Unusual Times

What do you get when you cross unusual business with business as usual?

Unusual business as usual.

This describes the climate in which we operate currently. My cousin joked the other day, that never in his wildest dreams did he imagine going up to a bank teller with a mask on, asking for money. It has been slightly more than 100 days since Singapore saw the first case of Covid-19. Here are some of my reflections.

Endurance in the face of “moving targets”

Straits Times reporter, Rohit Brijnath, used an apt analogy of facing down reality like an enduring long-distance swimmer in The Sunday Times article, published 3 May 2020. He drew this inspiration after hearing ocean advocate Lewis Pugh share about how goalposts can shift in long distance swimming. These “moving targets” are due to various challenges, including physiological demands, environmental factors and even psychological challenges.

Rohit goes on to share how the virus has humbled mankind. While we are unable to read the future, we want to leave the present. This fight-or-flight response is part and parcel of how we respond to stress and danger in our environment. One key predictor of success will be the mental aspect. Be as creative as possible and occupy the mind with something that is bigger than the uncertainty and issues at hand.

Find meaning in the present

I was really impressed by how 12-year-old Jacob Neo of Fairfield Methodist tinkered with creativity during the COVID-19 crisis. No musical background, yet a heart full of empathy for affected patients and healthcare workers. In his search for meaning, he wrote a beautiful song entitled “Singapore, Unite as One” in two days, which struck a chord with healthcare workers and the community.

We are unsure about the future, but we want out of the present. Do we still see merit in the saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift? It that why it is called the “present”? We need to make the most of our current situation, rather than be fixated about what was and what will be. Jacob didn’t focus on his lack of musical background, his age or his station in life as a student. Instead, he channeled his feelings through creative expression. Jacob build bridges from the present ordeal to a fuller future, replacing helplessness with hope.

Beyond the endurance race – What lies ahead

It is a long road ahead before we will see any clear signs of victory over the virus. Even then, the effects will linger. Lives are lost, economies need to be rebuilt. There will be new uncertainties after we have flattened the curve, but we need to stay inventive. Channel your resources to unfamiliar areas and imagine possibilities that others can’t and don’t see. Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda points out, “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than who you are.”

Not wasting 2020 – what does that look like to you? Imagine it. Picture it. Revisit it periodically and calibrate to find a stronger version of yourself.