Tiny buds with the colors of spring are popping out on the tops of the hundred-year-old twisted oaks. A view of the distant mountain shows dark patches of trees with bright new growth creating a patchwork pattern. The air is balmy and fresh, the songbirds are loudly celebrating the arrival of spring, and the distant cattle are munching on tasty new wildflowers. Life is good.
Spring comes after a harsh winter or a mild winter. But it always comes. The cycles continue and always will. And when spring comes, we get out and enjoy it and rapidly forget just how harsh the winter has been. Instead, we enjoy life a little more once we get outside after being cooped up.
Patterns of Downturns
Amazingly, there have been about 47 economic downturns in the history of America, and after each of these winters, spring always came. Sometimes it roars in like a lion, other times it creeps in like a lamb, but it always comes.
Clearly I don’t want to make light of the absolutely frightening moment in history we, the residents of the world, are living through. This virus has already touched my life, in the sense that I actually know a couple of people who have had it. One recovered fully, one did not. And it has impacted all of our lives.
The Great Depression?
Growing up, my father often told us stories of growing up in the Great Depression. He has both fond memories and some that cause pain to think about. The hard ones were the humiliation of having to move out of their house and rent it out in order to pay the mortgage, and having to move in with family members, being treated badly and subjected to hard labor on the farm. No matter how much I try to envision this, I cannot relate, because I grew up in a time where my parents sheltered us from whatever was going on at the moment. Though there were some bad recessions, and I’m sure some difficult financial challenges, we kids never really knew. There was always food on the table, a smile on their faces, and encouragement.
Marked by This Moment
Everyone alive on this earth today will be marked by this moment in time, a time that will be part of our stories for the lifetime ahead. Some of us have been severely wounded financially, others wounded by tragic losses of family, and all of us wounded by fear of the unknown. At this moment in time, none of us knows what happens next. While some predict the worst, others predict the best. We have to choose who and what we want to believe. Being the optimist, I’m hoping for the best, but ready to step up as needed for the worst, knowing I, or someone I love or care about, could be the next victim.
So how are we to process all this? Hundreds of pop psychologists and self-help specialists are all over the media telling us how to cope. “We’re in a state of shock,” says one. “You’re experiencing PTSD,” says another, while someone else says, “If you’re down, you’re grieving.”
I’m sure each of us is seeing it differently. I’m certainly not expert enough to offer psychological advice.
My wife created a meme that went viral. It said, “Our grandparents were asked to send their children to war. We’re being asked to stay home for a few weeks. Let’s keep things in perspective.”
I thought it was good advice.
Again, not to make light of the businesses that lost their incomes (my own included), those who had to lay off people (we did), and those who have been laid off — or worse, who can’t get unemployment because of what they do for a living. Artists, for instance, can’t get unemployment, though they make their living from selling art. Maybe they can get SBA loans. Let’s hope.
Flipping a Switch
Like many of you, I found myself down, worried, and wondering how I was going to feed my kids and even send them to college. I was ruminating about the worst, and I noticed it was driving me into a deeper funk. I was getting more and more depressed, I wanted to sleep later and later, and it was impacting how I felt. If this kept up, I feared I’d not be able to recover, that I’d worry myself into a frenzy, possibly destroying my health with my state of mind.
But that was not acceptable.
Then I had a moment of clarity (stimulated by a nice brisk walk) … I can’t rely on anyone but myself to pull myself out of the ashes of fear, and fear isn’t serving me well. So I just told myself to “stop it.”
It actually was that simple. My resolve overcame my self-pity.
Then I recorded a call with Jay Abraham about what artists need to do to survive.
When I finished with that call, my physiology was completely changed.
Because of Jay’s perspective, and because of a talk I had with my dad, I realized that this downturn, this quarantine, this disruption of the world could be the best thing that ever happened to me.
How can that be?
I had to call on my inner self and realize that I have a responsibility to lift others up, to help them change their physiology, and to help them see the opportunity in this. So I started stepping up. I gathered the remaining staff who had not been laid off and redeployed them on things we could do to help … like daily videos with art instruction to help people make good use of their time, like articles to help draw attention to our advertisers even more, like videos to help give advice on how to make this into a profitable time.
Like the Song… a New Attitude
Suddenly, I was on fire with energy. In fact, knowing I had been down, my caring friend and assistant Ali phoned me “just to see how you’re doing.” My response was “Fantastic!” — and I meant it.
I had a shift of thinking. Instead of being woeful, I am hopeful. Instead of worrying, I’m taking action. Instead of being down, I’m more up than I’ve been in a long time. It happened instantly by changing my perspective.
I can’t do it for you or those you love. But anyone can do it for themselves. Even if it’s not real. There is an old saying, “Fake it till you make it.” And a funny thing happens when you pretend to be upbeat … you actually become upbeat.
Evidence Does Exist
I’m told there is evidence that mindset changes our cells and impacts our health. I’ve always believed it. I’ve never seen the evidence, but I’ve lived it. Our minds control 85 percent of everything in our lives — especially our responses to things, how we look at things.
Pour Out Your Brain on Paper
What if you took a big yellow pad and wrote numbers 1 through 50 on it and forced yourself to come up with 50 ways you could benefit from what is going on now. It won’t happen fast, you’ll have to really stretch, but write down everything. Don’t judge your ideas, just get them down. And chances are, you’ll hit a gold nugget when you review your notes.
I’m Not Buying In
There is no doubt this is a frightening time, but I refuse to allow myself to be frightened. I refuse to allow my days to be ruined by being down. What if they are my last days? Do I want to live them badly? No way. Nor do I want to be remembered as a Negative Nelly. Most important, my brain needs me to focus on hope and the great things that will come out of this time. I can tell you my family is a lot closer and my kids are doing things they’ve not done in years because of their boredom. It does my heart good to see it.
You and I are defined not by how we are when things are perfect. We’re defined by our actions when things are awful. I’ve seen some pretty upset, frightened people who have allowed this time to turn them into brave social media monsters. I’m sure they are nice people, but fear is getting the best of them. I refuse to let it get the best of me. Remember, the only thing to fear is fear itself. Finally I understand that.
On the other side of this, our world will be different. I don’t know how, but I suspect we will all have to adjust to some new ways of thinking about things. And, chances are, things will be better in some ways and maybe worse in others. We will adapt.
Just know it’s OK…
It’s OK to be scared.
It’s OK to be worried.
It’s OK to be concerned.
But it’s not OK to let it destroy you.
One day soon … maybe by Easter, maybe by summer, maybe by fall … no one knows … the window will close and this virus will no longer be a threat and our economy will ramp up again. Maybe fast, maybe slow. But winter will be over and spring will be here, and in spite of all this, we’ll all be better on the other side.
Think about how many times you wished you could just take a few weeks off to do nothing. Your wish came true. Make good use of it, because the pace will increase and we may not get this opportunity again.
Yes, it is an opportunity. It just depends on the lens you’re looking through.
Stay well. Be strong. And know that winter will be over soon.
PS: I’m a small-business guy. I’ve owned my small business for almost three decades. I’ve had periods where I’ve gone seven years without a paycheck, eating peanut butter to survive. I’ve had moments where I actually made enough money to buy a used car, or get a nicer apartment, and even some times when I was able to put some money away for a rainy day.
Being a business owner, big or small, has its pros and cons. The cons are always that there are times when you have to make decisions that disrupt people’s lives. Maybe someone had to go because they were doing a bad job, or sometimes it was because we could not afford to pay them. But each time we have to make a decision about the lives of the people we work with, it’s met with lots of sleepless nights, often some tears, and a lot of discussion to figure out a better way.
It’s popular to beat up on people who own businesses for the decisions they make. Sometimes for good reason, but other times because we have not walked in their shoes. I am convinced that there are some big evil companies and executives in the world, but most are just people who got sick of working for a jerk and started their own business, putting everything at risk.
Today, we’re hearing the stories. We’re realizing that the lady who owns the fancy restaurant down the road is in debt up to her waist and won’t survive. We’re finding out that the companies we’ve been doing business with are barely making it anyway and now cannot go on. We will see thousands of businesses go away — many we don’t want to see go away. People you thought had big bank accounts and big images are living week to week or deeply in debt.
Watch for the stories. Do what you can to aid these people by throwing them a takeout order or buying a gift card if you can. Don’t think it won’t make a difference, and don’t worry about whether you’ll lose your investment if they don’t make it. Our local smoothie chain had to close 12 of 14 stores and is begging for people to order smoothies and pick them up. These are people who have put their lives into their businesses so they can serve us. Sure, they want to make a profit and live in a nice house and drive a nice car, but customers are what keeps them going. And if you can help out the workers in any way — people may not have had enough to get through the week, let alone the month — do something, anything. You don’t need anything in return. It could be you (maybe it is you).
We’re trying to bring income in our own doors and commissions to our artists by making people aware of our videos that train people to draw and paint (we have over 400 of them). Each day at 3 p.m. Eastern, we’re putting up at least an hour of training and interviews with artists. It’s our way of helping, but thankfully a few people like the samples and buy them. It’s my way of keeping people employed. If you want to see the videos, click this link to the Streamline Art Video Facebook page and hit “follow.” You’ll find them there, and you’ll see the live ones each afternoon at 3.
Stay strong. Winter is almost over.