I have resisted writing about COVID-19 and our global pandemic for quite some time, as it already dominates the 24-hour news cycle, giving it too tight a grip on our attention. However, over the last few weeks, some conversations have shown how many salespeople are making decisions as though this pandemic is a “new normal,” meaning we are going to live this way forever. It’s not the new normal (bookmark this YouTube video so you can revisit it when you need a reminder).
It seems to me that some of you could use a bit of a pep talk, or perhaps just a swift kick in the ass. Your birth, like mine, is a death sentence. You have been given a life to do with what you will, but it’s not a perfect life or one free from difficult circumstances.
There is no reason to act as if you have to wait for the challenging times to pass before you can live your life, so stop stalling and pursue your goals and dreams.
Why You Should Never Attack the Hydra
The mythological Greek creature called Hydra is a snake-like dragon with three heads. When you decide to fight a Hydra, you are not fighting a single creature but three simultaneously, an enemy that is overpowered and overwhelming. What’s worse, according to the myth, is that cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads causes it to grow two more in its place. You don’t want to play too many rounds of this game, as the more you fight, the stronger your foe becomes.
Nietzsche put it this way: “that which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.”
Not many people know that there is an opposite of post-traumatic stress disorder, something called post-traumatic growth, a Hydra-like phenomenon. It seems to me that this is a matter of disposition, based on how you frame the negative events in your life. You can choose to let adversity shape you positively, so you grow stronger as a result of the adversity you overcome.
Several years ago, I was sitting in my neurologist’s office for a follow-up exam. A few weeks earlier, I’d had brain surgery to remove a damaged piece of my front temporal lobe, part of my neocortex. The doctor was helping me with my paperwork, including an application for disability payments. He asked me whether I wanted to apply for permanent disability, which would generate a lifetime of insurance payments, or temporary disability, where the payments would stop after a few months.
When I asked “am I disabled?” he replied, “You are if you believe you are.” I quoted Nietzsche’s line, my most Hydra-like answer.
Now is an excellent time for you to be a Hydra, recognizing that it is through adversity that you have grown stronger, and allowing that idea to shape your future—and your present.
The Only Obstacle in Your Way Now
The pandemic is not going to stay with us forever, even if we don’t know how soon we will be able to dispatch it. But the pandemic is not an obstacle to building the life you want or reaching your goals. Instead, let’s call it an inconvenience, one that we will have to find ways to work around—something we have been doing for almost nine months.
The only real obstacle standing between you and what you want stares back at you from your mirror when you do your hair each morning (or in my follicle-free case, when I brush my teeth).
Of all the obstacles you might face, this one is the most difficult to subdue and bring under your control. Many of us are used to negotiating with ourselves, rationalizing our decision to put off until tomorrow what we should do today. Typically, we lose to the part of us that seeks comfort and would prefer not to engage in conflict.
That comfort lowers our standards to the point that we settle for being something less than our full potential, doing less than we are capable of, having less of the things we want in their life, and missing the opportunity to make the contributions we are here to make.
You cannot allow yourself to produce “pandemic results” when better results are available to you. Or, as the great Rob Halford, lead singer for the metal band, Judas Priest, offered: “One life, I’m going to live it up. I’m taking flight, I said I’ll never give it up.”
Start. Put the Pieces in Place.
Whenever you decide or set a goal, immediately take some action that moves you forward, even if it is only a tiny step. Gaining this momentum will help you follow the trajectory that leads to your objective.
2020 will end soon. Use these last few weeks wisely, and spend some part of them putting the pieces in place for 2021. Write down the things you want in your life, start drafting your goals, and turn them into the plans that you will execute, even if you have to work around a pandemic and whatever else comes our way in the future.
Determine not to allow yourself to settle for “pandemic results” by raising your standards and producing the results you want, both for yourself and your people. You may be long overdue to rescue your goals and ambitions from the part of you that just wants to wait this thing out. Your life is going to continue, and there is no reason to waste any more time wishing this thing would pass.
In a post that has already cited Greek mythology, Nietzsche, and Judas Priest, I can’t think of any reason not to add the wise words of one Greg Allman: “So I, ain’t a-wastin time no more, ‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes and faster things.”
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