Set Your Sails

Monday, April 27 2020

We are on a journey that is not much different from the one undertaken by early explorers who set sail seeking passage to China. The pilot had very basic tools – the compass, astrolabe, quadrant and hourglass. There were no maps, radar, weather reports, or computer simulations. They were at the mercy of the wind and if it dropped, they were dead in the water. The journey took weeks or months, during which the supplies ran low and morale fell.

We can’t see the end either. We have better tools but some are in short supply and while we have computer simulations that tentatively predict the future, it’s impossible to be accurate. We might end up far from our original destination.

There were disasters. Ships and crew disappeared. Sailors got sick and died. And yet enough made it to the New World to start lives and change history. Our current situation is similar. What’s ahead is largely unknown in spite of what prognosticators say.

But we have a long history of resilience. Of all creatures on earth, humans are the most adaptable. We are capable of amazing feats. In hundreds of categories, we are much better off than we were even 50 years ago.

Covid-19 is a crisis. There’s no sugarcoating it. However, humans truly shine in a crisis. We see increased acts of kindness. Manufacturing plants have retooled – almost overnight – to make much needed personal protective equipment, ventilators and sanitizer. New products have been invented. The hunt is on for a vaccine and trillions of dollars are pouring back into the economy to stabilize the markets and help the vulnerable. Frontline workers risk their own health, and complete strangers volunteer to deliver meals and groceries in their communities. This crisis is a test of our humanity and, to a large degree, we are winning.

Many companies are busier now than before the pandemic. Good luck or good planning? Or did they pivot to adapt to the new reality? What opportunities can you take advantage of right now? Given the shift to online everything, do you need to retool your website, retrain your workers, hire workers with different skills, and upgrade your internet? Can you use this time to rethink your priorities, set new goals, come up with new products and drop others, rejig your workforce, and strengthen relationships with suppliers and customers?

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1919) wrote:

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the seas are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through the life:
Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife. ”