I am in awe of a former co-worker. Despite a pandemic and recession, he’s acting like the calm and peaceful internet monk, Jay Shetty.
Me: How’s business going for you old mate?
Former co-worker: Couldn’t be better. There’s so much opportunity right now.
Hold up a second. How an earth can anyone be so calm and be talking about opportunity? Everybody else I’ve asked jumps straight into their own tragic story about how millions of people are going to die and we’re all screwed. Even Oprah is sounding shaky in these uncertain times.
I’ve known this guy for a while. He is a family man, dog owner, part-time farmer, and enjoys the occasional dim sum on a Friday afternoon. The habits he practices are highly unconventional and during these uncertain times, it’s actually his secret sauce to keeping it all together.
Maybe you can adopt, reshape, or be inspired by some of his habits.
See things slightly better than they are
When we used to work together, I’d always argue with him. I’d often play the character of a realist, and he’d play the character of a slightly odd optimist.
If we were going to lose a sales deal, I’d call it how it was and start looking for the next one. But he would always see the situation slightly better than it was. He’d say, “Don’t worry Timbo, we’ll win, we just need another phone call with them.”
Even when the phone call was a disaster, he’d say, “Don’t worry, we’ll land them on the next call.”
No matter the outcome, he always saw the situation 4% better than everybody else. Our peers would tell us the opportunity was a lost cause, I’d state the facts, and he’d find a way to see the upside.
It’s no wonder that during these uncertain times, he is not freaking out and running around his living room in his underpants screaming, “Run to the supermarket and by all the organic, grass-fed beef you can find!”
Be fine without normal
My former colleague travels a lot. I’ll go a step further and say he wouldn’t choose a job unless it meant he could travel every few months.
There is rarely a normal day in his life and he’s gotten used to that. Travel has brought the habit of unpredictably to his existence, and he’s applied that lesson to all other areas of his life.
Uncertain times caused by a pandemic are not normal for him, but “normal” has been waking up in a different bed each night after having one too many client drinks the night before.
Forced abandonment of normalcy has given him an advantage during this pandemic.
Switch off your brain
The weekend is his time for farm work. You cannot reach him on the weekend and his farm is often out of mobile coverage. He takes off the tech startup t-shirts and jeans, and puts on his baggy pants and farmer’s checkered shirt. He trades in the hiking boots he wears to work each day for a pair of bloodstones.
What’s strange is that he calls this weekend hobby “farming.” I call it ‘switching off his brain.’
The job he works is exhausting. Over several decades he has built up a reputation in the finance industry as being a weapon of mass usefulness. There is nothing about finance that you can’t ask him which he won’t be able to explain back to you in simple terms a child could understand.
All that he has learned would not be possible unless he developed the habit of switching off his brain through farming. During this pandemic, he practices the same habit so he can keep calm.
Make the most of every moment
The time he spends with his two daughters is priceless. No moment in his family’s life is wasted. He takes his family more seriously than his career. He has no problem canceling a business trip, letting down his boss, or disappointing an important customer for the sake of his family.
This is one of the habits I admire most about him.
There is no need to get more out of life when you’re already making the most of every moment. Time with your family is a reset during uncertain times. And in my former colleague’s case, it’s an excuse to pig out on deep-fried seafood on the way to his farm.
The virus can help you to see the importance of making the most of every moment.
Practice the joys of oversleeping
Habit nerds will tell you that sleeping is a crime punishable by a murder trial jury from the TV show “Law And Order.”
My former colleague regularly oversleeps. In fact, many times he slept in and missed important morning work meetings. Initially, it frustrated the hell out of me.
Then I realized that oversleeping was his weapon against difficult times.
He couldn’t have been the man he was without all that extra sleep. This realization came to me a few weeks ago when it became apparent that during this pandemic, an extra hour’s sleep was doing me a lot of good.
When I was tired and frustrated, the pandemic was difficult to deal with. By getting an extra hour of sleep, I felt a little bit better and like I could face the day in one piece.
Extra sleep helps you keep it together.
Answer every phone call from people you respect
Every time the phone rang, he would answer it. It drove a productivity artist like myself, who has zero phone notifications, bonkers.
If the phone rang and it was someone he respected, he would answer the call. It never made sense why he did it. Then, during the last year we worked together, I realized that answering all of those phone calls at the most peculiar times was how he kept it together. These phone calls were like mini-Yoda’s dishing out small bits of wisdom that helped him battle the overwhelming rejection he faced in his career every day.
People at work who didn’t know him like I did thought he was delusional. I thought he was extraordinary; his habits helped create that image in my mind.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
I have never seen him take himself too seriously. He’s always laughing, cracking jokes and indulging in a bit of sarcasm.
He loves being inappropriate when everybody else is being on their best behavior.
This light-hearted approach to life has guided him through this pandemic. What I now realize is that there is no point in taking yourself too seriously. The end result of your life is death. Whether it’s the coronavirus or something else, the ending is the same.
Rather than take yourself and your survival so seriously that it makes living each day incredibly difficult, see the lighter side.
Fill in the gaps of your life by enjoying whatever time you have.
Spend time with people like my former colleague who make even the craziest black swan event seem bearable.
The strangest habits can provide perspective during these uncertain times. A list of green juicing, perfect habits might be the exact opposite of what you need right now.
The mentors to follow during uncertain times are the ones who are coping the best, even if they may have highly unconventional habits. It’s whether those habits help them flourish — even during a pandemic— that truly matters.
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