“Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst-case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
I often reflect on this quote when trying to make decisions in my life and Randy Pausch made a great point: thinking about the worst-case scenario and then planning based off of it can ease fear and anxiety. It can also make it easier to move forward with decisions. Prior to COVID-19, people moved along in life at a steady pace. They were working, the gig economy was flourishing, new businesses were launching, and new types of summer programs were marketed to kids and their parents. Even the word “essential and essentially” were commonly flung about with no regards to their meanings. Then COVID-19 happened.
Amid the fear of the spread, the many stories about what the virus was like from those who recovered, plus the stories about those who passed away due to the virus, everyone’s lives changed. Those gigs (aka “side hustles”) screeched to a halt, some people wanted to be “essential” because it meant that they would receive a paycheck. Then some people did not want the “essential” title because it meant they’d have to work while the virus was running rampant. Aid was released to businesses, stimulus checks were sent to the public, 30 million people have applied for unemployment since March, and schools (K-college) started debating on when and how they will reopen schools/campuses.
One thing we have learned as leaders in our homes, jobs, and community is that it is important to be prepared for anything. Now, let me be clear. This is not a post about how we should have prepared for this pandemic. Many people had no clue how serious this virus was until it was too late. As college President Rose Bellanca said, “We’re ready for a hurricane, a flood, a tornado. We even did an active shooter drill. We never did a pandemic drill.” But for everyday leaders, this pandemic has helped them learn new ways to be prepared for the future. Any leader in any capacity would be a fool not to learn anything from this moment, however long it will last. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is already thinking about when and how the second wave of COVID-19 will hit.
So how will you prepare for the future? Many businesses, organizations, and institutions are rethinking their workforce, pay scales, options for remote work, and what is really needed to effectively operate. Others have stepped up their counseling options for their employees, as some are having a difficult time working from home and being alone. Leaders are also learning how to communicate better with their staff. Even though online meetings are always an option, not fully seeing one’s body language and facial expression makes it more difficult to “read” people and understand the meaning of a sentence, phrase, or grunt.
As we move forward with this virus and the myriad of changes to come from it, all leaders (in the home, community, work, and self) should navigate each day with care and prepare for the future. We will experience many more unexpected events, but preparation (even in the form of having an emergency response team) is necessary for forward movement that is a bit less painful, more forgiving, more flexible, and less stringent.
Keep leading and be safe,