On Doing Our Part

There was a meme going around which really kind of put me in my place which was like ‘Your grandparents went to war, and you’re being asked to sit on a couch.’ Like, get the fuck with it. I talked to a couple friends who are in the workforce like cops out there sleeping in their garages, working 20 hours a day; nurses coming home and not being able to hold their children because they’re afraid they’re going to contaminate their families, then going back to work. You hear that stuff and it blows my mind because it makes me feel like I have such privilege to be able to sit around here while these people are beating themselves.

But what makes me insane is seeing that the beaches in fucking Miami are still flooded with these fucking idiots. Dude, they’re dumb fucks and it pisses me off and it really makes me insane because that’s actually the problem right there. We gotta remember our grandparents and parents have survived way worse and we can do our part here.

Sebastian Stan, On ‘Idiots’ Crowding The Beaches In Florida During A Pandemic

What It’s Like Being A Canary

Breaking free from your cage when you’re dying to feel alive and learning to fly to craft your own nest—your newer vantage point of your world.

Illustration of Canary in the Coal Mine Idiom (State Department/Doug Thompson)

In reflecting upon my last post, I was reminded of how someone once described me as a “canary in a coal mine”. In effect, I have the ability to see social patterns (i.e. culture) that can be jeopardizing to an organization and its people in turn but are often invisible to them because they don’t have the sensitivity and awareness to see them.

Of course, they joked, the canary unfortunately “dies” in the process.

And for the most part, that was symbolically true with regards to my own life, as I often reached a point where if these negative patterns weren’t addressed by the company, I found it soul-crushingly hard to stay there and see how it was affecting people, so I often quit because I couldn’t take feeling and sensing that pain on a daily basis.

In other words, the longer I stayed there, the more I had to internally shut down and compartmentalize almost my entire self, my humanity, otherwise I’d go nuts in the process. It was like being on a raft on a river approaching a huge waterfall but the people steering the raft were “navel-gazing” to a specific point in the distance, completely unaware of what was happening right under their very noses.

For the most part, this is what the past two decades have felt like for me, not just with regards to being within organizations, but with regards to being within society as well. Reality has been changing continuously, giving us warning signals, but many of us have been stuck in our bubble of beliefs, our constructed reality, oblivious to what’s been going on under our very noses.

Nevertheless some of us have been seeing these signals for some time that a new world is emerging, and communicating with others of similar vision that we need to update our maps and social constructs (i.e. institutions) to better align with the present reality of this new world arising before us.

That’s why we all need to start breaking free from our own constructed cages now, no matter how safe they may seem to be, and start learning to independently fly into the greater wilderness of the unknown.

That’s because life is no longer scripted like a superficial TV commercial but rather is now a deep, unscripted adventure. We each need to craft our own nest now, a safe sanctuary within the wilderness which we can launch our explorations from to get a broader view of this new world’s landscape before us.


Getting Real

How the social foundations of our world are being shown to be visibly outdated by an invisible virus.

Flammarion Engraving, Wikipedia

Social contracts are just social constructs that we’ve collectively created. They are often invisible to us, working within the background of our lives, providing us with a stable foundation that allows to makes sense of and navigate our world collectively together.

Yet when our world changes around us, we need to update these social constructs we navigate by or else risk going off course and crashing into a reality we didn’t see in front of us. In effect, our world has changed but the maps we’ve created to navigate them by haven’t.

And just as we have created them before, so too can we recreate them again. We just have to make the conscious choice to do so.

The hard part is recognizing and realizing that these social contracts aren’t permanent truths of reality that are sacred and untouchable but rather social constructs crafted to help visibly manifest our collectiveness within reality. Until we can make these seemingly invisible aspects of our lives visible, shifting them from something we’re subjectively immersed within to something we can stand back and objectively reflect upon, we won’t be able to let go and unlearn them, allowing us to construct newer ones in their place.

And of course, even more difficult to recognize and realize is that our perceived identities are entwined with these social constructs as well, being social constructs themselves. In effect, we are not our jobs. We are something so much larger than what we currently believe we are. We just need to see that our perception of ourselves is just a belief, one that once empowered us long ago but now limits us today. By letting go of that old belief, as a relic of our past, we can learn to step out of it and see a larger belief (and Self) we can step into in turn, thus empowering us once again.

To sum up, we’re in a time now where so much doesn’t seem real anymore because we actually lost touch with reality a long time ago. To realign ourselves once again, we need to get real, seeing and listening to reality as it truly is now rather than how we once believed it was and expect it to be. This is how we will collectively traverse and converse our way into the new world emerging in front of us.


Reintegrating With Real Work

But, just as thinking about postwar planning started as early as 1940, we should already be considering how to reintegrate people into work in the medium term, for example by lining up training for new jobs and helping revive suspended businesses

We cannot just allow people to fester at home for anything up to six months under, the flimsy pretence that they are ‘working from home’, and then expect them to slot back into the economy with ease. Let’s get real.

Len Shackleton, Coronavirus will only ‘revolutionise’ the working habits of the privileged

Taking Back Our Work

Pull the emergency handbrake on business as usual and, individually and collectively, accept the choice of hitting one of two buttons: the panic or the pause. Let’s embrace the pause.

Lisa Richardson, Communications Strategist, Arc’teryx

This is a moment where the source code of capitalism can be reworked.

Max Levine, CEO, Nico (Neighborhood Investment Company)

The idea that companies, markets, the capitalist system could ever stop, change course, and focus on what matters seemed absurd just a few weeks ago. The question for business becomes: What’s possible for companies today that was impossible, and what’s impossible today that was once possible?

Some of what was accepted now seems absurd.

Almost all of the advertising on TV seems absurd—messages imploring consumption for a lifestyle that doesn’t exist right now. Relics of a past era that look naive — simple optimism and individualism from an era that feels ancient already.

After that, we will need a time of massive reconstruction. We will need to reconstitute careers, teams, companies, and communities. But having seen behind the curtain, and now knowing that the old premise of radical individualism and relentless shareholder primacy are mirages that don’t stand the test of time or strain, companies will be called to operate radically differently.

The social contract that applies to capitalism has been rewritten. Creating value for shareholders at the expense of everything else will seem radically out of touch. Creating value for the world now seems the only viable thing to do.

Perhaps in that, we can find the inspiration and agency to take back to our work: We can achieve what previously seemed impossible. This mind-set shift could create the next era of great leaders, companies, and massive value for the world.

Sebastian Buck, The Impossible for Capitalism is Suddenly Possible


The Everlasting Present

Research does show that when you take people away from the things that are familiar to them, it’s surprisingly easy for people to lose track of themselves—their identity, the things that are important to them.

Most of us have not faced a situation even remotely like this. So we have no previous experience that we can use to interpret it. We have no guidance about how we should be responding.

I think it conveys a sort of dreamlike quality. It doesn’t feel real because we have no points of reference.

Susan Clayton, Psychologist, College of Wooster

Our routine is the scaffolding of life. It’s how we organize information and our time. And without it, we can feel really lost.

Adrienne Heinz, Clinical Research Psychologist, Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD

Precarity comes from uncertainty, by having to deal with challenges that are bigger than ourselves. Now we’re facing a pandemic we cannot face on our own.

Part of our surreal situation, I feel, is that this coronavirus—we cannot see it. But it’s dangerous, and people are dying from it.

Elena Portacolone, Sociologist, University of California

Right now, many of the patterns we know and love have been obliterated

What she meant was we can’t plan for the future, because in the age of the coronavirus, we don’t know what we’ll be doing in six months, or even tomorrow. We’re stuck in a new kind of everlasting present.

Matt Simon, Why Life During a Pandemic Feels So Surreal


The Ever-Changing Career

Even before the coronavirus crisis, there were clear signs of workers around the world feeling anxious about navigating the future of work and staying relevant in a changing economy.

But it’s not all about hard tech skills. Equally as important are human-centric and soft skills.

The reality is that career decisions will happen more spontaneously, and through happenstance, amidst uncertainty and rapid change.

What this means for career management is that individuals need to be in a state of constant readiness, and flexible and spontaneous in their career decisions.

…a protean career is one where the individual drives their own career based on personal values, and where success is based on how satisfied you feel with life and work, not necessarily how much money or power or fame you obtain.

Tomoko Yokoi, There’s never been a better time to build a “protean career”


Listening To The Signal Within

Depression and anxiety are signals telling us that our needs are not being met, and I would say the single most helpful thing we can do going forward is to allow ourselves to hear the signal. What we’ve done for a really long time in our culture is either insult those signals by saying depressed and anxious people are just weak or feeble. Or we’ve pathologized the signals by saying they’re purely biological malfunctions. What we need to do is hear and respect the signal.

Once you hear the signal and you respect it, you’ll start to think differently. First, it means that your pain makes sense. So don’t judge yourself. Don’t shame yourself. There is nothing “wrong” with you.

And secondly, it means that when we begin to rebuild after coronavirus, we’ll have learned something really valuable about the kind of society we want.

Johann Hari, Coronavirus, Anxiety, & The Profound Failure of Rugged Individualism

Grieving Your Lost Identity

Psychologists note that losing a job often equates to the grief of losing a loved one; the emotional trajectory can include any of the stages of grief, which run from shock and denial, through to anger and bargaining, and eventually to acceptance and hope.

Damien Fowler, Unemployment During Coronavirus: The Psychology of Job Loss

The Infinite Possibility to Play

The coronavirus as a catalyst of change.

Giorgia Vezzoli on not wanting “everything to go back to the way it was” before the coronavirus (resonating with my last post on how the side effect of the coronavirus is it’s giving us an opportunity, a time out, to reset ourselves societally).

And I don’t want to, I certainly don’t want to go back to a world of grown-ups.

I want to be in a small world for children, where life is an infinite possibility to play without leaving anyone on the sidelines.

Where nobody is another’s game but everyone is played and brings joy and their difference to make us learn.

Giorgia Vezzoli (translated by Massimo Curatella)