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What I wish I did during the last pandemic

March 13, 2020

Yesterday I was blessed to speak to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA)’s EnGen class, which forced me out of the chaos of the day and into leadership mode. As I made the hour drive to Denver to meet the class, I thought – what do I wish a leader would have told me during the various crises I’ve lived through?

The answer came back to me: Engage actively in the chaos and the opportunity.

Although none of the seven crises I’ve lived through was a pandemic, after each one I wished I’d taken more advantage of the opportunity to both prepare and act. In the future, we will reflect back on life before March 2020 and life after. You will remember this time vividly – make the most of it.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Decide who you want to be. Our entire society is in fight-or-flight mode, even if they are still making jokes about how not-a-big-deal this is. When you look back upon this period, who will you see? I’ve chosen to be patient, generous, and kind. I aspire to be a grounded, thoughtful, and optimistic presence with the people around me. From waving to someone to merge while driving, to holding open the door at the grocery store – I want to exude kindness and patience.
  2. Spend your time wisely. We are all checking the news obsessively and wasting countless hours bemoaning the situation. I suggest you self-query this behavior. Is clicking on yet another update or complaining useful to me and helpful to those around me? Set some boundaries for yourself.
  3. Invest money. I’m not a financial advisor, so talk to yours. But if you’ve got more than 10 years until you retire, money is made during a climb out of dark days.
  4. Pick one personal development project and do it. With the exception of those in active response to the crisis and those of you home with your little kids (sorry!), the rest of us have a lot of new free time. (I miss you already, Colorado Avalanche!) Pick one personal development project and map out a two-week schedule. Put it on your calendar. Get it done. 
  5. Pick one work or professional development project and do it. Feeling uncertain about your professional future? Identify one thing you can do that will add value to your organization. Map out a two-week schedule. Get it done. If work doesn’t need you, pick a professional development project that you dread. You’re feeling dreadful anyway. Finally learn what a pivot table in Excel is.
  6. Write all of this down. There’s something very powerful about writing down “Who You Want to Be” and “What You Are Going to Do.” (If Winnie the Pooh can speak in Title Case, so can I.) Write it down – tag it to this post if you want us to hold you accountable.

Here’s what I’ve lived through:

  • graduating from college in a recession and taking an admin job with my Stanford degree;
  • the dot com bubble in my early career;
  • 9-11 as I became a manager;
  • 2008, when I ran six offices for a consulting firm;
  • a fire where my community lost 169 homes;
  • a flood where we lost every bridge in our canyon and half the road; and,
  • the 2014 oil price collapse while I ran COGA.

This time I’m going to channel my uncertainty into being my best self. You can hold me to it.

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