While walking through the park, I came across a lone teenager playing baseball with himself. He would toss the ball in the air, hit it, run hard to first base, then pick up the ball from the infield and give a serious throw to home plate. Over and over and over.
My heart hurt for this guy who is obviously without the sport that he loves. If I was a coach I would recruit him in a minute. It would be so much easier for him to say that “baseball is canceled” or to put practicing on hold during the virus but he was out there, alone, giving it his all.
Take a lesson from this player and keep doing the things that will make you stronger when the shelter-in-place is lifted. You may not be able to continue in your desired format but you can do something that will help you grow. Singers can sing in their living room even though they don’t have access to the stage. Professionals can watch TED talks or complete online learning even though their conferences were postponed. Artists can still create even though the festivals are canceled where they would have showcased their talents.
And baseball players can still hit balls as they wait for their team to reconvene. Let’s hope his dedication is rewarded.
If you’re looking for something to watch during your time at home, I’d recommend McMillion$, the six-part documentary on HBO that outlines the McDonald’s Monopoly game fraud. They couldn’t have picked more colorful characters if they had cast them, but this is a true story with the real players who are cinematic gold.
Two takeaways from this series:
It was one person, working alone, who masterminded and carried out the entire scheme to steal the winning game pieces and sell them to others, netting himself a cool $24+ million in the process. If you played the game in the 1990s and thought you would “never” win, you were right because Jim Jacobson controlled all of the big winners within his network – for years.
It was one person, working alone, who tipped off the FBI and let to the end of the scheme as well as the arrest and conviction of many of its players. Had this person – whose identity is left a bit ambiguous in the show – not called the Bureau, the scam could still be going on today.
Whether for good or for ill, one person has the power to make an indelible, lasting impact on things far outside their own circle. Use your power wisely.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, the musical score in a movie shapes your response to what you are seeing in the film. If the sound is scary, you’re more likely to see and feel some sense of danger or impending dread. If the music is uplifting, you’ll anticipate a positive outcome and look for signs of happiness.
I often wonder what real life would be like if it came with a musical score. Would we be more cautious when driving if all of a sudden the bass tones started and the music became ominous? Could a hypothetical score of trumpets during our isolation serve to lighten our mood?
While our life’s journey doesn’t come with audible accompaniment, we can utilize our minds to shape our own reaction to life’s events. If we allow a dark cloud to follow us, we shape our response to everything we see. If we take on a more positive persona, it, too, will shape our world.
Pay attention to the “score” you let your thoughts create. Whether through utilizing actual music or through mental modeling, let the background soundtrack of your life today add to your environment instead of depressing it.
I am (was?!) a frequent garage sale and flea market shopper and am always amazed at the number of items that were staples in my family home – things we ultimately gave away without a second thought – that now fetch premium prices. I have purchased items myself that I had previously owned and then pay to own them again. Does something become desirable just because it is old?
There is an invisible line out there and when something crosses it, old somehow becomes an asset. Things that are vintage, antique, or “velveteen” seem to have a resurgence in popularity, and if the item is an heirloom it can even become a more valuable addition to your home. Items that once seemed ragged – like this 1908 auction poster from a family sale – can have a new life by being framed a century later.
This spring refresh your home by resurrecting items from the past instead of purchasing items that are new. Display some of your childhood possessions instead of leaving them in boxes. Dig heirlooms out of the attic or garage. You’ll get memories and décor in the present – and who knows — maybe accumulate some value for resale in the future as well.
Maybe it is because people have more time on their hands and are able to craft new memes. Perhaps it is because you have to laugh in order to keep from crying. Or maybe people are just trying to see the silver lining in a very trying experience. Whatever the reason, COVID humor is alive and well.
There have been countless posts on social media – some of which have made me laugh out loud – and I’ve sent and received dozens of memes to friends and family trying to lighten the mood. People are expressing their humor in other ways, including someone who peppered a Walmart with funny Post-its with saying such as “Get the big bottle, you’re gonna need it” stuck by the bottles of liquor or “If you can smell the fart, you’re not far enough apart” by the GasX.
Whether commenting on COVID directly, the quarantine, homeschooling, toilet paper, the unknowns about graduation and prom, or the governmental response to it all, people are finding moments of levity within the gravity of the situation.
Humor has been shown to improve health and relieve stress, and heaven knows we could all use a bit more of that these days. So, as you shelter-in-place there’s no need to remain 100% somber about it. Let a few laughs release some of your emotions and help you get through the pandemic with at least an occasional smile.
In his TEDx talk, psychologist and author Shawn Achor humorously lays out a serious case against the belief that if we work hard it will result in success which will result in happiness. Achor’s research shows that the opposite is actually true: that if we are happy, our brains function at a higher level and success is more likely to follow.
Achor notes that most people assume the external world predicts happiness levels but actually 90% is predicted by the way your brain processes the world. Therefore, if you change the way you view the world, you can change the way you view reality.
He offers these suggestions for rewiring your brain by performing them 21 days in a row:
3 Gratitudes: writing 3 new things to be grateful for every day trains your brain to scan for the positive
Journaling about 1 positive experience each day allows you to relive it
Exercise teaches the brain that your behavior matters
Meditation allows the brain to focus instead of multi-task
Random Acts of Kindness allows you to act on your gratitude
Our world is a bit topsy-turvy right now and it can seem hard to find the joy in current conditions. Spend 12 minutes watching Achor’s very funny speech and then adopt one of the above practices to shift your focus to something more positive. Starting with happiness can shift your reality and help you emerge from isolation with a new formula for success.
In Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, he writes about ethical fading — the short-term focus in an organization that pressures people to do things which they normally would not do.
“Ethical fading is a condition in a culture that allows people to act in unethical ways in order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others, while falsely believing that they have not compromised their own moral principles. Ethical fading often starts with small, seemingly innocuous transgressions, that, when left unchecked, continue to grow and compound*.”
The classic example is Wells Fargo, where over 5,000 employees were involved in opening over three and a half million fake bank accounts, but unfortunately, lapses occur daily in many organizations.
I think about Sinek’s concept in this time of COVID. With millions working from remote locations there can be a great temptation to engage in work ethic fading – letting habits of productivity and performance lag. Just as with ethical fading, you may be able to justify your slacking to yourself as self-care or what “everyone” is doing in this time of high anxiety – which may be true – but it is also the start of smaller lapses that can have larger negative impacts.
Don’t let your 8am start time fade into 9am then 10am before you turn on the computer. Try to remain vigilant in keeping up with email and communication. Stay on target to complete the projects you are able to finish. Reallocate any open times to create for the future instead of checking out early.
The times of uncertainty will settle into something new in the future. Take care now so that the virus doesn’t claim your work ethic as one of its victims.
A few weeks ago, when I did my health insurance renewal, I received a separate form in the mail asking me the number of employees at Leadership Dots. I promptly returned it and replied “one” to the only question the form asked.
This week, four insurance benefit books were delivered to my house by UPS. Each is about 100 pages, and they promptly landed in the recycle bin.
I am not sure why Wellmark bothers to print these books at all — surely the information could be made available online or in print only by request — but if they are mandated to publish them, why ignore the data that they just went through an expense to collect?
Stop collecting data or start using it. Little pockets of waste create a culture that tolerates big amounts of it.
For the first time in a week and a half, I ventured outside my house – to give blood. I know the need continues even in these unusual times and I figured they would be taking as many precautions as they could (they were).
If you’ve never given blood, the process begins with a health screening and a finger prick to get a drop of blood to test for iron levels, then the actual blood draw begins.
The process of the donation is painless – except for that dang finger prick. I had no pain where the needle went into my vein, but my fingertip throbs a day later.
I see it as a metaphor: sometimes we become numb to the big issues but the small annoyances are the ones that bother us the most. We expect the big things to be uncomfortable and mentally prepare for them but little pain points can test our patience or take us by surprise.
Last week, we made mental adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger changes. Don’t let yourself get tripped up by the small aggravations that make your way to you this week.
Those who work with web pages know that the dreaded 404 Error will occasionally pop up, alerting the user that a “page is not available.” Des Moines Area Community College prepared for this inevitability and opted to use it to its advantage – by advertising its IT classes on the error page.
“Interested in fighting the evil 404 error as a career? Gain this and other super skills with our powerful line-up of technology courses at DMACC. Join the Department of Incredible Things and Find Your Super IT Power,” their ad reads. I have no computer skills but it makes me want to sign up!
You can predict some of the things that will go wrong. Capitalize on this opportunity to reframe the message and give your client a smile, if you’re temporarily prevented from providing what they were originally seeking.