Life goes on in self-isolation

March 26, 2020

I remember a common phrase from my childhood that one could be “all dressed up with nowhere to go”. That phrase certainly is apropos for today’s mandated “stay home” environment. Unlike some that I see posting on Facebook, I just can’t sit around in my pajamas all day. To be fair some posted that they had “day pajamas” and “night pajamas”; so, I guess they did change for the day.

Personally, I just can’t seem to sit around in my PJ’s past noon. I have to have a shower and get dressed. Lately, I have admitted to myself that I’ve been putting on a normal business casual outfit each morning, but that I have no appointment or calls to make. I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go. Both of the jobs that I work at have been designated under the Executive Order as non-essential, so I am directed to stay home.

Zoom meetings on line have taken the place of real meetings. I had two yesterday and one scheduled for today. Meeting on-line like that take more discipline that most have, so these meetings can devolve into a calliope of people vying to be the one speaking at any time. The Zoom app allows for about 40 minutes of meeting time free; however, it can take almost that long to get everybody signed into the meeting and quieted down when it is first used.

My wife and I have ventured out to get gas and a few groceries that we needed – she stays in the car and I run in and get what we need. Then, there is always the search for toilet paper or other items that have struck the fantasy of hoarders, such as eggs. I wonder if the hoarders wrapping their eggs in toilet paper to keep them safer.  We also take rides through the local Metropark almost daily, just to get out of the house and to see if there are any deer out. I walk my dogs 4-5 times a day, which provide great opportunities for fresh air and a little exercise. It is amazing how many birds one can hear when there is so little road traffic to mask their songs.

We are in the mid to late fear and anxiety phase that I wrote about a few days ago (see March 20 post) . You may recall that I postulated that  there are four phases that we all will go through in this crisis – Phase 1 was shock and awe; Phase 2 is fear and anxiety, which most are in right now; Phase 3 is frustration and anger, which coming rapidly for many that have been forced to stay home (especially those with children).  The cute aspect in this situation probably wore off by day 2 of the stay at home experience. Next, we will all enter phase 4 and figure out how to live in this new reality. That will include businesses figuring out how to continue doing at least some business during this shutdown.

I can do some parts of both of my jobs from home, but both ultimately involve personal contact with clients – listing houses and showing houses or selling advertising for the paper.

The housing market has been impacted by the fears of sellers and buyers about visiting homes that are for sale. Would-be sellers are holding off because they fear showing visitors bringing the virus into their homes. Buyers are staying away because they are justifiably concerned about the sanitary conditions in homes that they might visit. The real estate industry is responding with virtual showing visit apps and other technology-based solutions.

There is no app-based solution for advertisers whose businesses have been shut down pulling their ads. They, too, will figure out how to do business during this time. Most have some Internet presence, which they ae beefing up or they are adding E-commerce apps and capabilities.

The promised government intervention in the form of checks to everyone will help some and give the economy a little boost and the other programs of loans or loan payment hiatuses and other measures will help some. Just as the health system is prepared to enter triage mode, if the wave of Covid-19 cases overwhelms its capacity; the financial world and government emergency aid programs will have to triage the applications by small businesses for help. Some just will not make it.

This crisis is really an unprecedented test of the will of the people and the nation. We are used to weathering other types of crisis – hurricanes, tornadoes, other natural disasters and even wars. This is vastly different. We usually crank up the American business machine in response to those things, but this crisis threatens to shut that machine down completely. If, or when, that happens, it will be just the people vs. the disease. I have faith that the American people will prevail and then they will go restart and rebuild the American business machine. We are not hunkering down in fear; we are hunkering down in resolve to defeat this enemy.

God bless America and keep us all safe.


It’s there if you look for it…

March 23, 2020

It is easy in these unsettling times to allow yourself to be dragged down into the doom and gloom that seem to be all around. Many find comfort and guidance in music and song. I found this classic performance by Judy Garland with a message of perseverance and hope. The words are simple and straightforward , set in the context of a housewife engaged in the daily drudge of washing dishes.

As I wash my dishes, I’ll be following a plan

Till I see the brightness in every pot and pan

I am sure this point of view will ease the daily grind

So I’ll keep repeating in my mind

Look for the silver lining

Whenever a cloud appears in the blue

Remember somewhere the sun is shining

And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

A heart full of joy and gladness

Will always banish sadness and strife

So always look for the silver lining

And try to find the sunny side of life

In this time of unprecedented disruption in our daily lives, it is perhaps hard for some to see a silver lining or find he sunny side of life. Perhaps the key to finding the silver lining amidst the gloom that surrounds us is knowing where to look.  A good starting point is the Bible. The silver lining that is revealed in the Bible is not a sunny day, nor does the Bible promise that all of the troubles that you face will magically go away. What is does promise is relief from fear and anxiety for those who believe.

Belief in Jesus, and why He was sent to earth by God, takes away the fear of death. That doesn’t mean that you have license to do foolhardy things. It just means that you don’t have to waste your energy worrying about death, because you know what happens next. A strong belief frees you to do positive things with your life and not spend it hunkered down in fear.

You could choose to spend your time while you are sequestered at home  watching movies or reruns of TV shows or you could revisit your Bible and find the silver lining in the words that you will find there. Just Google “Bible verses dealing with adversity”, if you need help getting started.

The silver lining in this and all things is there if you know where to look.


Don’t permit yourself to be a victim…

March 21, 2020

In times as tough as the  ones that we are all currently experiencing there is a natural tendency to see yourself as a victim; however, that is something that you can fight and control. Don’t give yourself permission to be a victim, to wallow in self-pity and to let yourself be swept down into the pit of despair. Instead, see yourself as a fighter who will overcome the adversity at hand and defeat pessimism through courageous acts of defiance. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

Once you adopt the attitude that you refuse to lose, you can turn your energies and creativity to the task and hand – moving from surviving to thriving during these tough times. Hunkering down into survival mode is the first thing that most people and small businesses do. You start to notice almost immediately the people and businesses that have decided not to be victims. The people who have decided that fight rather than fright will rule their lives, start forming or joining volunteer organizations to help others. 

The small businesses who are on the offensive, rather than hunkered down in defense, shift to new and innovate ways of doing business and appealing to customers. I have already seen that locally with the Milford Pilates Club, where Tisha Ortiz was forced to close her gym, but has already begun leading Pilates workout using on-line streaming. Tisha refuses to give up and see herself as a victim. Is it easy? No. However, the alternative is much less attractive. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

There are lots of things that need to be done that this current lockdown situation actually facilitates. Taking this time to do those things that you’ve been putting off will help the time pass and reward you with a sense of accomplishment. My daughter used some of her downtime last week to finally get around to updating the scrapbooks that she has started years ago for each of her boys. That may sound silly or trivial to you, but there are tins of things that you’ve been putting off doing, both large and small, that you can get to right now. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

The same is true on the small business world. There are always tasks that we all push off because we think that there are more important uses of our time. We have time now. Boy, do we have time. So get that inventory done or clean up that storage space that you’ve just been tossing things into. Rearrange the displays that you’ve allowed to go stale. There may not be anyone in your store to see them right now, but that will change and you will be more ready for them that you have been. Now that you have time, sit down and plan for the months ahead – for the holidays, the events and the sales that you know that you’ll need to have. View this as a “time-out” opportunity to finally get caught up and to get ahead of the curve in your marketing.  Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

An even more pro-active approach for the small business owner is to view this crisis as a reset opportunity. You most likely would not have voluntarily brought your on-going business to a halt; nor would you have challenged yourself to completely rethink your business model. This crisis has forced  and enabled both. Can you think outside the box and maybe move some of your business to the Internet, as Tisha did? Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

If you already have an Internet presence, can you take it to the next level, so that it makes up for the reduction in traffic in your store? How can you present the same personal service experience on the internet that works for you in the store?  How can your Internet presence and your brick and mortar facility complement and enhance each other? How can you use modern technologies and media like streaming video, blows and podcasts, social media and instant messaging services to reach your potential customers and entice them into buying online or in your store? Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

All of those ideas are much less expensive to implement that you might believe. Not all fit your retail or service environment. The key to getting started with any of these ideas is that initial decision not to see yourself as a victim. Victims don’t do these things…fighters do. Be a fighter. We might not all get through this crisis, but I can almost guarantee your that the ones who do make it through will be those who decided to  fight, not those who allow themselves to be victims. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim. Be a fighter!


What is your plan?

March 20, 2020
The choice is really up to you.

There is no way to change, control or sugar coat the crisis that we are all facing, only different ways to react to it. Your reaction is the only thing that you can fully control.

It is my belief that most people go through four phases when faced with situations like the current one we are facing with the Covid 19 pandemic.

The first phase I liken to the shock and awe that the U.S. caused when they initially attacked Iraq. The sudden impact is so unexpected and overwhelming that causes shock and inspires awe. The very rapid set of events that occurred during the first two weeks of this crisis was full of shock and awe – the cancellations of most sporting events, including the NCAA Tournament, was unprecedented and shocking. Weren’t you totally shocked by that?

The second phase, which most are in right now is the fear and anxiety phase. Much of this is caused by an overload of frightening and frightful news coming out on a daily basis and yet there is little information about what one can really do about the situation. The fear factor is exacerbated by the directions to isolate and hunker down. Not being able to share that fear or reassure each other increases it’s impact.

The third phase is just starting for some and yet to come for others – frustration and anger. Both frustration and anger are being expressed now on social media. Currently both are being aimed at the government and what is perceived to have been a slow start to dealing with the crisis. However, at he heart of that frustration and anger is a sense of helplessness and a need to strike out at something or someone without knowing what or who. Being cooped up inside for a while will increase that frustration and heighten the anger in many.

The fourth phase, which only a few have really gotten to yet is when one accepts the current situation (it is what it is) and begins formulating and acting upon plans to make the best of it – finding ways to get on with life. Life is not going to return to our old definition of normal, but one does not have to accept fear and despair as “the new normal”. Most of us will eventually get to this phase and will heed the advice of Winston Churchill to never give up. You will be surprised how creative and resourceful you can become in this phase. And, you will discover that Churchill was right. Business people are particularly going to have to crate new ways fo doing business in order to get through this crisis.

Some, however, will have sunken into despair and will need help to recover. Others might have never gotten past the fear phase and will need to be coaxed out of their shells. A part of the plans for moving forward for all of us must be a commitment to look around and find those who need help overcoming their fears or depression. It turns out that an important part of your own recovery process can be found in this willingness to help others – it is a rebuilding of our sense of community.

No matter which phase you are currently in with this crisis, it is important to get back on he path ahead and not get sidelined by fear or depression. It is OK to be a little mad about things. Use that energy to start fighting back. Take some time to ask for God’s help and than create a plan for yourself and those that you love who are in this boat with you. Start figuring out how to move forward. Look around and figure out how you can serve or help others.

We will all get through this and it is important that you be to look back upon what you did to get through it and be proud of yourself. Be safe during this crisis, but don’t become its captive. Be proactive – chart your own course.What’s your plan for getting through it? Have you asked God for help yet? Maybe that should be your step one.


Johnny had the right idea…

March 17, 2020

Some time ago, Jack used this quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Do not worry about being worried.  Difficult, but not impossible.”  (Johnny Appleseed)

Johnny probably wasn’t walking through a country in the midst of a pandemic when he said those words, but they have great applicability today. It is quite natural to be worried, especially about the unknowns and uncertainty that we face right now. So much has happened in such a short period of time that is can feel overwhelming. It is difficult not to be worried; however, it is what you do with and about that worry that is important.

Worries that are focused inward tend to circle back upon themselves become obsessions or lead to depression. People who allow that to happen might say that they see “no way out”. In many cases, they are so focused upon the cause of the worry that they fail to even look for solutions or alternate paths to follow. Perhaps it is key to understand that sometimes there may be no solution to the problem at hand, only alternate ways to react to the situation at hand.

Such is the case with our current worry over the Corona virus pandemic. There is no solution for us to find, no matter how much we worry about it. Time and medical science will eventually provide a way out, if not a solution. In the meantime, it is important to focus on our reactions personally, and as a society, to the crisis at hand. Those who have reacted badly to the crisis have stockpiled toilet paper and hoarded other essential supplies. They have focused inward and allowed their worries to drag them into panic and despair. So far, the fabric of our society has been stretched a bit by those who have panicked, but not torn asunder.

What is the alternate path in all of this? Perhaps it is to turn your worry from being inwardly focused and concerned only about yourself and your own well-being to an outward focus. These are certainly trying times for all of us, but consider how much more trying they are for those who entered into this crisis with little or nothing to begin with or with pre-existing conditions that make them the most vulnerable. Worry also about the “collateral damage” that is being caused by the steps that the government has taken to try to prevent the spread of the virus – the business shutdowns that have thrown millions out of work and threaten the very existence of most small businesses. Then, turn your worries into action, with plans to try to provide help.

By turning your worries into a commitment to be a part of the solution, instead of just another part of the problem, you will quickly find that you have no time left to worry about yourself. A good starting point for turning your worries around is to pray for God’s help – not for His relief from the circumstances that you are in; but, for the strength and faith to persevere and the vision to see a different path – a different purpose in the midst of the crisis.  There are just tons of things that need to be done for others that you can commit yourself to with various organizations in your community – meals to be packed and delivered, shut-ins to be check upon, children who need care while their parents work, the list goes on.

Is there a lot to be worried about? Sure. Is the answer to sit and stew in your personal worries?  No. God has other plans for you. Ask for His help and then go do what he needs you to do to help get everyone through this crisis. You can worry about things later. Right now, there is work to do. It’s God’s work and he needs your hands. Perhaps we should change the lyrics to the most famous Bobby McFerrin song to “Don’t worry, get busy!”


Hunkered Down in Milford…

March 15, 2020

Like most Americans right now, my wife and I are “hunkered down” in our home in Milford, Michigan. It is not that we are too afraid to go out. In fact, we went to dinner last night (in a mostly empty restaurant I might add) and we will be venturing out to do some shopping today. However, we did not go to church today; because church services were canceled, as a precaution against the spread of the Corona virus.

The governor of Michigan has now called for the cancelation of almost all events that would gather a group of people together, including school, church, sports and other spectator/participant events. The Oakland County government issued a directive yesterday instructing restaurants and bars to cut their occupancy capacity in half, as a way to insure sufficient space for “social distancing”.

All of this is both unprecedented and necessary to try to slow down the spread of the virus. None of it will stop that spread from occurring, but the hope is to slow the pace of the spread enough such that it does not overwhelm the American health care system. If the disease tacks along the same growth curve as has occurred in Italy, our hospitals would be quickly overcrowded and overwhelmed (or such is the theory).

I’m out of TP!

There have been alarming, if somewhat amusing, developments locally. The runs on toilet paper and hand sanitizer in our local stores have provided opportunities for very amusing Facebook posts. One can postulate that we make end up with lots of sick people locally who will have some of the cleanest rear ends in the nation.

News of the economics of this pandemic has mostly focused upon the highly visible impact on airlines, cruise lines and events (sports and conventions) businesses; however, it is the millions of small local businesses, like restaurants, retail shops and health and beauty businesses that stand to lose the most. Many will not make it through even a mild recession and the impact of this may be anything but mild.

The messages meant to calm the populous, which proclaim that we will get through this together, are certainly true. We got through other crises like 911 and the Great Recession and we will survive this one, too. What life looks like on the other side of all of this is still to be determined. Life after those earlier crises that I mentioned was nothing like it was before them. We will not “get back to normal”; rather we will have to get used to a “new normal”.

While all of this have interrupted the public practice of religion, I suspect that the underlying faith that is within most people is stronger for it  In times of crisis, one needs something to believe in that is bigger than the crisis itself. It does not get any bigger than a strong belief in God. Focus upon your faith and not your fears. Remember what the Bible tells us –  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your faith doesn’t give you permission to do whatever you want or prevent you from catching whatever it is that is threatening you; however, it does allow you to go on with life by giving you the assurance of your fate, should the worst occur. What happens now is a lot less scary if you believe in what happens next. So, hunker down wherever you are, keep the faith and ride this thing out.


Be the aspirin to your family and friends…

March 9, 2020

“Friends seem to be like aspirin; we really don’t know why they make a sick person feel better, but they do.”  (Letty Cottin Pogrebin)

That was the quote that Jack used in a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words.

To paraphrase a common old doctors’ saying – “Talk to two friends and call me in the morning.”

Why does it help? Perhaps because we are all social animals and being able to share our miseries with someone who can commiserate with us has a “Placebo effect”.  Maybe there is something to the old “healing touch” beliefs that the laying on of hands can help. Some believe in being able to transfer “energy” between people. Whatever you believe, there is certainly something good and helpful about having someone else to share your pain or discomfort with; If nothing else, they may allow you to take your mind off your suffering for a while. Be the aspirin.

I’m sure that scientists could find something to attribute this effect too; perhaps the release of endorphins of some sort.  You really don’t need a scientific explanation of why a visit to a sick friend can help them feel better…just do it. It’s a whole lot more helpful than just sending them a Get Well card. Be the aspirin.

I suspect that, if you thought about it for a moment, you have friends who could use a visit. Perhaps they aren’t “sick” in the sense of having a disease.  Maybe they are just lonely, because they lost a loved one.  Maybe they are a shut-in, unable to drive or visit with anyone anymore. Perhaps they are in recovery from some incident that caused injury. Maybe they are suffering  from depression over a lost job or the end of a relationship. Whatever the reason for their current state of health or mind, they could use a visit right now and you can be their aspirin. Be the aspirin.

In most cases, you really don’t have to “do” anything other than be there to listen and offer encouragement. You roil is to assure them that they are not alone, that someone else cares about them. Now, in our current state of concern about the Corona virus, it may not make sense to endanger yourself by making a personal visit to someone who is infected and in quarantine; however, you can’t catch the disease over the phone and a phone call is a lot more helpful that just sending a card. See if they are able to take your call. Be the aspirin.

Just like in life there are many brands of aspirin, there are many ways to help and show support for those  in need of some help – taking food over to their house, offering to drive their children to things, offering to do their food shopping or to do their laundry. Sometimes all you can do is go sit by a bedside and listen, but that is enough to make a difference. Be the aspirin.

An interesting side-benefit of all this is something that the real aspirin never gets to experience – it will make you feel better, too. Doing something for others, serving others, helping others is an aspirin for your soul. It will help remove aches and pains that you may not have realized were there – those prickly little feelings that keep saying to you,  “I know I should be doing something to help.” Now, you are doing something.  Be the aspirin.