A Final Thought: A Better World Is Coming


By Mitch Allen

One bit of wisdom I have come to appreciate is the understanding that priorities can change with time and experience. At age 21, I was unaware of the joy of a long walk or how the aroma of freshly baked bread can hug you. And I didn’t give a hoot about seeing an owl in a tree. Now I am awestruck by their majesty and stillness.

Priorities of cultures and societies can also change. A few weeks ago when we were all asked to use paper straws, people lost their minds at the magnitude of the sacrifice. Now we’re being asked to stay home, shutter our businesses, forgo paychecks, lay off our cherished employees, avoid our loved ones, and—from the macro perspective—destroy the economy.

And we’re doing it.

When we emerge from this crisis—when the COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat, when restrictions on gatherings and activities are lifted and we can once again embrace our loved ones—the world is going to be a different place, a better place.

Here’s what’s likely to change:

A New Can-do Attitude
When it comes to big, global initiatives—cleansing the planet, reducing plastic waste, fighting climate change, improving access to affordable health care, landing a human on Mars—we’re going to say, “Pfft, if we can do what we just did to minimize a global pandemic, together, unselfishly, all the rest of this stuff will be a piece of cake.”

And we will champion those who commit to turning big ideas into reality. The new mantra will be, “We can make the world a better place when we work together.”

Working From Home
During this pandemic, millions of Americans who never thought they could work from home will discover that they can. They will learn how productive and efficient they can be at home while simultaneously enjoying greater freedom and flexibility.

Even after the COVID-19 threat has passed, many employees will continue to work in their pajamas, energizing industries that offer creative, work-from-home solutions. Of course, the trick is going to be whether we can all stay out of the snack drawer and the refrigerator when we work at home. The struggle is real.

Old-school managers will finally learn that employees are more creative and get more done when they feel trusted. You don’t have to ask them to punch a time clock so you can keep an eye on them. Working from home will be life-changing for countless hourly workers who have a 45-minute commute into the city just so their bosses can see them. Instead of feeding the gas pump, these staffers will be better positioned to feed their families.

Saving Money/Staying Liquid
Having your regular source of income abruptly cease is frightening, especially for those living paycheck to paycheck. We’re all suddenly learning the importance of saving for a rainy day, and having some of those savings—say, a few months’ salary—in a safe, liquid form.

When the next crisis occurs, it will again cause a precipitous drop in the stock market. In anticipation of this, more of us will keep a larger chunk of our assets in cash/savings accounts, in the way our Depression-era grandparents stuffed money under their mattresses. In the future, as a nation of savers, we will all feel more secure.

By the way, regarding non-liquid assets such as rental property, I’ve heard several stories of landlords who are waving rent payments for their tenants at this time.

Bless them.

Shopping From Home
Consumers who have never bought anything from Amazon are doing so now, and they are discovering the convenience of shopping from home. Not that I want to see one more penny go into Jeff Bezos’s pocket, but this trend will stick. Online shopping and front-door delivery will spike during the pandemic and remain at a high level…probably forever.

To survive, retailers with brick-and-mortar stores will ramp up their online shopping services now and/or create dramatic and entertaining shopping experiences at their physical stores when the pandemic is over. Retailers are going to get wildly creative to encourage us to shop them, and I look forward to seeing what cool ideas they come up with.

Children’s Activities
Speaking of entertaining experiences (and educational ones, too), many museums, park systems, zoos, and arts organizations are now live streaming content to kids and parents stuck at home. This is a great idea even in the best of times. These live online experiences have the potential to create new, long-term audiences made up of people who previously were not be able to benefit from these non-profit services. This is a wonderful serendipity.

And here’s another positive outcome: Never again will parents allow their kids to climb into the ball pit at a children’s play center.

The Real Heroes
We’re also discovering who our real heroes are. They aren’t singers, athletes, and YouTube celebrities. They are healthcare workers and first responders who are keeping us safe, and scientists working around the clock to develop effective treatments and vaccines. They are the butchers and bakers and cashiers at the grocery store who are doing double shifts so we can eat. They are restaurant staffers reinventing their systems to serve us curbside. They are postal workers, delivery drivers, and security personnel. And, of course, teachers. Just ask any parent who is suddenly struggling to homeschool their kids.

There is a long list of heroes, and with their hard work and sacrifice, not only will we save lives, our children will grow up saying they want to be a microbiologist instead of a TikTok star.

Changing Habits
Right now our daily routines have been disrupted, and in the weeks to come our rigid habits will become far more fluid. We’ll be open to change. We’ll form new habits and new relationships with people and businesses.

Some companies won’t make it. Others will grow significantly. The difference may depend on how a business behaves during the crisis. Even if a company is temporarily closed, it should continue communicating with its customers and potential customers. The COVID-19 pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a business to define and cement its culture by articulating urgent, relevant, authentic, and compassionate messages to customers and employees in a time of great upheaval.

These kinds of heartfelt messages resonate with people on a deep level, especially when backed up by innovative action. When a company demonstrates that it truly cares, the effort enhances loyalty from talented employees and customers, and grows their market share by taking slices from lessor companies that communicate inadequately. This understanding may lead to more meaningful messages from advertisers in the future. Instead of yelling offers at us or performing cheesy skits on TV, Madison Avenue may learn that we respond better to objective information that really matters.

Maybe then I could go back to watching network television.

By way of example, Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, is giving us all a master class in effective, heartfelt communications. Bless her, too, and Governor DeWine, who was smart enough to surround himself with people like Dr. Acton.

I honestly don’t understand why we humans need leadership, but we do, and those who step up now will have bright political futures ahead of them. Visionaries seem to understand that we create the world we want. As author and broadcaster James Burke said, “If the universe is simply what you say it is…then say.”

At this moment, our priorities are shifting and it’s unlikely they will ever return to the old “normal”—and that’s okay. As Mimi Vanderhaven said recently, “At the end of this storm, there’s going to be one heck of a rainbow.” We will be smarter, safer, more thoughtful toward each other, and more appreciative of the simple things in life—a hug from family, a walk in the woods, an owl in a tree.

And we’ll be more than happy to use a paper straw.

Stay safe, dear reader. You’re gonna want to see this.


Categories: Smart Living