Robert Goebel/Dreamstime
Statue of Liberty with mask

One Small Adjustment Away

July 20, 2020
It may feel at times like the world's falling apart at the seams, but when you honestly assess the progress we've made in adapting to our new circumstances, things look a lot less bleak.

Having observed the seismic activity of 2020, I keep coming back to one basic conclusion: We’re actually doing pretty well. In saying that, I don’t mean to dismiss or minimize any of the myriad crises of the year. From a fundamental failure of federal leadership to an American reckoning of its past sins to an unseen virus that has limited every aspect of the life we were used to living, we have struggled mightily.

The nuances of each of those calamities have meant things like wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing and raising our voices to express our frustrations. As we continue to try and measure the economic costs, we have far too little regard for the human cost of all of this. The deaths from COVID-19 is not one big number; it is made up of individuals dying, one at a time. When all we use are big numbers, we can overlook the individual cost—the individual humanity.

Yet we persevere. We innovate. We change and adapt at a pace that transcends anything they taught in business school—or journalism school, for that matter. We are in a place beyond planning and beyond disruption and just a little short of chaos. We keep fighting against the serious challenges we face each day. We found room in this crisis to re-examine our way of life. We have adjusted and adapted.

We work each day to be a little smarter about each choice we make, yet we make those choices at a rapid rate, almost instinctively. We are evolving at an astonishing rate, and as a result, we are more rapidly solving the problems today we thought could wait for tomorrow.

And perhaps most remarkably, while we find ourselves more physically apart, we find  we can connect and relate to each other in exciting new ways. We are learning to use time more efficiently. Our work weeks are defined less by the punching of a time clock and more by the output of our efforts. The cubicle farms of the past are for many of us cozier home-based spaces.

And as our manufacturing community gathers in our plants to continue the important work of making the things we need, it is done with a greater shared purpose and a little stronger sense of humanity. We are connected with data, for sure, but we also are connected to make sure we look out for each other, to stay safe for each other, more than ever before.

We had to change, and if that change isn’t quite done yet, we are getting better at change. We have, for the most part, weathered this hurricane of change with fundamental calm and remarkable resolve. We have lost friends and colleagues along the way to this disease, and the memories of those people weigh on our hearts. They also should steel our resolve to continue their work.

The pundits have a phrase for all of this change: “Evolve or die.” I think that’s a little stark. So recently while watching a streaming movie (because we’ve also been doing a lot of that), I picked up a quote from a rom-com called “How Do You Know?” The quote was, “We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”

We have done a remarkable job at making those small adjustments. This is no time to slow down.

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