This is going to drive us nuts

Good Monday morning?  Maybe?

I dunno, I was on my 27th video call of the week last week with our VP, Sales, dealing with the headaches of working-from-home / home-schooling-the-kids, when I suggested, “this is going to drive us nuts.”

I bet you’re feeling it too.

The absurd, surreal limbo we’re in: the kids interrupting every video call, the physical isolation and a global digital tsunami of information, the loss of all the little niceties we’re used to in the office and our lives.

I never thought I’d miss small talk in the elevator.  I do now.

And hanging over it all is Death – a creeping, invisible smog that covers more, and more, and more, of the country.  Which makes complaining about our lonely confinement in our safe homes seem small.

For most of our Members here at Ladders, the nastiest bite hasn’t yet bit.  

Our blue-collar workforce is crushed most by this plague.  Decimation is too light a word, because even in the Roman army, ‘deci’ meant that only one out of ten was felled. It breaks your heart to see the bartenders, ushers, flight attendants, yoga instructors, barbers and hotel cleaning staff being pushed under.

Millions of lives are being ground down in this moment of the virus, and the hurt for their lives and their livelihoods is certain to harm them and their families for years ahead.  Wipe out two, three, or six months of income from the ticket-taker at your local theater, or the griller at your local BBQ, and you’re impacting generations.

At this early moment of the crisis, I do not think we can appreciate how the falling dominoes – the bankrupt burger joint, the debt-ridden college grad losing a job, the unemployed mother and father – will be very, very difficult to set aright in the unknown future.

You may feel that in your neck of the woods, this isn’t going to be an issue, but the mathematics of the virus say otherwise.  You can follow me on Twitter for my own curation of the best thinkers, doctors, and epidemic researchers on the topic.  As you read these words, we have more than 20,000 discovered cases in the US. There are perhaps 200,000 who actually have the virus as of this moment, and will only be revealed by testing in coming weeks.  Sadly those numbers will increase. This virus is deadlier, more infectious, and catastrophically, sends far more ill people to the hospital, than the flu.  

Which, comparably, makes dealing with lots of conference calls, a three-year-old running wild around the house, and a rising sense of cabin fever seem like small potatoes.

But this is going to drive us nuts.

We’re simply not used to a productive professional life spent with child underfoot, all our thoughts interrupted, household duties encroaching on quarterly goals, and an enforced solitary confinement in the home office behind the laundry room.

As Americans, we need to move.  We need space. We’re the land of road trips, weekend getaways, and hiking in the great outdoors.

We’re all descended from people maniacal enough to make a mad journey across big waters to a country of dreams.  Europe and Asia don’t have our Big Sky, wide open spaces, and continental Interstates pointing five hundred miles straight across the homeland.  And we love it.

Being housebound, hunched over an office chair, stuck in tiny rectangles of Zoom isn’t what being American is meant to be.  We’re meant to breathe free – purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain and all that.

I don’t have a solution, and I don’t have a trim bit of advice for you. 

I’m feeling it, you’re feeling it, your colleagues, peers, clients, reports, bosses, and competitors are feeling it.

So I don’t know what to tell you.  Which hasn’t happened much in my 17 years writing a career advice newsletter.

I suppose all we can do for now is to fight back in the small battles of our daily lives and turn inconveniences into positives.

They closed the pool I swim at every morning, so I started doing the scientific 7-minute workout.  It really works – and really hurts!

They’ve closed my favorite restaurants here in the greatest city in the world, except for America’s oldest pizzeria on my block and the irreplaceable Russ & Daughters, so I started making salads every day.

The city that never sleeps… actually never wakes up these days.  The streets are bare in Gotham, and all of our cultural monuments are closed.  If you ❤️NY, it hasn’t been this sad since 9/11.  So I’m playing Uno with my five-year-old son at night — he beats me fair and square half the time!

Perhaps these are the little battles we are all called to, in this Silent Spring of 2020: to work out more, eat better, spend time with our families, and to take a rest from our busy, busy lives (when we’re not waiting in line at Costco).

While we can’t fight the war at hand, we’ll sit around and wait for the war to come.

Because make no mistake, when this pandemic is all over, there is going to be a lot of fixing to do.  Repairing the country, putting the shattered economy back together, rebuilding the society and way of life we’ve had.

And you’re going to need to be damn good and ready to fight.  As one of the top professionals in America, in Canada, in the world, your leadership, know-how, expertise, good humor, cheer, and competence are going to be needed in a way like you’ve never been needed before.

Your team will need you, your company will need you, your country will need you.

So rest up, and make the most of these odd weeks and months before the deluge breaks, the sun shines again, and we’re carried safely back to the promised land, where the hard work of building anew will begin.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

I’m rooting for all of us.