Never Waste a Good Crisis

The word crisis has its roots in the Latin krisis, to separate, a reminder to step back and take a more objective look at our habits, expectations and momentum. Our world is shifting on its axis: Covid-19, an price war between oil giants, Meghan and Harry. It’s a time to reevaluate.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor head to Vancouver, striding off one stage and onto another, uncharted one. Frank Augstein/Associated Press

We’re being nudged, gently and not so gently. It’s quiet here in Austin, Texas. Typically at this time of year, the city is buzzing with SXSW. Residents rent their houses and pack up for Paris or Rome. Austin becomes a mini-Las Vegas, full of celebrities, adrenal rushes, music, deals and futurist thinking. Not so in 2020. This year we’ll take a different, as yet unknown approach.

Yesterday I had a phone interview with a prospective client looking for someone to plug in for a team member out on leave. Her questions were smart and focused: what value do you bring? But it wasn’t until afterwards that I acknowledged her critical thinking. Okay, so you’re different. How will you improve what we do and how we do it? Think more about us, and less about you. Hmm, a timely reminder.

Chatting with my neighbor Mohamed, the conversation turned to — the stock market. I asked him how old he was in 2008 when the Great Recession unfolded. He was 18, a freshman at Rice University in Houston. He’s morphed from a statistician (oil), to a sales analyst (software), to an entrepreneur. Now he tells me he’s where he wants to be, in technical sales. So far, the unknown doesn’t phase him. He’s unashamedly optimistic.

Off and on for the past month, The New York Times has advised practicing optimism. Yes, optimism, like abs, can be toned. And similarly, there’s value there. When we’re optimistic, more possibilities bubble to the surface.

Experimentation is risky. But at a certain point, remember, we are a very lucky in many, many ways. What have we got to lose by smiling and taking a new approach?