Since March 2020 when the lockdown had started,we see that the narratives have been changing.People initially thought that it is going to be for about afew weeks, and we will all be back at work from mid-April 2020. Now, it is August and everyone is hoping that this would blow away soon! So, the question this article explores is:
‘Who would sail through this unprecedented pandemic?’
Let’s hoist our sail and read on!
Norman Maclead (1812–1872) wrote a poem ‘Trust in God and Do the Right.’ It’s a brilliant poem and one verse goes like this:
Trust no party, church, or faction,
Trust no leader in the fight;
But in every word and action
Trust in God and do the right.
The essence of this poem is ‘doing the right’ also! Though written a couple of centuries ago, the poem makes total sense for us now. Faith in a higher power is like oxygen and we all hope that tomorrow would be a brighter day! This faith makes us get up with a sense of ‘I can/we can’ instead of waking up with a sense of resignation. However, faith alone will not work. We need to strategize and work too. The combination of ‘faith’ plus ‘doing the right’ alone will see us through.
The anecdote below gives an interesting twist to those ‘optimists’ who only hope, and not plan to act. In many ways vain optimism is all about not taking up responsibility for the situation we are in.Welcome to a great anecdote which should shake us up to plan and act.
James Stockdale was a prisoner of war at the “Hanoi Hilton” for eight years during the Vietnam War. With no prisoner’s rights, no release date and – with many fellow officers dying – no certainty he would make it out alive, he still led his officers from within the camp. (typically like the current COVID situation for many)
He gave them step-by-step coping plans to follow in order to survive while in the haze of torture. He gave them plans to follow to cope with the years of uncertainty.
Author Jim Collins writes about James Stockdale in his book “Good to Great” and relates his conversation with him:
“Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, completely confused,
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said,
‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go.”
“Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’
And Easter would come, and Easter would go, then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
The explanation for the increase in deaths did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of wealth or new epidemics.”
“It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas.”
As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a great number of them died.
Victor Frankl called this state “Tragic optimism”.
It is the central concept of his book:
“The perception of meaning boils down to becoming aware of a possibility against the background of reality.”
This is the core concept of crisis leadership: That it is in the toughest times that we have the chance to truly find out who we are. Not by pretending everything is OK when it isn’t, but to be real about where things are at, and that the true you is an enduring spirit that lives beyond the pain of the present.
So, at such crisis times, don’t numb down but sharpen up. There’s a transformation waiting.
In every winter’s heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a shining dawn’. – Kahlil Gibran
So, instead of waiting for that Christmas, we need to carefully plan and configure a future that we are going to live in! Our innate instinct is our immunity! It needs to be listened to closely for we are in the midst of a battle that must be won through faith as well as strategy. We Coaches enable this for others, and let’s do it for ourselves too!
Wishing you a great sailing ahead, and for your future here is an old Irish Blessing:
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face;
May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hands.
– By Narsi