“unprecedented” “unusual” “unknown” … in this moment, typical pragmatic thinking is out the window… or is it?

Using the past to predict the future: While a business typically compares year-over-year fundamentals to project and budget their future, that seems unreliable as we stare down the barrel of the unknown due to a worldwide epidemic. Instead of going back 1-3 years, I propose going back to previous crisis years.

If you were in business in 2007-10, those dips and recoveries can inform your choices going forward. Even without those examples, you can research various business recoveries: big picture, stock market, industry specific, anecdotal and personal stories.

Be careful to leave your bias and preferred outcomes at the door. Keep digging for actionable information rather than to support a preconception. Avoid the opinions of pundits, and search for answers from economists and historians. Learn what really happened during previous bad times. How long did it take for the stock market and unemployment to recover in previous downturns? Air travel plummeted after 9/11, but the past 10 years have seen unprecedented growth in aviation.

One thing I’ve noticed: most people will continue to believe we are in a recession for much longer than we actually are. They tend to feel the downturn more acutely than they do the upswing. Manage your thoughts and emotions to ensure you are dealing with reality.

Being in the Present: We don’t know what we don’t know. There are so many ideas floating around that are not facts. You’ll make yourself overly anxious trying to make sense of it. Determine the most sensible news outlets and limit yourself to those. Personally, I watch the PBS News Hour, read the Tampa Bay Times and subscribe to a wide range of magazines that provide in depth articles and entertainment. I filter my social media and don’t get caught up in the nonsense. Find what works for you.

You’ll also want to find a way to calm your mind: prayer, meditation, exercise, music or a combination of your choosing. Fill your soul so you can deal with the world and its unpredictability.

In your business, react to what is happening, but don’t over-react. Stay calm for your own sake, as well as for your family members and your co-workers. They will follow your lead.

Looking at the Future: Once you’ve managed to calm yourself, engage your imagination. What does the future hold for you? Certainly, there are parts of your life that aren’t working for you. This is an opportunity to replace them with items you’re passionate about. Maybe your business should shrink temporarily, shedding its shell so it can grow. Maybe it’s the right time to evaluate your employees. Are they in the right seats? Perhaps redefining responsibilities is in order. Shake it up! Create accountability where things were unstructured. Set goals for 1, 3 and 5 years. Determine the steps to get there and set milestone markers.

If anything, this shutdown has provided time to think. Use it wisely. Stay Strong. Be Brave.

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