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Innovation 101: Crisis Fosters Creativity

It's time we start seeing ourselves as one species and one world. Let's redefine global pandemics, and COVID-19, as an opportunity for positive change and creativity. Here are six (6) steps to inspire you and get you started while in quarantine.

Was this what it was like during the First and Second World Wars? The plan of going to a movie, spending time with friends and family, going to work, all of that just...disappeared? Slowly but surely each right, removed. Until all that was left was “Remember what it was like before?”

Democratic society trains us to normalize, to adjust, to adapt, so life can keep on functioning and there can be a sense of stability. It needs this kind of stability to operate. The more agreeable we are, the more luxuries we receive: free time, media, entertainment, and discretionary income for all to enjoy. Seems like a fair trade-off, until you think about what it took to get here.

It took a war with the most deaths in the history of wars, an atomic bomb and unspeakable atrocities for us to stop what we were doing, rethink things, work together and get everyone on the same page to prioritize life. It was the (end of the) war that resulted in the Allies forming the United Nations, and the European Union effectively coming into existence, to prevent wars of aggression, greed, power, politics, and money. To give back a sense of security that life could go on.

Democracy and society train us to normalize, to adjust, to adapt so life can keep on functioning and there can be a sense of stability.

Yet somehow despite everything, wars continued. For Americans it was the Vietnam & Korean Wars; in Asia it was the Chinese Civil War, La Violencia in South America, the Ethiopian Civil War in Africa, the Greek Civil War in Europe… the list goes on.

So here we are in 2020. The similarities are remarkable. We’re in a global crisis, and being told what to do and what not to by our governments. For some, that’s new. For many, it’s old news. Either way, we’re normalizing and acclimating to this new reality. Remember when going outside was a thing? Gone. Going to a restaurant, traveling to see friends? Finito.

Looking back at history, if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s history repeating itself.

Except now it's different. The enemy isn’t ISIS, or terrorism, in some country far away, or even an ideology. This enemy doesn’t discriminate by age, sex, wealth, class, or ethnicity. It's a silent killer; no fires, smoke or destruction. COVID-19 is a global pandemic killing in real-time, and getting worse. As a result, fear is setting in. We’re running around scared and paranoid, buying all the groceries, toilet paper and Purell we can carry. For most, this is a scary time to be alive.

However, I’m going to argue that it’s a great time to be alive.

This is more than a silver lining. This is a wake-up call that is needed, and finally has the power and authority to make real, positive, lasting change. Hopefully, this will break the cycle of complacency, and get us to look at the world around us and react.

Crisis fosters innovation.

History is our greatest teacher here. Just look at the last 10 years of non-stop economic growth and massive technological growth, the beginning of which coincided with the ’07–’08 Financial Crisis. The iPhone hit the market, Twitter went global, and Airbnb became a thing. It also was the same time the earth had massive population explosions and climate change was accelerating at a quicker pace than ever before. Thomas L Friedman talks all about it in a fantastic book entitled, “Thank You For Being Late”. Highly recommend it.

This is a wake-up call demanding a shift in mindset. Until now, our world has been divided - by country, language, religion, and skin color. Driven by our own self interests - money, power, oil, whatever - we’ve disregarded the world around us and it’s future because it didn’t affect our daily lives. The problems that existed were over there. Now, COVID-19 is forcing us to confront the harsh reality we’ve created.

We need to think of ourselves as a species - as humans - as one world.

This pandemic is focusing our notion of identity and community to change, and for good reason. In this age of global connectivity, we need to understand that local equals global. This is important because it means a fundamentally different way of thinking and operating; if we don’t, we’re doomed as people, as a human race, and as a species.

The fact is, we’re lucky right now - COVID-19 could be much worse. It could spread faster, be more lethal, and wipe out everything as we know it.

Instead, we’re dealing with something that is giving us some response time and impacting only humans. Social distancing? We have a million tools at our disposal: Recording equipment, phones, companies that deliver to all of the world, and technology that is literally progressing at unprecedented rates, all at our fingertips.

Yet we’re freaking out, panicking, consuming everything we can, plummeting our stock markets and causing national emergencies due to economic losses. The truth is, when this is all over (because it will be over, and we will recover), the world will go on.

So what now?

Instead, we should heed the call. This is one of many calls we’ve had, and that are coming: in climate change, in healthcare, in wealth distribution, and in overpopulation, to name a few. Mother earth is calling, and instead of just killing us all outright, she’s telling us to sit down and think about what we’ve done. So let’s do that.

We need to think of ourselves as a species - as humans - as one world.

This is an opportunity to create new work, invest in new ideas, and to support one another. We’re already seeing incredible ideas for connection - phone apps that connect quarantined people in conversation, instant video dating apps, unprecedented musical collaborations and battles and online dance parties that start and end right in your living room. Connectivity has never been more beautiful.

Nurses and doctors are on the front lines every day so we can do this. So let’s use our “quaran-time” like a Dragon Ball Z Hyperbolic Time Chamber, and read, learn, share, create, empower, and innovate. Lets bridge racial, border, and continental divides. Let’s conquer past traumas. Let’s redefine our perspectives and stop squabbling over issues that don’t matter at the end of the day. Most importantly, lets forgive and move forward as one people, one species, and one earth.

Here are 6 steps that will help get you started:

  1. Program Your Day For Productivity: Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee (nominated by none other than Martin Luther King Jr.), devised a strategy to start the day with positivity: Hang a reminder a branch, a leaf, a painting, or anything that makes you think of something positive in your window or from the ceiling above your bed so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up. Connect the dots, and voilà! Happy morning. Now wake up, move, affirm yourself, and shake, rattle and roll.

  2. Meditate: Honor your downtime. All the coolest people do it. Give yourself 20 minutes to sit and think. I say “give yourself” instead of “take” because it is a gift to yourself. Then identify what you care about most - this is what you’ll be working on. P.S. If you’re one of those folks that think they can’t find 20 minutes to do this, there’s an old Zen Proverb that applies here: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

  3. Affirm Yourself and Find Your People: Decide on the time you’re going to work on what’s important to you every day. Make it publicly known that you’ll be holding “open office hours” during that time to work on it. If folks want to come in, collaborate, and more, these are your people. They’re coming in because they too want to be better. That’s your crowd. Start thinking about these people for your Mastermind Alliance.

  4. Wash, Rinse, Repeat: Rome wasn’t built in a day after all. Whatever you’re working on, it’s important and will take time. Talk to your people, take a power nap to recharge now and then, but don’t quit. The world is a better place with you in it, and that’s because you can change the world.

  5. Don’t Stop Me Now: I think we can all agree Freddie Mercury said it best. Defy gravity, travel at the speed of light, and go for the impossible. Ask for help when you need it, because anything great takes a village. And remember, when people offer you help, it’s because they love you. Nobody does things alone. The best way of saying thanks is by making the most of it and paying it forward.

  6. Forgive yourself at the end of the day. Do it for what you didn’t and/or couldn’t do, so you can do a better job tomorrow.

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