10 Lessons of COVID-19
Coronavirus, quarantine, and stay-at-home life have proven a challenge for us all, and I am by no means exceptional in that regard. As I write this “10 things I have learned during my six weeks at home,” post my intent is to vent and reflect. Hopefully, you can find a nugget in here that in some way helps you in your journey. If nothing else, I hope that you are able to find some humor in my ridiculousness.
My New Normal.
I have always been a germaphobe. Following my battle with MRSA that was picked up in an Iraqi field hospital, I have been weary of all things microbe.
Coronavirus has taken that to new heights. Not because I have been doing anything different. I have always been an obsessive hand-washer and connoisseur of disinfectant, but because my wife Jenelle is leading the COVID floor of her hospital.
When Jenelle gets home from her shift she creates what I affectionately refer to as a “bag of COVID.” She strips her scrubs in the garage, putting them in a sealed back, wraps in a towel and runs for the shower, doing her best to touch nothing.
While she is showering I start my disinfecting routine in her car and work my way to the shower with Clorox and Lysol. When she is done in the shower, we spend the rest of the evening at an appropriate 6’ distance, I serve her dinner, we have a glass/bottle/bottles of wine, and are careful not to touch.
It has been six weeks since I have left the house. It has been six weeks since I have hugged my wife.
During this time of reflection, where are ten things I have learned:
1 - I Miss People It always confuses people when I apologize for being introverted. Doing what I do and feeling so at home speaking in front of large groups, people always assume me to be extroverted. On the contrary. Being on a stage in front of others is one of the most isolating and alone feelings I can imagine, and I love it. I love being around people and large groups. It energizes me and gives me great joy. I tie this back to a line from The Great Gatsby: “..I like large parties, They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy." Though I am rarely comfortable in conversation with small groups, I desperately miss being around people.
2 - Home Should be an Oasis, not a Hotel I grew up cutting grass on 4 acres twice per week. I also had the endless task of picking rocks from and weeding a large garden in Western PA. It was enough to drive me hard toward townhouse life so that I could avoid all things related to home maintenance. Now, on quarantine, I miss it. My house is cozy, but I am stuck in these four walls. There is no yard to lounge in, no garage to fiddle in, and no space for projects to occupy my gobs of free time. Watching my colleague Joe work from his pool in Orlando has us strongly reconsidering what home means to us. We need a property that can serve as an oasis, not simply a beautiful space to change our clothes. Melborne? Savannah? Raleigh? Colorado Mountain Retreat? We’ll see.
3 - A Home Office is a Must, Even if you Don't Think You need it When we moved to Denver I made the decision not to build a home office. With my physical office so close, I wanted to keep my home clear of all things work related. COVID had other plans. I am now working, delivering seminars, and conducting life from home, and will be for the foreseeable future, without a comfortable space for doing so. First order of business once this ends? I am burning my couch.
4 - Movement is a Gift One of the best parts of my job is travel. Each month, sometimes twice, I have the opportunity to explore new cities and countries, meet new people, and immerse myself in culture. That has stopped. I can’t even go to the grocery store. As a combat Veteran I take the freedoms we are afforded in the US more seriously than most. Losing the freedom to move, explore, travel, and drive has been absolute torture. Freedom is something we take for granted, and this period should serve as a stark reminder of what it feels like to have freedom stripped away.
This we’ll defend.
5 - Life is Fragile I have learned this lesson way too many times in life. Thanks to the universe for yet another blunt reminder. Superficially, we all recognize that life is fragile and circumstance can change in an instant. Too bad many never thought it would happen to them. Overnight the US went from record high employment, to unemployment that is projected to surpass the figures of the Great Depression. Families are being torn apart over isolation, illness, and death. People of all ages are dying alone in the age of maximum connectivity. What are you waiting for? Take the trip, do the things you want to do, experience the things you want to experience.
6 - Fitness, Diet, & Health are Mandatory COVID is infecting and affecting people of all demographics either with complete passiveness or absolute devastation. The fact that some are infected with the virus and show no symptoms while others move rapidly toward life support is one of the greatest mysteries of this illness. One factor has emerged as a harsh reality for those infected: people who prioritize health and nutrition are doing better than those who do not. Obesity is a huge problem in the US, and one that is being exploited by COVID. We need to take better care of ourselves.
7 - Your People are your Strength Many of us are guilty of treating relationships in a transactional way, and this trend has only been exasperated by social media. What I have learned during this time is that we are all only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with. I am grateful for the strength and selflessness that my wife has demonstrated, the passion and dedication of my team, and the humility and drive of the people in my industry. You all are amazing, thank you.
8 - The Mind is a Powerful Thing I, like many of you, have had good days and bad days during this time. The good days have been very good. The bad days, very dark. To promote more of the good days, I have found it valuable not to avoid what is going on in the world, but to learn new ways of accepting it. Big thanks to the authors of The Daily Stoic for providing freakishly-on-target bits of wisdom that have helped me to better frame the circumstances of this time.
9 - As a Nation, We Are Strong As F Say what you will about the USA, but we have proven that the spirit which activated following Pearl Harbor is still alive and well. It is inspiring to see how so many great people and businesses have stepped up to respond to the needs of our medical community in time of crisis. This is not the time for investigations, blame, or petty politics. This is a time to rise and take care of each other. This is a time to remember what makes us great, and that we are far stronger together than we are divided. The Great American Experiment is not perfect, but theres no place else I would rather be.
10 - We are all much more connected than we realize
The biggest learning I have had during this time is that the entire world is much more connected than ever before. We are all dependent on each other, and we are all quite the same.
A virus born in a market at one corner of the world touched the lives of literally everyone in the world in less than three months.
Really think about that.
No amount of foreign policy, movement control, or social distancing would have been able to completely contain this highly-contagious bug.
Instead of turning inward, we need to instead look outward with open arms. In the post-digital age we need not depend so heavily on our politicians to represent our interests to the world. What we can do is leverage the tools at our disposal to open the lines of communication across the globe to better understand, help, and grow as one global community.
The opportunity to grow exponentially as a species is immediately ahead of us, and it us up to each one of us to take advantage of the opportunity.
Do not let others create the narrative.
Let's connect, create, and grow together.