’s daily life has been upended. We’ve all become the BBC Skype dad. Frozen 2 plays on endless repeat. Heck, I’ve even started using a bidet.
During these unprecedented times, I urge you to hold that two things can both be true:
- You can be paralyzed by job insecurity while simultaneously learning a new skill
- You can be a compassionate global citizen while sniffing out new business opportunities
- You can distracted by the 24/7 news cycle while still finding time to exercise
I want to share a story about the last crisis I lived through. (Yup, I’m on my third.)
A week after Lehman Brothers collapsed, I found myself in an unlikely place: the Austin City Limits music festival.
I was dancing by myself to Hot Chip (We are ready, we are ready for the floor) because… I guess you go to music festivals by yourself when you’re 28 years old ?♂️.
My Samsung flip phone rang and signaled “unidentified caller.” My heart immediately sank. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I was tipsy. (Ok, I was drunk.) And the unknown number could only mean one thing: my boss was calling.
I put on my best sober-face and answered. It wasn’t my boss. It was way worse.
It was my boss’ boss’ boss. Yeah, the big dawg boss. The one who never called me direct before. Now y’all know that music festivals have sh*tty-ass reception and he started drilling me about our investments. What was the DV01 of this bond portfolio? How would these options perform if volatility shifted by 200 basis points?
I had to immediately leave the festival (by bicycle!) to my crappy motel, where I hunkered down for the next three days and built complicated Excel models while trying to explain what was happening to our panicked investors.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Sir Winston Churchill. During those three days in that motel room, I learned more than I did than during a decade-long bull market. The resilience, creativity, and throw-out-the-playbook-mindset continues to serve me today.
I’ve spoken to many RadReaders since the start of the crisis and the recurring professional anxiety is: “I’m scared of losing momentum.”
Y’all are a determined bunch – starting new businesses, raising your hand on “stretch” projects and managing teams for the first time.
And then the record stopped.
I’m here to tell you that it hasn’t stopped.
I’m here to tell you that your momentum isn’t gone – it’s just getting started.
In hindsight, while I was in Austin motel room (doesn’t that sound so shady?!?!) I stumbled into 3 strategies that still serve me today and that every single one of you can start implementing today.
1. Put your oxygen mask on first
You can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself first. Many RadReaders have lamented how years worth of good habits have been thrown out the window. Some quotes:
- “I’m looking for every excuse possible to not exercise.”
- “I drink a lot more.”
- “I’m basically hitting refresh on news sites 24/7.”
It’s totally human to crave quick dopamine hits as a short-term refuge from the craziness. But notice your tendencies and start breaking the bad ones ASAP.
All signs point to this being a marathon and not a sprint. Please take care yourself.
And if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. They need you more than ever right now.
Here’s a quick fix (from James Clear’s Atomic Habits). Set up a daily habit tracker. You can substitute the dopamine from a drink with a “reward” from marking a check in the “no drink” column.
2. Collect String
Journalists use this phrase to describe the early phases of their research. It’s the observation and “dot collecting” phase to incubate new ideas and strategies. Whether you’re a college grad or a battle-tested CEO, the rules of engagement have changed.
Look around. Take notes. Explore and understand unique perspectives.
In the worst case, you have incredible material for a post-pandemic best-selling book. In the best case, you’ll piece together insights that are completely unseen by others.
Here are a few tactical ways to collect string:
- Call your clients and prospects. Don’t sell to them. Ask them a lot of questions and listen a lot. Understand their worries (as humans AND professionals). Ask them what a post-coronavirus world looks to them. Here’s a Roam document with some of the answers I’ve collected.
- Keep a “swipe file.” This is an inspiration board for ideas, stories and communication. My current swipe file consists of collecting examples of great copywriting that honors our collective anxiety while pushing people forward. (Full disclosure, exactly what I’m trying to do in this email.)
- If you have an audience, send them a survey. Not only will you learn a lot, your audience will appreciate your synthesis of the hive mind. In fact, I’d love for you to fill out my survey of how I can support the community.
3. Be a servant leader
Servant leadership inverts the traditional model of leadership. You don’t work for me. Nope. I’m here to serve you. Here’s a great quote on what it means to be a servant leader from the author Chris Edmonds:
“I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community. Anyone can serve – and lead – from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.”
You are needed more than ever. Lean into it. Embrace it. Be there for your people.
If that’s not momentum – I don’t know what is.
I wish you and your loved ones health, safety and serenity during these unnerving times.
I love you all,