How I Made Sense of the CoronaVirus
Like millions of other people, I got hit in the face by the CoronaVirus and I’m one of the lucky ones with a healthy family, enough space in my home to have teenagers homeschooled, and a job mostly done online.
A few months ago, I had given a lot of thought to wondering How We Americans Will Overcome This Chaos, which was not yet about the pandemic.
When I decided to quarantine myself and my family in our Manhattan apartment on March 14th, I immediately thought of a quote.
“We touch the sky when our knees hit the ground.“ — Aaron Force
What I Thought the Virus Was
First — I Thought This Was a Health Preparedness Problem
Many of us see this global pandemic as a preparedness measure and an issue of a country’s health security. In countries where medical care isn’t readily available, the virus is expected to be more deadly. That makes the American hospital system even more vulnerable to the virus due to the lack of healthcare coverage for all.
In addition, our unhealthy lifestyle, eating processed food and sitting for hours on end, has weakened our immune systems. According to the Health Policy Institute, more than 131 million people — 66 percent of all adults in the United States — use prescription drugs.
In New York City, and in most major metropolitan cities, people are breathing air with a high concentration of NO2 which aggravates respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms and infections. Thankfully, with just a few weeks of sheltering in place, we clearly see a reduction in NO2 levels from the same time-period in 2019.
Then, I Thought This Was a Political Crisis
In countries around the world, we are seeing the most irresponsible acts from elected officials: They are lying to their people!
From President Trump disbanding a high-level team of global health experts who would have been responsible for the country’s pandemic defense and calling the virus a Democratic hoax, to the Chinese government silencing scientists, refuting media reports and overhyping its own success in containing the virus, it appears clear to me that politicians don’t have their citizens’ best interests on their agenda because they are in direct conflict with the unsuitable goal of growing the GDP by 3% per year.
Finally, I Thought This Was an Economic Crisis
Our lives are governed by the GDP, the stock market, and organizations focused on their own financial interests.
Cruise lines, airlines, hotels, restaurants, bars, bookstores and caterers are laying off workers en masse and telling us that we are disposable human material when no longer needed. Leaders in American organizations are hiring people without giving their employees sick leave. Is it greed, a lack of morality, or just plain stupidity?
In my personal view, this pandemic exposes our frustration with business leaders and our current systems that have transformed each of us individuals into money-making machines, while creating profound inequalities.
Then I Found Clarity About What It Really Means
First, It Means We Truly Feel Powerless
Our emotions can have a direct impact with our physiological symptoms. The Coronavirus attacks people’s lungs and their capacity to breathe.
Have you ever noticed that when you feel threatened and insecure, you hold your breath? This virus exposes our deep feelings of powerlessness.
Our acute anxiety expresses our lack of know-how and self confidence to use our own intuition and feel comfortable living our lives based on the values that empower us in uncertain times.
Second, It Means We’re Not the Owners of Our Planet
We took the world for granted, as our own — the land, the animals, the natural resources, and the people — and we abused and trashed it, only to realize that our environment (the plants and people) needs to be nurtured.
Something magical happens when we stop being at the center of our own egotistic stories:
People become compassionate and individuals step-up to help their neighbors and form local supportive groups. Nature heals as pollution evaporates, water gets clearer, and dolphins reappear.
Thirds, It Means Our Values and Beliefs Have Changed
This global health crisis is exposing a deeper truth: a change in our society’s values.
It brings to light new corporate and political responsibilities as well as an individual’s new authority. We have come face-to-face with the beliefs and values that we’ve held on to that are no longer true.
We’re exhausted by the constant pressures of work and business competition, and by the idea of scarcity of jobs and resources which is hanging over our heads, like a sword.
Our college graduates entering the workforce are chained to debts and a lifetime of corporate slavery.
Our dream of personal success is, in fact, a self-centered story in which we’re the heroes who take everything from the environment without second guessing our actions in an attempt to grow exponentially and gain social recognition from others.
So What Can We Do Now?
Long-term decisions are obvious; it’s the short term ones we struggle with when it impacts our individual daily lives.
When we lose trust in our leaders and in our systems, it’s time to reclaim our personal agency.
First, We Can Give Ourselves Permission
Permission to trust ourselves, to listen to our inner voice, and take our personal agency back.
Generations have been brainwashed to merely listen to others and do what others tell them to do, which is causing tremendous stress.
This crisis is a wake-up call for all of us to step up and become individual conscious leaders.
Second, We Can Change the Way We “Manage” People
What we are really fighting is a mental war about centralized power and control versus relationships.
We can no longer hide behind this left wing demonized conversation about health, sustainability, and the importance of people.
It’s time to make business human again, as anthropologist Jonathan Cook has been advocating for the past few years on his podcast, This Human Business.
Business leaders are realizing that their companies need people and those people need to be taken care of.
I’d like to see business leaders step up for their employees like they would for their family members.
In a beautiful post written by Mazzi’s Chief Relationship Officer, Jim Spivey, “The Role Of The Elder Versus The Leader,” we see a new understanding of what it means to lead others. The leader seeks a majority, but an elder stands for everyone. When we truly care, we’re in it for the long term.
Third, We Can Challenge The Way We Live
It’s time to break away from what we’ve done and go beyond what has been accepted.
In our business practices:
- How about building regenerative and sustainable businesses? Consultant and educator Daniel Christian Wahl is one of the people leading the way towards this paradigm.
- Short-short term stock trading does not create value and this form of capitalism is killing us. We need to shift from extracting value to creating value: the age old lie is prosperity over others. This is a major shift in belief systems.
- Entire industries will die and it won’t be the first time. In the 1900s, the automobile destroyed the livelihood of the Blacksmith. This crisis will squeeze out the marginal players in industries whose time has expired and this will benefit the health of our planet.
In our personal daily lives:
- Why buy stuff we don’t need just to be entertained and get a dose of excitement?
- Let’s stop taking our daily Starbucks coffee in a one-time-use cup and stop buying apples individually wrapped in plastic.
- And how about asking ourselves if perhaps we should consider not eating animals because they carry viruses. Maybe this pandemic is some sort of message?
Fourth, We Can Learn To Deal With Uncertainty
How do you prepare for the future and for radical uncertainty? The only way to embrace uncertainty is by accepting that we don’t know.
Through the power of local communities, we’re able to find the support we need in order to give ourselves permission to become, once again, the artist of our lives.
More than digital transformation, leaders need personal transformation and to acquire skills to deal with their emotions.
Fifth, We Can Ask Ourselves Difficult Questions
This pause due to the pandemic is dissolving our routines that define normality. We need to ask the tough questions:
- What predisposes us to believe that health comes from the domination of germs and that life is our enemy?
- What are the ground conditions and reasons why we believe so easily the narrative of Us versus Them?
- Why do we care what others think of us and why do we keep listening to our fearful mind?
This forced pause is the unique opportunity to ask ourselves, “What do we want?.” Do we want to live in a world where we are forever dependent on a centralized impersonal system of production and control, or do we want to live in a world where we are once again intimate with the places where we live and with the people around us?
WHAT IS THE FUTURE?
The Future Is the World We’ll Create for Our Children
What other common cause connects us beyond countries, religions, and personal beliefs? As a parent, an uncle or an aunt or a friend, watching a child grow up and transform is the most valuable experience of being human.
Watch Lotte in the video below grow up from 0 to 18 years.
Our real poverty is our lack of hands-on connections with others and with the soil, and that creates despair.
We are being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slow down, to think differently about what is important to us and what changes we want to see in ourselves and in society in general.
This calls for new approaches for personal and professional transformation. These emotional, physical, societal, and economic changes are our chance to take back some of our real power and control over many aspects of our lives.
Someone asked me recently: “Why are people panicking?”
People fall into one of three groups — denial, panic, or solidarity. Which one applies to you and why?
It’s not that bad. It concerns only old or already sick people. We’ll be fine and we’ll go back to business soon. We’ll find a cure. All I want is my job back so I can go back to the way it was before.
I’m scared to get sick and possibly die. Sorry but it’s everyone for themselves. I need to buy tons of groceries to survive. I want the government to tell me what to do. I need to be taken care of because I can’t do it on my own.
This is breaking our systems and this is an opportunity for us to change. What’s next? We have a chance to refine the lives we want to live. How can I help others? Who can I help today and make a change in their lives?
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” — Erich Fromm
How am I exploring and answering these questions above?
By co-writing with other passionate and conscious self-authoring leaders and asking tough questions on Pass the Mic Podcast, a video podcast featuring unusual & unscripted discussions to challenge our beliefs.