March 31, 2020

A Coronavirus Response

By Rob Andrews

This week we’re taking a break from our normal series to talk about our current state of affairs. We’ve been inundated with news about the novel coronavirus. My intent is to share some of my own observations, and how some of my closest friends, colleagues and clients are coping with this unprecedented event. Nothing is presented as the last word on wisdom or a solution for every reader. I’m simply trying to share experience, strength, and hope at a time it seems needed.

To say we’ve been disrupted by COVID-19 might be the world’s biggest understatement. No one saw this coming. Just a few weeks ago, many of us were humming along and pushing toward a great 2020. Today, we’re concerned about our brothers and sisters in parts of Western Europe, the Middle East, New York City and other parts of the world. Many are freaked out about the state of the economy. We’ve gone from record employment to record unemployment. We’re trying to figure out what yesterday’s legislative activities mean to us, our friends, employees, and stakeholders. All of this has unfolded in two short months, since the first confirmed U.S. case on January 24th.

Even the most assured leaders can become paralyzed with fear and anxiety during times like these. Yesterday, I had a plan. Today I threw it out the window. Yesterday my employees were happy, today they’re all scared and uncertain. Yesterday my company was worth X. Today it’s worth X * 50%. Yesterday I had a huge backlog. Today it’s all but gone. Yesterday, my family was healthy. Today, I’m not sure. It’s an awful lot to deal with. It’s important to practice social distancing, wash your hands and do everything in your power to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. It is equally important to do everything in your power to protect yourself, and those over which you have influence, against the worry, stress, anxiety, and loneliness that naturally accompanies times of uncertainty.

It is my belief that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. I didn’t understand the reasons for the five biggest healthcare crises, or the five last stock market crashes. I don’t understand why good people die, why innocent children are born with serious health challenges, why airplanes fall out of the sky, or why wars occur. What I do understand is life is full of adversity. It’s always been that way and it always will be. My job is to do the work, have faith, put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing. None of us are defined by the circumstances around us, rather by our reactions or responses to them. We’ve been talking to our clients, associates and stakeholders soliciting their suggestions for how to emerge from this crisis better and stronger than ever.

1. Practice Gratitude – Start each day with a gratitude list, reviewing things for which you give thanks. It may sound cliché, but we know from very solid research that daily gratitude is good for us, helping to reduce stress, sleep better, make better decisions, communicate better and stay healthier. Spending time in gratitude, meditation and mindfulness literally changes your brain chemistry, flooding the body with dopamine and serotonin, reducing levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Living in gratitude allows healing, serenity and increased feelings of well-being.

2. Reject Fear – Easier said than done for sure but people who can rise above fear are more effective friends, relatives, parents, colleagues, and workers. One of my wisest friends said that the letters F.E.A.R. stand for False Evidence Appearing Real. Most of the things we fear the most never happen. Focus on living in the now, putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing. Among the most common regrets of people who are dying is having spent too much time worrying. As one said in Lolly Daskal’s book: “Worrying is just using your imagination to create the things you don’t want.”

3. Recognize the Resilience of our Financial System – We always come out of difficult times better and stronger. No exceptions. I’ve lived through 911, and the recessions of 1969-1970, 1980-1981, 1990-1991, 2001-2002  and 2008-2009. We came out of each of these events better, stronger and smarter. The fundamentals of our economy are solid, and our track record of recovery is unblemished. We’ve had five major stock market crashes since 1900 and recovered from each. This one will be no different.

4. Recognize Today’s Medical Innovation – We are getting better at responding to and coping with major health challenges. HIV/AIDS was arguably the most devastating pandemic of the 20th century. Heralded as an epidemic in 1981, AIDS has killed over 25 million people. While AIDS is still a serious health problem, we’ve developed ways to cope.

On Dr. Oz’s show a week ago, he spoke of a French doctor treated thirty patients with advanced coronavirus symptoms with the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin combination and in five days, 100% of patients were fully recovered. Today, Dr. Keith Rose, CEO of Southwest Medical Strategies and Rose Medical Management, said that these drugs are not only effective in treating COVID-19 but are likely effective at the prevention of becoming infected and spreading the disease.

Dr. Mark Segal this morning also reported that COVID-19 appears to be very stable which makes developing effective vaccines much easier. There are 3-4 candidates already and 1 is already in clinical trials. Dr. Michelle Saphier said this morning that the rate of new case acceleration is slowing despite the fact that testing is accelerating rapidly.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on November 17, 2019, in Wuhan, China. In less than 4 ½ months, the global medical community has responded to what many have referred to as an unprecedented health crisis, with unprecedented collaboration, innovation, and creativity. The rate and effectiveness with which this crisis is being dealt are truly amazing.

5. Get Closer to Your Stakeholders – Being forced into social distancing is triggering a strong desire to connect in perhaps a much more meaningful way than ever before. Human beings are social creatures and are discovering ways to use technology to have virtual meetings, lunches, dinners and even happy hours. Use this time to reconnect with clients, friends, relatives, and people you might have inadvertently neglected during recent years. We all want to love, be loved and feel connected. We may be experiencing a very positive transformation without really knowing it. People seem more willing than ever to be real, authentic and completely transparent, even willing to show up to a video conference without their hair fixed and their makeup on.

6. Evaluate the Things we Take for Granted – Being able to shake another’s hand, giving someone a hug, sitting at a small conference table together, having an intimate chat over lunch, jumping on a plane to go see a colleague in another city, going to a movie or shopping together. These are activities we’ll resume before you know it but will never again take for granted. At some point in the not too distant future, we will begin to resume our routines, but they won’t be the same. Out of this horrific crisis will come a lot of good. We’re learning how to have effective meetings without travel, we’re learning how to socialize at a distance, we’re learning how to connect with one another personally before we get down to business. In short, these uncertain times have forced us to do some things we should have been doing already.