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Tuesday’s with Jerry

Adapting and thriving in Chaos

I have three rooms. Give or take.

The living room area. For living. The kitchen. Which is about the size of your average walk in closet. Bedroom/bathroom. Duh. And the dining room area. Which has become part dining, part studio, part office, and part pantry area.

I’m sitting at my desk in my blue chair which is off to one side of my dining area, and Jerry decides now is the perfect time to start scratching and sniffing around the rug behind me and find the perfect spot to pee.

Whilst his loving mom is sitting RIGHT HERE.

This is where we are in life right now, folks. Me clicking away while my cat gets way too comfortable and assumes it’s a free for all around here.

Naturally I freaked out and scared him. And he curls up on the couch with his eyes super wide like I’m the one out of line.

This. This is my life right now.

I pride myself on being very adaptable. Throughout my life this has come through in many ways. I’ve never had any issue talking to people and can blend in with a crowd very well. I like putting people at ease and making people laugh. While small talk is the worst, it’s something I’m quite good at. And getting a laugh out of someone is one of the best feelings there is.

In other ways, being adaptable has come in handy when I travel or find myself in a new situation. While I like routine and some sense of order, I’m very go with the flow and can find my new routine within hours of being somewhere.

When I go places I like to pretend I’m local. When I went to NYC last April, it took all of an hour to feel completely at ease. Riding the subway, walking around with my head phones in like the cool kids, and even running into my freshman year college roommate at the Trader Joes a few blocks from my airbnb on the first night I was there.

Adapting and being open to change is not something I ever intentionally set out to do or enjoy. It’s come when I’ve been thrown into uncomfortable and chaotic situations and I had to figure out the way through.

In fact it’s helped me really enjoy chaos. Thrive in it. Change doesn’t bother me one bit.

For example, leaving a job, starting a new job, moving, going through an insanely stressful period at work, having to hire and train a new team, breaking up with someone, dealing with family issues, or, here’s a good one, being in the middle of a global pandemic.

In situations like these we have a choice. Thrive. Or drown.

I’m not saying every day has to be thriving. In fact they won’t be. Clearly. You will be drowning at many points in your life. You need to drown to know what it takes to get yourself above water and reap the reward of knowing you got yourself through.

But here’s the kicker. When you’re in that state of drowning and overwhelm, that’s when the mental talk and self awareness needs to step in. Recognize what is happening and your reactions to it.

Have the self awareness to mitigate the situation, remove yourself from it, and understand that these are the moments right here that will make or break you.

Who are you gonna be?

We are all well aware that we have already had to adapt to life as it has been for the last 6-8 weeks. Whether you’ve felt overall okay, completely lost, angry, content, lazy, or all of the above, you have adapted. If you look back on your quarantine so far, what areas of your life were you able to adapt too quickly? And which areas have been the biggest struggle?

Developing the skill to adapt and adapt quickly can be learned. Like any skill, it comes with practice. Being forced to adapt, being really bad at it, failing at it, then learning from it.

When Governor Dewine first put the “stay at home” order into effect in Ohio. He made the conscious decision to use the phrase “stay at home” rather than “shelter in place.” This minor detail was Dewine’s way of mitigating panic by changing the script on two phrases that mean the same thing. Using friendlier terminology to do what he could to keep his state at ease, rather than raise more unnecessary panic by telling us to “shelter in place.” This is something a leader does. While in crisis management mode, every word and every action counts.

To use myself as an example here’s how I’ve been adapting to some areas of pure and uncertain chaos.

 

Problem

Reaction

Action

Takeaway

Fitness

Gyms are closed.
Parks are closed.
You have one kettlebell and one set of dumbbells on the way.
This is my hell.
  • I will stick to my routine knowing my workouts will not look the same. That being said, I will move 6 days a week and write down what I do.
  • I will use this time to try other things, get back into running outdoors, and allow my body to rest.
  • I love a challenge. This is a mind game now. You can always get a good workout in.
You can be away from the gym for a couple months and no one will die.
The environment and atmosphere matter a ton.
Throwing a tantrum will get you nowhere.

Family & Friends

I can’t see them.
I want to see them now more than ever, I’m deeply alone.
  • This is temporary
  • Facetime and Zoom are my new best friends
Frequent, clear, and honest communication with people that matter are critical to mental health

Work

There is no work for an indefinite amount of time.
Anger, disbelief, depression, acceptance, frequent freak outs, power through.
  • I will vent up not out. Vent to those you love and trust. I won’t let my team (if you lead a team) see me suffering.
  • My employer and coworkers did not ask to be in this situation and it is no ones fault
  • When I’m pissed off and overwhelmed, I’ll practice self-awareness, and remove myself from any situation that might accentuate that fear and negativity.
  • I will recognize when to pull back and when to push forward. Before firing away an email or saying something I’ll ask myself if it’s from an emotional place or a rational one.
  • I’ll shoot a text, call, for email to your current teams.  They are the only ones that matter right now and if I’m reacting they are too and need a rock.  
  • I’ll be honest and open, showing my human side.
  • I’ll be quick to make decisions and set boundaries. There’s enough uncertainty, there’s no need for more gray areas.
The world is not out to get you. Nor does it owe you anything.
Clear, simple, and honest communication between you, your boss, and your teams. Save your emotional reactions for yourself or your close friends. And address any of it with your teams after you’ve slept on it.
Be decisive. There is no time for gray area. 
Find efficiencies now more than ever:
  • What requires a call or meeting and what doesn’t? What are you or your team over analyzing? What has actually been accomplished and what still needs to be done?
  • How are your hours best spent?
  • Have you checked in with your current/past employees and current/past members or customers? Because they are all you have right now.

No one ever said adapting is easy. It’s not. But that’s why it’s important.

Some takeaways that are critical to adapting and adapting successfully regardless of the situation include:

Being self aware and understanding your reactions.

Simple is best. 

Talk openly, honestly, and frequently. 

Make quick, confident decisions and be open to course correcting.

I’ve managed to adapt to living in three small rooms when I know some people have even less than that. I’ve also found out that I won’t in fact die if I can’t go out to eat or go to the gym. And there’s so much you can do with a can of chickpeas.

Now, and moving forward, everything is different. And it will keep getting harder before it gets better. We are in a constant state of crisis management. Some days will be brutal, others okay. But how we work, how we play, how we interact, and how we lead and help our people will all matter. We can either choose to be victims to the chaos. Or we can roll with the punches (literally) and be the calm the rest of the world needs.

So before you freak out. Or at least after you cool off, think about how you need to evolve and change your former ‘normals’ and ‘routines’ to adapt to this new world we live in. Because it’s here to stay for awhile whether we like it or not.

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