Improving Skills in an Age of Social Distancing

We can say what we like about this present pandemic situation, and yes, most of it is pretty freaking awful. Though, bear with me a moment. Consider all the things you said you would do when you “got around to it.” Specifically, when you had a little more free time on your hands. You’d learn that new work skill, a language, a musical instrument, an interpersonal skill to enable you to enrich your relationships…

But I know, with our busy schedules, planning time for such things can seem daunting. So…

In a situation where we are being urged to stay home, not interact in person with others, there appears to be a little more such time on our hands.

The chance for boredom or restlessness increases and being effectively locked down in our homes suggests fertile ground for cabin fever. Though isn’t there something in your life that needs improvement? Something–whether it’s personal, a skill you’ve needed to develop, perhaps a professional skill? A project you’d been wanting to begin?

Now is the time! The great part, especially in a work context, is that your peers are likely twiddling their thumbs, struggling with boredom right now. As you pick up your initiative and develop yourself, introduce some inspirational voices (and blogs…) into your world, you create a greater competitive advantage.

Fast forward a month or two. Your “competitors” have watched far more Netflix than you, stared into space and asked far more futile questions (“Why did this have to happen?” “When will this be over?” “Is this the end?” “I wonder what the Kardashians will do this week?” and so forth) and overall made poor use of their time. This is frustrating, I know. But it also presents opportunities that months earlier, we could only dream of.

More bluntly, as all crises do, this one will also end.

Then when it does, where will all of us be? The same as when it began? Or will some of us have “sharpened our saw” to borrow the adage from Stephen Covey? Will some of us have developed a new competitive advantage, learned a new skill, made ourselves even more marketable in the workplace?

I know this can be a little touchy when there are still so much uncertainty around us. It can be comforting to adhere to the status quo. But that’s the default for most people. And we are not “most” people. We want good things, we expect good things, so we take the initiative to create good things. The status quo may be fine for others, but has that ever been really good enough for us? So what separates the status quo from greatness? A few key things, and not as many as you’d think. One big one is captured by the old expression “carpe diem”, the great ones “seize the day”, take the opportunity before them and make the most they can of it. Often, life offers very subtle indications when it presents an opportunity. This is not one of them. Is there anything subtle about what we’re facing right now? I say no, and as this opportunity is offered to you, what are you going to do with it?

Maybe it doesn’t pertain to your career. Maybe you’ve needed to spend more time listening to your kids, learning about what’s going on in their lives. Maybe your relationship has fallen victim to the chaos of everyday life. Perhaps some down time with your partner is just what you’ve needed. Maybe learn to listen a little more, hug a little more, kiss, deeply, passionately, while looking into one another’s eyes. Maybe that is what you could use this time to accomplish…

If it’s a matter of strategy, I can help with that. But you don’t need me. You need to look at what skill would make a difference for you and take this opportunity to develop it. Or if you already have it, refine it, improve it. “Sharpen the saw,” as Covey would say.

Seize the day, as soon enough, we’re going to get back to normal and the opportunity will be lost. And we will either be back in the status quo…

Or we will have seized the opportunity to become that much more than we had been! Starting now.

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