Be the best part of someone’s day today.

I have always wanted to try standup comedy.  I have written a fair amount of material. But I have never performed it. When I tell people this they usually encourage me to go to an open-mic night. But my plan is to start at nursing homes instead. Because residents in nursing homes are dying for some entertainment. And when the amusement bar is really low the chances of getting booed off stage are low too. Heck, I bet for safety reasons nursing homes don’t even have stages. Other than the basic stages of aging and atrophy.

COVID-19

Thanks to the COVID-19 craziness, today will be a small day for non-nursing home residents too. Most people will be confined by the walls, floor and ceiling of their own home. They are not likely to have meaningful interactions with humans beyond their housemates.

The Daily Highlight

This means that you have a great opportunity to be the highlight of someone’s day today. Expectations are really low. Which makes your chances of being the best part of a friend, family member, coworker, customer, or client’s day very high. Today, a nice conversation would be nice. Sharing something funny would be fun. And a friendly smile would go a mile.

Think about how you could brighten someone’s day today.

You can do this with humor.

With kindness.

With energy.

With craziness.

By sharing a memory, an old photo or video.

You could introduce a fun and exciting new idea to a client or co-worker.

You can add an interesting twist to your video calls. (banana costumes work great)

You can make someone’s day by simply playing host, and inviting others to an online anything.

You can provide a highlight today by sharing plans for something fun to happen after this passes. Which will give others something to look forward to tomorrow.

Key Takeaway

This is a great time to be a bright spot. It’s never been easier to shine. Share something fun. Make someone smile. Show someone you care. Unearth an old memory. Or create a new one. You may find it habit forming to become a highlight. I hope you do. Remember that all the good in the world starts with people being good, doing good, and sharing good. So make today a really good day, both for yourself and others.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

This is a great time if you are great.

I know that right now the COVID-19 crisis feels terrible. It certainly feels bad If you lost your job. It feels bad if you are worried that your business may run out of money before the shutdown runs out of days. It feels bad if your life and career have been disrupted. And it feels bad if you were a high school or college senior during the Lost Spring of 2020.

Great Things Ahead

However, in the next phase things are going to be very interesting and exciting for great people. People like you, Gatsby and Tony The Tiger. There has been so much disruption and so much change that things won’t simply go back to the way they were before. For great people, things will become much better.

The job losses have surged past 30 million people. That’s not good. But it means millions of roles will need to be filled when the giant economic machine turns on again. Which is great, if you are great.

It’s Showtime For Rockstars

There are rockstars who felt stuck in their jobs who have suddenly been lodged free. You may be one of them. Your best chapter is still ahead. And this just freed you up to prepare for it.

man in blue suit
If you are a rockstar it’s time to take the stage.

The Replacements

This is going to be exciting. Companies that weren’t well-positioned to survive the COVID-19 crisis will be replaced by better companies who are smarter, more innovative, and more prepared. Many of these next-gen companies will be owned by the same people who owned the last-gen companies that failed. Except the great leaders will come back better for what they have learned.

Falling Into Favor

Entire industries will be disrupted. New opportunities will spring like, well, spring. And skills, locations and employee-types who had fallen out of favor, like Suzy Favor, will be favored once again. Companies will make big bets on on-shoring before they take on the risks of off-shoring or Pauly Shoring again. This means more opportunity for you, buddy…

There will be millions of people who have nothing to lose by starting their own businesses. Many of them will become wildly successful. This may be you, Wild Thang.

woman in yellow shirt sitting on brown wooden floor
If you are great, the future is so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades. And yellow.

The Dickinsonian Twist

Great stories will emerge about how this great disruption, which looked like the bleakest of times, turned out to be a blessing to so many. This could be your story. This should be your story.

Restacking The Deck

We are about to enter the great reshuffling. Prepare now. Because those great people who position themselves well during this timeout will be the winners. You simply have to be willing to make a move. Take a chance. Start something new. Or simply make a few phone calls. As JFK once said, ‘Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.’ And now is the time to make things happen, captain!

When we begin hearing the success stories that come out of the COVID-19 crisis, many people will kick themselves, or smack themselves, V-8 style, and think, I should have thought of that. Or,  I should have done that. Or worse, I thought of that, but didn’t do that. And now I see what I missed out on. Please, don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

Position yourself well for the opportunities to come. They will be transformative for those prepared to catch the wave. Greatness will be rewarded. Boldness will be rewarded. So will open-mindedness, creativity and innovation. So raise your hand now. And make sure the greatest opportunity of your lifetime doesn’t pass you by.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

What not to do with your extra time right now.

When I was in 6th grade I went to the Lake of The Ozarks in Missouri. It was long before Jason Bateman made it look both scary and binge-able. I lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time, and my friend Matt had a family lake house in the LOTO. Matt and his family invited me to come down to the lake for a summer weekend. Which at the time felt as big and exciting as going to Cancun. Except I could speak the language, and drink the water.

I remember 4 things from that weekend:

  1. ‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen was brand new and we listened to that song over and over all weekend long. I had a sneaking suspicion that the Boss Man was trying to tell me that my glory days as a 12-year old kid would soon pass me by.
  2. I saw a monster truck in the middle of the lake. The giant tires held so much air that the truck floated. It was tooling around the lake just like a boat. Except it was a monster truck. That was some real hillbilly shiznit.
  3. My friend’s sister Lisa and her friend Brooke asked me if I would jump in the lake and fetch the inner tube that was floating away from the dock. I gladly dove in, swam to the tube, and brought it back to the dock. When I climbed out of the water feeling 6th grade-heroic, they expressed their extreme gratitude. Then they added, ‘We didn’t want to go get it because we just saw a huge water moccasin swim under the dock.’

Number 4 On Cove 4

But it was the 4th memory from that trip that I have thought about most often over the past 3 decades.

One day me, Matt, Lisa, Brooke and several older kids went out on the family’s water ski boat. After all the older kids had skied, Matt’s cousin, who was in his early 20s, asked if I wanted to go waterskiing. I said no. I explained that I had never gone before and that I didn’t want to waste everyone else’s time.

He responded by saying, ‘Hey man, don’t worry about that. We’re just out here killing time.’ He said it as if killing time was a good thing. A necessary thing to do to get rid of all this pesky time we all have to deal with.

I understood what he meant. But I couldn’t get past what he actually said. Killing time seemed crazy to me, even then. Killing time sounded as rational as burning money. Or eating veal.

Time For Time

Today, during the global lockdown created by the COVID-19 crisis, you may find yourself with a surplus of time. And you could be tempted to just kill it. But don’t. Don’t waste it. And don’t pass it either.

Time Scarcity

Time is the scarcest of all resources. In fact, one of the most impactful things I’ve read over the past 2 months was So Much Quarantine. So Little Time. by my friend Drew Hawkins. He details how he and his wife are extremely time-challenged right now as they both work from home, while simultaneously caring for their 1 and 3-year old children. They are spinning plates like a carnival act. For Drew and Megan free time is harder to find than live sports. Almost all of their time is multi-tasking. And that time is working as hard as any time ever has in the history of time.

Key Takeaway

If you are lucky enough to have time right now, for Drew and Megan’s sake, don’t kill it. Cherish it. Use it. Employ it. Value it. Make the most of it. Time is a gift. It’s the most valuable thing you will ever have. Except for maybe toilet paper.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Now is the perfect time to pay people in confidence.

A few months ago COVID-19 and The Global Lockdown may have sounded like a cool band name. But today they represent the two dominating forces on the planet. Right now they are locked in an epic standoff, like the FBI and The Branch Davidians. Physical and economic health is under attack. And we need Chip and Joanna Gaines to show up and save Waco with some shiplap.

Every day the news reports the latest health and economic casualties. But there is another human concern that is much harder to quantify.

Confidence, self assurance and motivation are waning. But you can make a difference. Even if money is in short supply.

Right now one of the most valuable things you can do is pay compliments. They can be the most valuable thing you ever give another person. Because they offer confidence, strength and resolve.

black and white laptop
Be this sign for others.

Compliments are the antidote against quitting, and, as a result, failure. Knowing that someone else believes in us is often all we need to believe a little more in ourselves.

I have had people pay me outrageous sums in compliments. Those compliments have expanded my self perception. And those comments helped propel me in ways that those who shared them could not have imagined.

Compliments always seem to land at the right time. When your trajectory is wrong, they help change the angle. When your trajectory is right on target a compliment helps you accelerate.

Too often we avoid or disclaim a compliment because we are afraid it will give the recipient a big head, or feed their ego. But like flour needs yeast to rise, amazing talent often needs positive feedback to rise to the demands necessary to turn great talent into skill, and ultimately results.

If you are wondering what you can do right now to make a difference, send an earnest compliment or 2. Or 200. Or 2000. Deliver it any way you like. You’re likely to make someone’s day. Like a sweet treat in the middle of a no carb diet.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to help others right now by treating them like bicycles.

Life is about as far from normal as most of us can imagine. The unprecedented global disruption caused by COVID-19 is impacting every one of us. Today, our physical, mental and financial health are all at risk. But like John, Paul, George and Ringo, we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Help, I Need Somebody.

Most of us are not professionally trained on how to help others who are dealing with a crisis. But most of us know how to ride a bicycle. It turns out that bicycles and your friends actually need the same kind of assistance from you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. 

A Please-Don’t-Crash-Course

Instead of heading off to years of clinical training here are some very basic tips you can use to help others by becoming more bike-minded.

forest bike bulls
A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways To Help Your Friends By Treating Them Like Bicycles.

1. Prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along the way.

3. Help them balance. The world is throwing epic challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

4. Help them pedal faster. It is easy for people to fall off their personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

5. Help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Right now your friends, family, and coworkers need your help just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. We’re all dealing with major challenges. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them

I know the economy is going to be fine. Because of dog sledding.

When I was in my early 20s I went to my first dog sled race. Three friends of mine and I thought it would be a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a midwinter day in Northern Wisconsin. When we arrived at the start-finish area a race official eagerly approached us and asked if we would be willing to help at the starting line. We felt like Bill and Ted, and suddenly our excellent adventure got even more adventurous.

Start Me Up

The official walked us to the starting gate and told us that the dog sled teams would come to the chute one at a time, one minute apart for their staggered start times. Our job was to simply hold the sleds in place until it was time for them to run. When the countdown clock reached zero we would let go of the sled, the dogs would take off, and we would wait for the next team to enter the chute.

Dog Sled Stuff

I Think I Understand

It sounded easy. In fact, the 4 of us laughed and joked about the simple instructions. ‘Wait, first we hold on and then we let go? Or first we let go, and then we hold on? We were all recent college graduates, and found the rudimentary nature of the task hilarious.

Go Time

A few minutes later the first team approached the starting line. It was a team of 8 dogs pulling a sled that carried a driver. Or musher. Or Mushy Donald Driver.

The configuration was exactly what we expected. But what we didn’t expect was that the dogs would be going mad dog crazy! These dogs charged into the chute, with handlers trying to restrain them. It was like drop-off at preschool. And we were the teachers receiving the wild, barely restrained children, and told ‘good luck’, as the parents bolted for the exits.

Dog-sledding-in-Alaska

Born To Run

What we quickly learned was that sled dogs love to run. It is in their nature. And when they enter the starting chute they are conditioned to go crazy, in preparation for running as hard as they can. Which made it hard to hold those eager beaver doggies back.

The Final Countdown

As the starter began his countdown from 10 seconds, the dogs went absolutely nuts. They barked and foamed and strained at their harnesses. The driver stomped on his or her brake spikes, which theoretically anchored the sled to the snow. But it took all the 4 of us had to prevent the dogs from taking off down the trail and pulling us with them, like stooges in a Tim Allen comedy.

Heavenly-Mountain-Dog-Sledding

Saved By Zero

Finally, the starter hit zero, the timer beeped, and we let go of the sled. The dogs shot down the trail like a dragster. The team disappeared into the woods, and another frenzied team entered the chute to challenge our strength and stamina. The pattern repeated until all 50 teams had left the starting line, and we were exhausted.

We understood why the race official picked the 4 of us young, healthy 20-somethings for the job. It was both physically and mentally demanding to hold the dogs back. Because the dogs were born to run. And not even human animals that were 2 or 3 times their size could hold them back for long.

Key Takeaway

I am not worried about the economy bouncing back. Because we are just like those sled dogs. We are born to run. And I can feel the same intensity building today that I felt in the dog sled shoot 2 decades ago. When the gates open we are going to run. We are going to work hard. We are going to play hard. We are going to travel, for both business and pleasure. We will go back to school. We will go to restaurants, bars, beaches, concerts, games, and festivals.

Yes, just as soon as the countdown reaches zero and we are no longer held back, we are going to attack life again. Because it is in our nature.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

The COVID-19 response is a great reminder about rules.

I don’t like rules. It’s not that I don’t like order. It is that I am wired to find the scenarios where the rules don’t work. I love discovering conditions where something other than the rule is better than the rule itself. And I especially love pointing out these exceptions in rule-heavy environments, like schools, libraries and school libraries. #stopshushingme

Suspension

All the rules that have been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis have been interestingly satisfying to me. They are evidence that rules are not really rules. They are general agreements we make for now. And when a change in conditions warrants, those general agreements will be unmade. Because we will have entered into the rule-defying scenarios I love to think about.

Over the past 2 months there have been an endless parade of rule changes. Rules about schooling, business, the Olympics, start dates, end dates and requirements of all sorts. Rules about drug trials, telemedicine and sports. Even rules about rules. Which makes this a ruley, ruley interesting time.

Current Conditions

Rules that prohibited employees from working from home went out the window when everyone was told they had to work from home. Rules about how long you can hold onto a library book, have changed. And church rules now say we can’t show up for Sunday morning service. Where was that rule when I was 12?

Taxes

I knew we were getting into interesting territory when the tax rules changed. Paying taxes, once one of the 2 certainties of life, along with death, has been pushed off for several months. At the same time, criminals are not serving time for breaking rules that typically would put them behind bars. And speaking of bars, the crazy rule is no longer that you can’t smoke in a bar. It’s that you can’t drink in one either.

Rule Flexibility

The closing of everything, and the extreme measures taken to combat the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 illustrate that rules can be changed whenever necessary to serve the greater good. So we must keep in mind that rules can also be regularly, and temporarily modified to serve the smaller, individual good.

Key Takeaway

Rules don’t rule. The people who make them do. And people can change the rules anytime to accommodate for unusual conditions. Which is a reminder for those of us who are charged with making and enforcing rules that we always have the flexibility to acknowledge the exceptions and respond appropriately, compassionately and creatively.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.