Briefing Notes: The pandemic is accelerating everything. Here’s how to avoid paralysis.

Published: April 19, 2020

“This is a chance of a lifetime. Our lifetime.” — Seth Godin


HERE’S THE THING

Acceleration (and its various permutations) is a word that’s having its moment.

The pandemic is apparently accelerating all kinds of trends, projections, and things that were already in the plans but were taking their sweet time to get done.

The current situation has accelerated automation, remote working, succession planning, inclusion practices, digital transformation, resiliency planning…. oh, and so much more.

With all these accelerations, there is an emerging economy and a new future of work that is unfolding on stage. And we have prime seats. The way I see it, we can either watch as it unfolds… or jump on stage and participate in its creation.

As I write these words, I also recognize that it’s perfectly understandable to have your deer-caught-in-the-headlights moment. I certainly did.

Uncertainty can be paralyzing.

When confronting a situation freighted with anxiety and ambiguity — a pandemic, a recession, a job loss, an unwanted family change — most of us can imagine no upside. We become paralyzed, caught in a state called unproductive uncertainty.

But others have been able to see their way through these moments and find a positive path forward. Those who have excelled in the face of uncertainty share three habits:

  • They open their eyes to all options, present and future. They adjust their lenses so that they’re not only looking at the immediate situation. Instead, they step back to see the big picture for broader possibilities.
  • They think in terms of probabilities, NOT binary outcomes. Thinking in terms of either/or outcomes is an easy trap to fall in. Those who thrive during times of uncertainty get that there are degrees of probabilities and act accordingly.
  • They remember that possibilities always exist. Victor Frankl’s account of his years in concentration camps is a powerful reminder that even in the gravest of circumstances, our freedom to find meaning is available to us all. Exercising this freedom is the key to finding a way forward in uncertain times.

Bottom Line:
We are experiencing shifts in businesses and society at scale and at whip-lash-inducing speed. Some of the results will be devastating. And yet, there are opportunities for improvement, for reinvention, for new careers and new creations. There has never been a better time to flex and face uncertainty head-on.


WHAT WILL YOU CREATE?

Now is as good a time as any to explore your creativity. Even a few minutes of daily creativity can keep you inspired.

Check out Skillshare’s short lessons, all under 15 minutes, that will have you exploring your creativity in no time. Try these classes out and get two months premium for free using our affiliate link.


INTERESTINGLY
  • If you are (or know someone) among the 17 million+ Americans who filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks, and you’re not interested in grocery, delivery, or warehouse positions, there are other places to find work. These 15 career categories are in demand, with increased job postings since March.
  • What day is it? You’re not the only one asking. Google searches for ‘what day is it’ have spiked. “We’ve lost every single social anchor we normally have.”
  • Audio: Three Ways to Think Like a Futurist | The Future of Work with Jacob Morgan. Futurists don’t predict the future, but they do make sure their organizations aren’t surprised by what the future will bring.

SECOND BREAKER SHOUT OUT
We’re all looking for ways to embrace change right now, but it can feel hard to do alone. Friend of the podcast, Zoha Abbas of The Ownership Method has designed her Pivot Sessions specifically for small business owners looking to rise up to meet change head-on and create a plan so they can pivot and keep showing up for their communities in a big-hearted way. Thank you for your support!


MULL IT OVER

“Here’s the thing: It’s never the right time. When you’re starting a family, it’s not the right time. When your kids are about to go to college, it’s not the right time. […] We have a thousand perfect reasons. All of them based on a misunderstanding of fear vs freedom. This is a chance of a lifetime. Our lifetime. Not someone else. Us. Not later. Now.” — Seth Godin


FUTURE TENSE

Digital learning has been around for a long time. But it has always been considered second best or “better than nothing”. As the pandemic sent students home, an experiment into digital learning at scale is ramping up. In the US alone, over 100 universities, from Harvard to Duke, are offering online classes to students to keep the semester going. In the long term, the world will likely end up combining the best aspects of traditional and digital learning. But for now, we can dare imagine the possibilities.


REMEMBER THE TIME

… when Drive-In theaters were the thing? Ok, maybe you’ve never been to one (I’ve never been either.). But you know of it, right? People sat in their parked cars, watching movies projected on large screens. Though many of us have never experienced drive-in theaters, they’re apparently having a resurgence in this social-distancing, mask-wearing world of ours.


SECOND BREAKS UPDATE

Are stoics better at handling crises and difficult moments? This week on the podcast, I explore Stoicism and some of its teachings that can help us navigate our world today. I’m joined by Brendan Hufford who has been studying and practicing Stoicism for many years. He shared a personal story when he learned of a devastating diagnosis of their son when he was just two years old, which made him embrace the concept of amor fati (a love of fate). Listen to Ep 126 on your mobile app.


THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT

Second Breaks is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to develop and requires paid subscriptions to numerous journals, magazines, and books to get the widest and best source of information. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!


LAST WORD

It’s clear from everything I’m reading that no one knows what all the changes are going to look like when this is all over. Or even how soon we can find ourselves on the other side of this world situation.

We all have front row seats as the new future of work unfolds. And within that unfolding is an opportunity for us to seize. As Seth Godin said, “We have an opportunity of a lifetime. Our lifetime.”

Best wishes for a safe and sane week. Send over any comments, online classes you’re taking, your favorite quarant-ainment, and the Drive-In movie you’d love to watch.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


ABOUT LOU BLASER

A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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