Monday, March 23, 2020

Emotions in Times of Crisis

I've always been an early adopter, but this is bizarre. It seems like many of my friends are about to (if they are not already) go through a crisis phase. I hit rock bottom a year ago and was lucky enough to be able to take a time out. Many of you don't have that luxury but are being forced out of a job or work, so you may be getting an involuntary time out. I've been thinking about what I have learned and hope it helps you.

My confidence level is typically pretty high but I found myself doubting everything. I couldn't imagine any job or business plan working for me. Previous managers had told me that my strengths were liabilities. Even though my colleagues and friends told me I was brilliant, I couldn't get this truth to travel from my head to my heart.

A friend told me about a meetup group called Topics in Psychology and the next session was about showing up as your authentic self. I had taken myself offline and this was another manner in which I wasn't acting like myself. I really wanted to be telling this story as it was happening. I wanted to be more authentic and share my grief, which I eventually did in bits and pieces. Many of my friends were supportive and listened to me talk through what was going on. I am deeply grateful for you.

The meetup group turned out to be a lifeline. I should have been in 1:1 therapy as well, but this form of group therapy was a good start. I thought I was pretty self aware and emotionally intelligent. However, I've only had therapy a handful of times. I wasn't that tuned into my emotions. As it turns out, that is just how I operate and I hadn't learned those skills (most people haven't). All I knew was that I wasn't acting like myself.

Our facilitator, Dr. Sharon Eve, introduced us to the Enneagram. I've enjoyed learning about my strengths using many other tools that have crossed my path so I was interested. The Enneagram showed me that my strengths were indeed strengths and it showed me how to be a healthier version of myself. I ended up purchasing a book called The Wisdom of the Enneagram. There, in black and white, it explained all of the things I had been doing and thinking as examples of how my type acts in a crisis. I wished I had this wisdom earlier so that I could have seen the warning signs or red flags. Maybe everything happens when it happens for a reason and this found me at the perfect time.

We also talked about grief in the meetup and I purchased Dr. Eve's book: Journey of Love: A Guide for the Grieving. I hadn't been aware of how my grief had affected me at work. I learned that when you experience a loss, you are incapable of BS (my superpower is cutting through BS to get to the heart of what really matters) and I had been more blunt than usual. I also learned that as you approach the anniversary of a loss, you may experience that same feeling of raw emotions and act the same way. It may help you to think about what you are going through as a loss. Don't minimize your feelings. We grieve many different types of losses.

Grief, fear, anger, and other emotions impact you physically. A book I just finished reading, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, explains the brain science behind how the body memorizes emotions. It concludes with a guided meditation on how to replace these emotions with a future you imagine for yourself instead. Many of us need a way to retain or regain hope for the future.

Last but not least, if you haven't found the brilliance of Brené Brown yet, now is the time. I came across this article on midlife and have referenced it several times since. She also just started a new podcast and the first episode acknowledges what we are going through, which is what we seem to be missing from organizations and people that claim to be leading us.

We tend to be inclined to wait until we figure it out or fix the problem before we talk about it online.
I'm not sure I have it figured out, but I have figured out that I'll never be "fixed". Working on yourself is something that is an ongoing project, if you are willing to tackle it. What I can do is share a few tips and resources that worked for me and hope you find them useful. I'll share more but this felt like a good time to start.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An Industry Divided

The events industry is divided. I am seeing many strongly held opinions over whether or not events should be canceled due to the coronavirus. Those of us who were working in the events industry during the last recession are having déjà vu. We thought another recession might be coming but instead, we are faced with a virus that is creating a similar environment. It feels different this time, though. This is the perspective of a systems thinker and not yet another opinion on whether or not events should be canceled.

Some companies and associations have made the decision to cancel or postpone their events because they feel that it is the safer option for their employees, their members, and the people connected to their stakeholders. They feel we should remove the opportunity for the virus to spread via a large gathering of people or travel. The consequence is they are canceling contracts with their venues, hotels, and other suppliers that should leave them with a large financial liability. The déjà vu is kicking in. In the last recession, companies and associations canceled many meetings and in some cases were able to negotiate out of paying damages to their suppliers. Whether we’re in a “buyers market” or a “sellers market”, the hospitality industry and other event suppliers feel that relationships matter in our industry and they are compelled to “work with” their clients. The question is whether or not they will do the same this time.

This is where it starts to feel a bit different from last time. Now, the hospitality industry is much more organized and has found a unified voice. The largest of the 100+ associations serving the events industry are joining in the chorus because hospitality companies pay their bills. They are concerned that the media has exaggerated the threat of the virus and feel that events should not be canceled. They have shared that people should simply be sensible and wash their hands. They celebrate events that have chosen to proceed. They remind us that it is important to meet face-to-face because that is the value proposition of the entire industry. They also remind us of the economic value this industry provides. This was the talking point that came from the rubble of the last recession and it was thought that it would prevent the damage of groups canceling meetings during the next recession.

Each side cites sources that support their position. In this post-truth era, there isn’t one authoritative source of information that everyone trusts. Instead, we have individuals and organizations shouting their positions hoping to persuade anyone who will listen. In the same way our country (and our world) is divided over many issues, it is happening here because we have lost the ability to listen and change our minds. Have we ever had a mechanism that brings us together to help us understand our impact on others or the system as a whole?

This conversation is only going to intensify and there may not be a right or wrong answer. One conference that decided to cancel acknowledged the fact that the small businesses who attend their trade show rely on making connections with clients at the show. I saw one such client make herself available on LinkedIn so that they could still have some of those conversations. Isn’t that brilliant? It shows the depth and complexity of the situation but also offers hope for creative human-centered solutions. I welcome comments and questions that bring both points of view into the conversation.