I never thought I would be so addicted to statistics. As someone who gets excited by genuine conversations with people, the idea that I would anxiously watch charts and graphs and crunch data to calculate the rate at which a disease spreads is entirely foreign to me.
But here I am, quarantined and disconnected from the world, yet also more connected than ever to my tribe and our community. Wasn’t this year supposed to be the grand kickoff to the Roaring ‘20s? Wasn’t this supposed to be the year I proved to myself and showed the world how much I could accomplish on my own? Wasn’t I supposed to hit a new peak in my career and ride the wave of entrepreneurship and experience its thrills?
The truth is, it feels like the world has stopped, but time continues to pass. We’re stuck inside, growing paler by the day, popping vitamins for the first time in years because we’re suddenly hyper-aware of our vitamin D deficiency (I’m talking to you, my fellow Michiganders).
Things feel like they are out of our control because, in many ways, they are out of our control. One by one, my clients were forced to cancel their events, and therefore my speaking gigs … and my income … and my grand plan to run the world like Beyoncé this year. Day after day, I felt lost and sad. Some days, I felt really, really unmotivated.
Remind me why I chose this year to quit my job and take a huge risk?
Then, something shifted.
Making a Change
I realized that if I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t going to be productive. I decided that I had to make a plan that focused on my well-being and held me accountable for how I invested my time each day. I wasn’t going to let my career dreams or my sanity go down without a fight. I would find things that were in my control, and I would control them. I would create new opportunities to do what I had set out to do when I started my new business: I would find ways to make an impact and change people’s lives.
You know what is always in our control? It’s not our mental or emotional state. It’s not money. It’s not our health. It’s the way we treat each other. It’s the kindness we show strangers. It’s a phone call to a friend. It’s going out of our way to support and check in on one another. That truth became the foundation upon which I built my plan of action.
I realized that I didn’t need to speak on a stage to motivate and support people. I could do that by simply giving people my time. I began offering complimentary career coaching and professional branding sessions to strangers from all corners of our industry who had lost their jobs or been furloughed due to COVID-19.
I helped a former professor launch a virtual conference to support hospitality and event students that were feeling disheartened and hopeless about their future in our industry. My friend, Christine Mack, worked with me to launch a new virtual support group for our peers, Meetings Mean Community.
We didn’t have a plan, but we had a mission: Bring people together and support them. I began saying yes to unpaid virtual speaking opportunities that I felt would potentially help someone who was listening in the audience. I took control and put my mission back at the heart of my time and effort. I put people first.
Back to Basics
What’s ironic about the changes I have made as a result of COVID-19 is that these new efforts have brought me back to the real reason why I launched my speaking and coaching business in the first place.
I have been challenged to reconsider what my values and priorities really are. I have been given a unique opportunity to connect with friends, old and new, from all corners of our globe and all walks of life. I now remember why I believe wholeheartedly that servant leadership is so effective and so important.
At the end of the day, life is about the people you meet, the relationships you build and the legacy you leave behind. Being in quarantine doesn’t strip you of your opportunity to be kind to people and it doesn’t take away your gifts and skills. If anything, it provides you with more time to invest in the things and people that really matter.
As much as I would love to get on a plane, order a glass of wine, and explore some gorgeous hotel somewhere, I’m grateful for this unprecedented opportunity that we have been given to reset our foundation and reconsider how we spend our time.
I have already changed so much in the last two months, and though life is nowhere near perfect, I’m growing and I’m evolving. I look forward to reintroducing myself to the world when we are able to meet again. More importantly, I look forward to meeting the changed version of you.