No doubt you are overwhelmed by the constant bad news being thrown at you by our 24 hour news/multi-channel/social media culture: More people are getting infected, more are hospitalized, more are likely to die, the economy is in free fall, retirement accounts are losing big money, not enough protective equipment for our brave frontline workers, hoarding of food, toilet paper, other essentials, etc.
I am not going to discuss that.
For the first time in many years I am not so crushingly overwhelmed with new client work that I have some time to catch up on my work, think, reflect, even read some long overdue articles and binge watch Madmen (yes, I never watched it before). Yes, it is scary that not as many people are calling. Yes, I fear COVID-19. Yes, I am eating too much. And yes I worry about my family and loved ones getting the coronavirus.
Check, done with that.
One of my favorite magazines (yes I still read a few on actual glossy paper) is Men’s Health. I am constantly ripping out pages with great info for future reference. There was an article recently about Grit. Grit has several components but two that stand out for most people are endurance and perseverance. Several people were highlighted in the article, the most well known being comedian Kevin Hart who survived a horrendous car crash last year. While the article focused on his intense desire not only to get back to where he was before the accident it also highlighted his desire and intensity to be better than he was before the accident.
Grit is about not always pushing through and not giving up. Sometimes Grit is about looking at the facts and finding a way around the problem. Stepping back and seeing the problem in a different light, taking a new path and recognizing that you cannot beat every foe and do not need to. Rather than banging your head against the wall trying to answer an unanswerable question, change the question. It does not mean giving up, but looking at the situation in a different way and recognizing when a different approach or direction is the best use of your energies. Refine what your priorities are and refocus your efforts on something where your efforts can affect the outcome.
COVID-19 will affect different people in different ways. Some (sadly) will seek to contract inward, limit social ties. They will hole up in their homes, make sure they have enough food for the next crisis and withdraw. Some will re-assess their finances and make sure they have a better cushion for the next financial disruption but they will still live their lives. Some will pull out of the stock market and avoid perceived financial risk even though the stock market historically has always recovered and is, overall, the most consistent source of long term wealth creation. Some will use this as an opportunity to re-assess their investments and take more risk for the potential of higher reward (this is not a commercial for investing, just a comment on human nature and the big picture). Some will recognize that the risk of human contact is outweighed by the benefit of that human contact provides, both emotionally and physically. Some will use COVID-19 to pursue a dream that they were waiting for: more money, more time, kids leave the house, fill in the blank ___________________.
Time and time again I refer to the fact that I am a better person now more than when I started practicing law in 1992 (27 years, wow). This is not only because I see amazing families who step up to the plate and awesome people who truly care and serve society but because of the stories of my clients’ lives. Many are from the “greatest generation.” They fought wars, they saw hunger, they lived through depressions and great recessions, lost loved ones, they went through multiple careers and thru it all they maintained a positive attitude. Until we were bombarded by the 24/7 news cycle Americans were a pretty positive crew. And for the most part, we still are. If you read articles from the last 30 years about how people from other countries perceive Americans there is an overwhelmingly consistent theme that Americans are positive and bounce back from difficulty. To be clear, we are not smarter than other countries nor are we better educated or otherwise blessed with more talent or ability.. But it is the Grit of Americans, that positive attitude that has led to America’s success in times of challenge.
While possibly diminished, the Grit still exists. While you can say that where we are now is too little too late, let’s look at where we are now. Our horribly polarized politicians came up with a bill to help. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But it shows unity when all we see is negativity. We see our corporations trying to pull together to make ventilators and protective gear for frontline workers (see GM, Ford, Tesla) and drug companies rushing to come up with treatments and produce the ones that may have some promise. We have people who are justifiably scared continuing to work to care for the ill, harvest, deliver and sell the food to us. The military is stepping in to provide additional resources in the hardest hit areas. And do not ignore that most people are respecting directives and staying home. All of this helps. And let us not minimize that some of this help and ingenuity and Grit is coming from other countries. Like it or not, we are a global community.
This is temporary. We can all summon the Grit that we have and we all have it. In times like these remembering that we are stronger than we think. For now, we tolerate the present, and move towards the not too distant future when we can go outside, see our friends and families, take vacations with those we love, eat at restaurants and make sure that we do not waste the time we have been given. When we are not caring for those who need it, now is is the time to learn the lessons COVID-19 has taught us and to move forward with determination, perseverance, creativity and positivity.