Over the last three months, we’ve been living with—and through—extraordinary events like none we have ever experienced. Our response to these events has been equally remarkable, even though we made mistakes along the way. It can take time to learn what you need to know to adjust your response. We rarely get things perfect, and getting things right on the first try is exceedingly uncommon.
As part of this response, we changed where and how we work, a temporary measure designed to minimize the number of people harmed or lost to a virus. However, the imposition of these measures was not thrust upon us to create a new way of working. We have passed no new laws that require one to work from home or to socially distance for the rest of all eternity.
There is no “new normal.” Instead, we find ourselves with a “temporary abnormal,” one that is fading fast, and provides an opportunity.
What Are You Going to Build?
On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, destroying the Twin Towers. I visited the site shortly after the event, while the fires were still burning, and smoke was still billowing out of the ground. The experience was overwhelming, like nothing I have ever felt before or since. I imagined that we would rebuild the towers as they were, putting things back exactly as they were, but that isn’t what we did. Instead, there is a single, beautiful, modern building and a tribute where the towers once stood.
We don’t rebuild the past. Instead, we build the future on top of the past, improving, upgrading, and generally making things much better than before.
While it might be true that a few more people might work from home and we might have finally decided that video conferences are much better than conference calls, these trends should not be what captures your attention or interest. Instead, it would be best if you looked at your work, your effort, and your results, deciding what you are going to build on the other side of this Crisis Trifecta.
Just like someone had to imagine what the new tower in lower Manhattan would look like and what it would mean, you have to do that some work for yourself, imagining what you are going to create with your opportunity to start over with a clean slate.
The Starting Line
There should be a national or international agreement on what date we are going to call the end of this period and the start of a new beginning, a new period, one in which we not only recover but also improve what we were doing before. To do otherwise is to waste a crisis, being harmed by the downside without capturing the upside. For our purposes, let’s use today’s date as both the ending and the new beginning.
Over the last few years, maybe you weren’t always doing your best work. Your engagement might not have been as high as it once was, and perhaps you were phoning it in and coasting. Now is your chance to reimagine your work, deciding what you are going to do differently. If you want to be more passionate about your work, the one thing that will give you back that emotional energy is deciding to make massive improvements, something that will stretch you and require your imagination and your resourcefulness.
You should not build your “new normal” on safety precautions imposed by your government in a time of crisis. Your “normal” should be the new, higher standard you impose upon yourself when it comes to your engagement, and the outcomes and results you produce.
The Back Half
Many companies and people have written off their goals. They’ve already decided there is no way to recovery this year, quitting without even trying to pull back any part of what they lost. Failing is better than quitting, and only one of them can improve your results. Writing off the years is “new normal” thinking, the idea that things are not going to get better—even in the face of evidence to the contrary, evidence that is piling up every day. Reject this idea and the sad, pessimists who espouse it.
You might have been brutally knocked down by these events, but you don’t have to stay down. You have half a year in front of you. Those six months are going to be whatever you make of them.
The first half of this year was not business as usual. Treating the second half as it is also business-as-usual is a mistake. When you are behind in a race, you need to accelerate your efforts to catch up. Start with a clean sheet of paper and write down your goals, making sure that they are big enough that there is no way you can reach them without changing what you do from day-to-day. Any goal that doesn’t require you to transform yourself and your work isn’t a goal. It’s a willingness to accept any result—something you should avoid at all costs.
You are crazy to believe that you can get back what you lost in the second quarter over the next two quarters, but no harm can come from trying, and any percentage over zero is an improvement.
Occasionally, circumstances provide you with a chance to start over, a gift that often comes in horrible and revolting packaging. It can be challenging to recognize these gifts, as accepting them requires you to make changes, take new actions, and allow the adversity to cause you to grow—and to become stronger.
- Refuse the “new normal” and raise your standards.
- Reimagine your future.
- Resolve to do the work with a renewed passion.
- Reemerge stronger and more focused.
- Recover yourself and your business and help others recover.