The world has been in turmoil recently.
We’ve kept quiet so far. Now I’d like to share our thoughts with you.
Firstly, we want to express our sympathy to everyone whose lives and businesses are impacted by recent disasters. When I say ‘recent disasters’, they don’t just point to the current Coronavirus situation, but also other disasters people around the world have faced recently.
We are also in awe of the generosity of people. We have continued to see more giving flowing from our members in recent months. This gives us hope, courage, and optimism that we will together rise stronger from this difficult time.
Often in times of difficulty, we find new ways forward.
So, I thought it’s perhaps an opportunity to ask important questions like these:
How can we uphold the spirit of giving in these challenging times?
How can we remain calm, realistic, optimistic and united?
It sometimes feels like we’re in crazy times. In the last three months alone, we saw raging bush fire wiping away countless trees, wildlife, and people’s homes. We saw volcanic eruptions getting tens of thousands of families evacuated from their communities. We’ve seen swarms of locusts ravaging crops causing fear of famine. And right now, we are in the middle of the spread of a virus which has already taken lives and is also affecting businesses and our economies.
So, what can we do?
Our immediate reaction to something frightening is often to flee and hide. We can become suspicious, fearful and frustrated. We can blame someone else for the challenges we endure. We can create prejudice and discrimination in our societies. We can spread fear-triggering rumors. We can try to protect our own self-interest and hoard available resources. And these reactions can create more divisiveness in our world.
Alternatively, we can choose to remain calm and observant.
We can be diligent, rational and proactive. We can understand the risks and take reasonable precautions. We can be transparent with our communication and fair with our actions. We blame no one. We prepare for the worse, yet stay calm and rational. We can face challenges with open minds and seek the best solutions for exercising our best intelligence, capabilities, and wisdom.
And there is another paradigm to consider.
This is where we face challenges together with empathy. We choose to become kinder and more generous. We reach out to those who need help. We try to understand the challenges endured by others and proactively explore how to solve current and future challenges together.
Given the choice (and we do have that choice) it’s likely that we’d choose to take those two latter ones.
The World of Fear
Yet as we’ve seen, it’s very easy to get trapped in the first paradigm. It can happen to each one of us. It’s how our brain functions to ensure our survival.
We become fearful because we don’t want to lose our own safety and comfort. And in order to protect our own needs, we behave in more primitive ways. It’s hard to escape this immediate urge to flee and fight because that’s how we are wired. And yet, we know that this approach causes further chaos and trouble in our societies.
We’ve seen discriminations and violence towards people just because they simply looked like our perceived enemies. We’ve seen people fighting for resources when those same individuals could be our friendly neighbors in ‘normal’ circumstances.
In direct and indirect ways, fear reactions have already impacted businesses, economies and the livelihood of people around the world.
There must be a better way.
It’s great to see how some individuals, organizations and governments have responded to challenging situations objectively, maintaining order and preparing for future challenges.
Here in Singapore (B1G1’s headquarters are here), we’ve seen some extraordinary leadership and actions from our government which brought back the calm daily dealings after a few days of initial disorder and panic among some of its citizens. The regular updates of the situation are always detailed and transparent. While the government realistically admits that the further spread of this virus is unavoidable, they also assure their nation of its own capacity to handle possible future challenges.
Rational Leadership is much needed in a world with so many uncertainties. With objectiveness and wise decision-making, we really do have the power to face challenges in a new way.
The New World
Perhaps, the ideal future for us lies between the second and third approaches. We can be practical in our thinking and actions and empathetic in our thoughts and behaviors. We don’t blindly downplay the risks or focus only on human emotions. We make rational decisions for common good. We take required compromises with care and respect.
In a way, our world seems similar to one living organism. If we get sick, we cannot simply cut off a few infected parts to get well. The real well-being comes from the unity, balance, and harmony of all of the parts. So, we need to be both strategic and caring to take care of the whole.
What’s the downside of this approach? Perhaps we will still experience some loss, damage, inconvenience, and setbacks. We cannot always win over every challenge we face. But that will still happen anyway no matter what approach we take.
What’s the upside of it? We might end up creating a more loving and caring world. That’s a world where people live with a peaceful mind, gratitude for others and a desire to help. It’s a world where we live fully every day, facing challenges with courage.
Of course, this may sound over-simplistic to you. If it does, you might want to try the new approach for a day or two and see what happens (if you want to get some ideas, you can read the ‘Additional Thoughts’ below).
Creating that world may just start from how you turn up as a person and how you run your business every day. And when you inspire others around you, you become the catalyst that helps us move collectively to a new paradigm.
Additional Thoughts (if you are interested to read on)
If you liked the idea of this article, here are things you can consider exercising in unsettling times. I hope some of them can be useful. You can also share your thoughts with us.
As a person, you can:
- implement good hygiene and immune-boosting practice (like regular hand-washing, healthy-eating, and other things). Small things we do – if done consistently – can have a great impact.
- have open conversations with others to clarify new expectations and alternatives. When you need to change the way you normally do things (e.g. hand-shakes and hugs to connect with each other), it’s better that you have a shared understanding of what to do instead. This can help reduce the sense of awkwardness while creating clarity in the environment.
- share kind deeds with others. There are many others whose lives are more heavily impacted by unexpected challenges. Sharing kind words or helping hand even in the smallest of ways can have a profound impact on the lives of others.
- be considerate and respectful. Although you and others may have different ideas on specific issues, being considerate for those who are (or feel) more vulnerable is important too. We can also be mindful of what we share online.
As a business, you can:
- be prepared for unexpected challenges. Identifying possible issues will help you get better prepared. If there is a major disruption for your business, what’s your Plan B? What can be clarified and put in place before you face such a situation?
- consider a scenario of remote work arrangement (if it’s possible for your business model) and clarify how it can be conducted smoothly.
- listen to your team. Understanding their circumstances and concerns will help you see what can be done to ease potential issues for everyone.
- communicate with and listen to your suppliers and customers. Do you understand the situation of your suppliers and partners? Do they understand your situation and stance? Establishing transparent communications before we face any major issues ensures that we can be aligned in times of challenges and make sensible decisions together.
- conduct an emergency drill. Practicing what you’d do when you are hit by the worst challenge can help you act calmly when you need to act. This is how people living in disaster-prone places prepare themselves. Running a drill (even just in your mind) may help you be better prepared.
At our own company (B1G1), we started trying a remote working arrangement a few weeks back. And already we’ve learned a lot about how to work more effectively together in such circumstances. At the time of writing this post, our team is back at the office because we decided to come together while we onboard a few new team members (yes, we are expanding!) And we continue to discuss and clarify what to do when things take new turns here in Singapore. Knowing that we can continue our operation even when something happens gives us peace of mind. We can focus on doing the best work.
In my personal life, I started to thank people more consciously, people like taxi drivers, health and security workers and volunteers for special activities. Those are people who take a greater toll or risk while helping maintain order in our community.
Being empathic with people whose lives are impacted makes a difference in your own life and perhaps on the lives of others. We can spread kind words and refrain from spreading negativity. Even when we cannot directly change what’s happening, being rational, grateful and empathetic can help all of us stay away from the fear-induced reactions.
Together, we can continue to find new ways to move forward.
And with all the caring business people and their teams in the B1G1 movement, we know we can together create a world that’s full of giving — a truly united world.
So, please feel free to talk to us when you feel overwhelmed or if you want to bounce ideas.