Not in my lifetime have I witnessed an emergency that has impacted all 50 states in America and has simultaneously involved major population centers globally. Experts are concerned that this emergency will impact every human being on the planet. The term virus is not an unfamiliar reference to anyone, but this is the first-time global leadership has witnessed a virus of any known strain infecting such a large share of population so quickly. How humanity has and will respond to this pandemic will alter how we define normal in many aspects of our daily lives.
The normalcy of just interacting with one another is not the same. The term “social distancing” has entered our vocabulary as a description for a new normal. It is necessary to define personal space with a 6 to 8-foot perimeter due to the current health emergency, but will this definition stay with us once this health emergency has been lifted?
Will you wear a mask after this health emergency is over? Wearing a mask can prevent you from sharing pathogens just as easily as protecting you from receiving pathogens. In the not too distant past, we gave the stink eye to those who coughed or sneezed without covering their mouth. The new norm could now be fining them, giving them a mask, and then the stink eye.
Self-quarantine should have been a norming behavior years ago. Humanity has been dealing “common cold” and flu symptoms for years and yet the discipline for washing your hands and keeping family members home when they display viral symptoms has not been the norm. Why is a catastrophe required before doing what is right becomes normal? I am not saying COVID-19 would not have arrived, but its impact may not have been at pandemic levels.
So where are the positives in this pandemic? Families are stressed, communities are becoming ghost towns and economic growth is almost at a standstill so where are the positives? Benjamin Franklin once said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity”. COVID-19 certainly presents adverse conditions; show me the opportunity.
For those individuals and organizations that can see beyond 2020 while assessing current day impacts from this crisis, opportunities begin to define themselves. For example, before the importing of Chinese products is shut-off importing face masks from China will benefit and protect US citizens. If your world has closed in on you, you may not see opportunities like this. Closer to home, Jimmy Fallon is an example of opportunity ceased.
The Tonight Show and Jimmy have adapted and adjusted bringing fresh content to his show that is engaging and entertaining. He has separated himself from his competition with innovation that others will not be able to replicate or catch up to. Including his family, is another example of seeing the details surrounding opportunity and embracing those details. By including his family Fallon shows his audience that each of us are still in control of having fun and creating positive outcomes.
Including other quarantined talent on to his show Fallon delivers a model for producing fresh programming by using technology so John Legend can perform a cut from his upcoming album. This example is catching as Good Morning America, CNN and other daytime programs adhere to CDC guidelines but bring their audience fresh and creative programming similar to the innovative example started by Jimmy Fallon.
So, what does this all mean? Is there a new norm coming? Could we be seeing new norms for workplace environmental standards; such plastic screens between you and your grocery store checkout clerk. Maybe even new norms for when and where we take leisure time? Our current collection of societal norms is having its own pandemic. Epidemic change that touches everyone so quickly and comprehensively challengers and may alter one’s resolve.
Those who are quick to bounce back, resilient, will see opportunity in the future. People like Jimmy Fallon or the mom who helps her elderly neighbor and is surprised with a porch full of groceries. Opportunity is also seen by employers who give Staples gift cards to their “work from home” staff so they have office supplies. There is opportunity in healthy and satisfied wait staff when their restaurant employer cooks take-out bag lunches or dinners, so they are ready to serve when the curve flattens.
Living with change is a daily occurrence but using change to identify future opportunity is engaging and proactive. It is managing change with the intent to succeed and better yourself in the future that gives you hope. Hope springs eternal when you grab on to it and direct to outcomes that improve your current status.