As I write this post, the moon is full, illuminating the night with its reflection of the day to come. Soon, the sun will announce its appearance with the first glow on the horizon. Today is Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It seems a good time to talk about hope.
But first, how about a trip down memory lane? Below is my post from Easter 2020:
Can You See It? – April 12, 2020
New doorways have appeared. Pathways through old thickets are emerging. Worn roads are fading as fresh tracks are made on new byways.
The sound you are hearing is change. The specter of death has created something else, the possibility of life anew.
As many have retreated, the old, limiting rules of the status quo are giving way to blank pages waiting for something new to be written. Your life has changed and the time has come for you to make a choice: wander in the desert searching for what was or walk into the bright new country of hope and possibility waiting for you to determine what might be.
People are stil retreating. There is still much fear and uncertainty. Everyone is on their heels. Now is your chance. There is a window of opportunity. Will you climb through?
What exactly am I talking about? I’m talking about taking a different approach. I’m talking about looking at the world through a different lens. Virtually every industry in our country has been impacted by the pandemic. Everyone is having to rework their model to adjust. Old assumptions about what is needed are changing. Hiring plans are changing. Strategies are evolving. Incumbents are reeling. Many are trying to find a path to playing it safe – how do we protect, retain, and maintain? Now’s your chance.
Opened in Vulnerability
Right now, everyone needs something different. A new strategy. A new tactic. A new idea. Hope. Energy. A different perspective. A fresh insight. Conversations have turned in new directions. People are open in new ways as the old distractions have been replaced. Family is front of mind. Safety is front of mind. Priorities are different. Within this new framework, we are all a little raw and vulnerable. The onslaught of COVID-19 has made us feel physically vulnerable and with it is an unnerving emotional vulnerability. A fragility that has softened us and opened us.
I’m not not talking about weakness. I’m talking about the hard outer shell of certainty softening to accept a new uncertainty – and the openness to new ideas that it requires.
What does this mean for you? It means that you need to turn your gaze outward. Not toward the COVID-19 horizon – that horizon only holds more fear and uncertainty. Unless you’re an expert in unraveling viral mysteries, curing them, or healing others from them, you need to look past Coronavirus and toward a different horizon, a place operating in the long shadow of COVID-19 but defiantly moving past it. The place where we still have to find ways to thrive in spite of all of those things we can’t control.
What We Need
What do people need right now? What do your clients need? Your patients? Your students? Your community? How are companies serving those needs? What is missing? What conversations are people having? Are you in them? No, I’m not talking about the arguments surrounding political reactions or appropriate social distancing, I’m talking about real discussions on how we move forward. Real problem solving. Everyone with whom I speak has new challenges in front of them. New demands for employees. New dynamics in their supply chain. New burdens on their customers. Who wins in this world? Those who have ideas. Those who are rolling up their sleeves and trying to make a difference. Or, as my friend Greg says, “Those who are running to the fire,” rather than retreating from it.
Unemployment claims climbed toward 17 million last week. That’s a lot of people not collecting a paycheck. It is also a broad government statistic. Every individual has an opportunity to reinvent and redeploy their talents. The massive market in which we exist still has huge needs. Struggling businesses must retool. Entrepreneurs have to recreate.
Complaining about unfairness or inequality in whatever market you exist is not going to help your employees or your customers. Will you get government money? Perhaps. Can you afford to wait and see? That is not a strategy. Keep hoping but know that the only answer is to 10x your efforts in a new direction.
What are you doing to be of value? How do you make yourself a lynchpin to someone willing to pay you? What are the big and little problems that need to be solved? What are the questions your clients and customers are not asking? How are you anticipating the needs of others and showing up with ideas to address them?
In spite of the dark cloud of COVID-19, I see incredible opportunities right now. The suffering world in which we exist is hungry for problem solvers. Businesses, individuals, governments, and the myriad organizations that constitute the structure of our society are desperate for creativity, proactiveness, and effort. There are many big and obvious opportunities to meet emergent demand relative to COVID-19. Great, keep working to solve those problems.
However, there are even larger opportunities in the places with unasked questions. Where do we go from here? What can we do to anticipate new demands? What products and services might be valuable to markets that don’t yet know they need them? There are lots of people trying to answer the obvious questions. What are the less obvious ones?
Look into the horizon, can you see it? That’s you down the road. With you are your family, friends, co-workers, employees, community, and nation playing their parts in this narrative. It is a post-COVID-19 world full of possibility. Take your place in the epic. We will be fighting this attacker for months or years to come. Fine. It’s time to accept the uncertainty and look to the next horizon.
Can you hear it? That is the sound of opportunity in the calls from a market hungry for answers to new problems. Can you feel it? That is the feeling of your new life; the one you are proactively building through and beyond the current pandemic. Wherever you are in the continuum of Corona-chaos, there are possibilities waiting for you. Can you see it? I can.
The Promise of a New Day – April 17, 2022
At a healthcare conference earlier this week, I sat on a panel discussion with my friend, Greg, referenced above. I frequently reference his “run to the fire” quotation as a powerful example of “showing up” for those who count on us. Two years later, COVID was just a bad memory as the heaviness of our broader healthcare problems re-emerged as priorities. I realized that, when it comes to healthcare in the United States, we struggle to find any bright spots.
Actually, I’m not sure that we don’t suffer from collective negativity across much of our society. At least when it comes to headlines and headliners. Apparently, hope doesn’t sell. We’ve become obsessed with entertaining ourselves with the extremes of our dysfunction while self-flagellating over the myriad shortcomings of our country, society, neighbors, politicians, institutions, values, employers, employees, and pretty much every other facet of our lives in the United States. Hope seems to be in short supply.
The expression “hope is not a strategy” was coined in a sales book many years ago and has appeared off and on since as a reminder that hoping for something to happen is not the same as actually taking steps to make it happen. As I look around, I wonder if that common wisdom is no longer true.
Perhaps hope is exactly the strategy we need right now. Not a bland, wait for it to happen, or wish that someone else will do it kind of hope. No, I’m thinking of a more robust hope. Like the kind of hope that Christians celebrate every Easter. Hope with a capital “H.” Hope in something greater than ourselves. Hope in things we can’t always see. Hope in purpose beyond entertaining ourselves, gratifying ourselves, or satisfying ourselves. Hope in people who care or hope in institutions that matter. Hope in a life greater than the one we now live or politicians who actually believe in something.
When did we stop hoping? We’ve been trained to be cynical. We’ve been taught to question mercilessly. We learned a hard-edged rationalism that seeks proof, experiment, and validation. Then we warped it by manipulating the data we so desperately sought to make it fit our desires. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ description of “men without chests” in The Abolition of Man. Without the mysterious capabilities of the “heart” or “sentiment” to help guide our intellect and our animal instincts, we are rendered single-dimensional “men without chests,” no longer able to discern the good, the true, or the beautiful.
But there is Hope. How do I know? My thirteen-year-old nephew was texting me this week wanting to talk about poetry. My five year old grandson can’t get enough stories, “tell me again Poppy.” My daughter is having her fourth baby in September. My other daughter is graduating from nursing school and will soon be delivering babies for those moms daring to hope enough to bring their children into the world. I know men actively working to grow their Faith, women fighting the good fight as they balance work with being a mom, doctors fighting to change how healthcare is delivered to their patients, nurses advocating for their patients, employers investing millions into their employees, stay-at-home dads returning to work after 8 years at home, brothers showing up to help their siblings, sisters being present for dying parents, and friends sacrificing for a friend dying from cancer.
We have many reasons to hope.
Maybe the missing strategy for making the world a better place is actually to hope. A good old fashioned kind of hope that sees goodness in people, believes in the dignity of every individual, works to solve unsolvable problems, stops seeking revenge, rejects resentment, and chooses to work at being better in even the smallest thing. If we’ve forgotten how to hope, why bother working to make things better? If we don’t see hope as a strategy, maybe the effort to do anything is truly pointless.
The light has appeared on the horizon. The new day is here. Along with it comes hope. Hope for what you might do next. Hope that it could be better. Hope that there is more than just what you can see and perhaps people can be better than you expect. Hope in the children who have boundless stores of their own hope and see every moment as an opportunity. Hope that we can change and there are still reasons to try. That is the promise of the new day. That is the promise for which we must continue to hope.