#SWAAYthenarrative

How To Process A Crisis While Looking To The Future

6 min read
Health

As we fight valiantly to regain our sense of normalcy during the lockdown and even as it eases up in some states, productivity is the number one thing we strive and hustle for. We hope to buckle down for a short time until this pandemic is over. But behind this scramble for productivity is a faulty assumption that this thing will be over one day. The truth is it won't.

The pandemic will be contained, the lockdown will be over, but the legacy of it will live on for decades. The way we move, build, learn, connect, and create is being changed forever. We won't get our lives back, we will get a whole different kind of life.

On the other side of this journey of hope and acceptance is fortitude and resilience. We will know how capable and strong we are.

Growing up in an ungoverned and lawless Georgia (in Europe) during the 1990s, I have lived through periods of social isolation, martial law, extreme poverty, natural disasters, war, and violent conflicts. I have experienced food shortages and lived with no electricity, running water, or plumbing at times. I have slept under the same roof with people who I didn't trust to let me wake up the next morning. I know the feeling of tragedy and disaster in my bones.

I also know that disasters change us forever. And, when we pay attention and live through our own authentic experience of tragedy instead of following someone else's interpretation of it, we change for the better.

Demanding productivity during a crisis is delusion and just one form of denial.

We strive for productivity because productivity gives us a sense of control. But, the more we get done, the more there is to do. It's a grind that never ends. You never reach the feeling of contentment. Control is an illusion.

What hurts us, even more, is our mental tail-chasing: the guilt and the shame of falling off the wagon or not being productive enough. We are conditioned to use time for something we can show for it, the result we can see, count, and measure.

By staying productive during crisis and tragedy, what we are really trying to do is manipulate the fear with our accomplishments or efforts. We have fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of losing what we have. But the fear can not be manipulated no matter how much we accomplish. Fear doesn't go away.

Demanding productivity during a crisis is delusion and just one form of denial.

Fearlessness is an oxymoron. We never really become fearless. Instead, we become courageous by accepting our fear and acting while still afraid. We call this courage. This crisis is a call to courage. The most productive, emotionally sound, and courageous thing we can do right now is release control and prepare to be changed forever.

What to do then?

Allow room for mental adjustment.

This adjustment can look different from one day to another. You may experience sloth-like urges and apathy on some days. Other days you may be accomplishing more than ever. Allow yourself to create your own authentic experience without comparing yourself to the glorified, hyperactive, Type A, achievement junkies. Accept the ups and downs is a natural and healthy process.

Accept your feelings.

We are all going through tremendous loss and trauma, even if it's not always obvious. It's okay to not feel okay right now. It's normal to feel low or frustrated during this transition. Allow yourself to work through the anxiety and low vibes. Far worse is to be in denial and trying to control the uncontrollable. So, be grateful for your discomfort that's caused by your sanity.

Accept that you will not become an award-winning writer, an Olympic athlete, or an inventor of the next big business idea that changes the world. Don't put ridiculous expectations on your body, mind, or spirit when it is already under such stress.

Ignore the productivity-porn on social media. Let go of striving for extraordinary output. It's okay if you're off schedule. It's okay if you didn't get anything done today. Ignore people who post their ultra-productive lives during the pandemic. They are on their own journey — you can cut out the noise.

Know that you're not failing.

Drop the profound self-judgment and belief of what you should be doing during the lockdown. Failure is not universal, it's a personal belief. We have been accepting other people's standards of success and failure for our entire lives. This is the time to create our own standards. Now more than ever, we need to stop performing and pretending.

Focus on physical and psychological health and security.

Your first priority should be securing your home, eating sensible foods, hydrating, moving your body, cleaning your house, and making sure you have a plan in case of a greater emergency. Once you have secured the essentials, you will be more open to bigger mental, emotional, and physical demands. Right now, work toward establishing your serenity, wellness, and peace after you've secured your first priorities.

Focus on internal changes that are taking place right now.

These mental shifts require patience and self acceptance. The shifts will be raw, ugly, frustrating, hopeful, and beautiful. Let yourself be and be changed. Let this crisis change how you see the world. Because how you see the world is what you experience, and your life is a sum of your experiences. Let this tragedy tear down the old, stale beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions and give you the courage to build new, bold ideas.

On the other side of this journey of hope and acceptance is fortitude and resilience. We will know how capable and strong we are.

This is the time to create our own standards. Now more than ever, we need to stop performing and pretending.

The day will come when this pandemic is over — once and for all. We will freely hug our neighbors and friends. We will return to our packed coffee shops and sports arenas. Our borders and economy will reopen. We are just at the beginning of that journey. Our minds have not come to terms with the fact that the world has already changed. Feeling guilty for not being able to do enough during the lockdown only delays the process of acceptance.

The crisis is not here to teach us how to do more, it's here to teach us who we can become when we lean into the uncontrollable and the uncertain.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.