With COVID-19, industry, and many careers now face big changes, here’s why it’s time to go small.
If you could fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, how thick would it be?
Mathematically, it would be larger than the observable universe. 93 billion light-years. It’s true.
We often forget small steps, consistently executed, turn into incredible things.
The power of thinking small.
Yes it’s counterintuitive. Regardless, when big events happen, sometimes the best approach to take them on them is not through some grand gesture, especially a giant overreaction. Instead, it’s better to go little. Keep moving forward and keep taking the little steps that exponentially build on top of each other to get to the big win.
To say, the COVID-19 virus has caused big changes in so many jobs, industries, much less the world, would be an understatement. Last week I was working in a hotel in Miami while cities and states were shutting down. As I watched cars stream down I-95 and planes still taking off like clockwork outside my hotel window and continuing to do work, I knew the moment was surreal. The normalcy of zipping traffic that I saw with my eyes belied the sound I couldn’t hear; the way of life of millions around the world screeching to a halt. No one asked for it. Life just came out one day and said, “this is happening.” But as a result, a chain started…
- Clients halting projects
- Companies cutting back, if not suspending, operations
- Employees and freelancers nervously asking in Fishbowl app forums if they’ll be laid off or where their next gig could come from
- The tone of LinkedIn changing over the week from project promotion to more of a support group
As a student of economics and a veteran in the marketing business and financial markets, I’d be lying if I said this will not cause massive upheavals in businesses for some time to come. What will come back, and it WILL come back, will be different. We emerged a different country after 9/11, then after the 2008 financial crash. History will go for the threepeat.
As big changes are actively happening. I know it feels like everything is up for grabs. In this environment, we can feel afraid. Lost. Often, overwhelmed. Big is overwhelming. Like trying to swallow food 5 times the size of your mouth. With that analogy in mind, we also instinctively know that taking smaller bites is how we conquer something big.
After all, That’s how the COVID-19 virus got started.
Yes, “boo” Coronavirus. I’m not an admirer. But any marketer or strategist can tell you that you learn from your client’s competitors. It’s our enemy, but our enemies are often our best teachers on how to raise our own game. So let’s look at its strategy, why it’s effective and how we build on it.
The virus, microscopically small, attaches to one small cell in a person’s lungs or liver. It then adds an infinitesimal bit of generic material into that cell. That small code tells that cell to make duplicates of the virus’ material. That genetic material, essentially more blueprints of itself, leave the cell and repeat infecting and taking over other cells the same way. Again and again exponentially, until it may overwhelm and fatally destroy a whole organism. Passed on to other organisms, the threat to communities of organisms also increases exponentially. Affecting markets, industries, livelihoods and finally our way of life. At least, for a while.
Think like the virus. Start small to do big things.
Turn on the TV and you are likely being bombarded by bright red news alerts and talking heads pontificating “what if” scenarios until the cows come home. If you’re a rational human being with feelings and responsibilities, there are likely many “what ifs” in your head ranging from the mortgage to the health and safety of family members.
Problem is, all that attention keeps our focus on the future and an unclear big picture. Focusing too much on the future is also when we are playing on anxiety’s home court and driving that feeling of being overwhelmed.
We need to break that pattern and get back to focusing on the present.
Yes, we all need to be mindful of what’s happening, but even more, we need little (smaller) present-time things to focus on and take “snackable” steps, today, that keep us moving forward. Do that, and then another little thing. And then another. And if we can all do all those small things, the add up and will end up making a difference for ourselves and for others.
How to have “small” wins.
A phone call to see how someone is doing.
For me that means “Hi Mom,” but you can reach out to a colleague that may be in financial stress. Or even just lonely. With the exception of those who already work from home, we often don’t realize how much work and school is a big part of how we socialize and receive social energy.
In a time where we are essentially mandated to disconnect from each other, we ironically need each other more. Work-wise, I and my team video conference in the middle of the day for 15 minutes just to shoot the breeze and sometimes dance on screen. That little connection with other humans means so much.
Work on that resume. Even if you have a job.
When I worked more on web projects, I always found a client’s website redesign projects also serve as client therapy sessions. Because things like analyzing taxonomy and content structure of the site often demand that the client self-reflect about things like the company’s structure, product organization, corporate messaging. Such a review is needed so it can critique, reflect or improve its corporate essence and how it communicates in their website or other digital experience. It also allows them to see if their structure and action is in alignment with the organization’s overall mission.
Use reviewing your resume as that opportunity for yourself. Don’t just edit and spell check, critique. Punch up “you” on paper or digital document.
In my experience, most resumes read like a data sheet. Not a highlight reel. It says what you did, not why you are amazing. I bet there are great things you’ve done that you are likely taking for granted. Something that is buried in or totally absent from your resume. Look at things, that seem like a warmup for you, that others think is amazing. Does your resume reflect that? If not, here’s the time to make it happen.
Build a new skill that will make you more competitive.
“I’m not retreating I’m reloading.”
Not sure who said that, but the idea is valid. Use this national “time out” to Improve and weaponize your skills while others take this opportunity to rest, binge on Netflix or let the unstructured temptation of working from home lull them into complacency.
Plant seeds of connection. Network.
Fast fact. Social media is good for more than posting pictures of your trip to Arizona and what you ate. It’s true!
Most of us are sitting at home, hungry to connect with others. Do it. Lookup people on LinkedIn that you’ve connected with or from your personal contacts list on your phone that you can help in some small way.
When I say help, I don’t mean sell.
If you do the first right (help), commerce comes later and even better. Focus on giving others value. Help them make a small difference that could lead to something big for them.
Or find someone with a non-business interest where you can truly connect. For me, that would be someone who agrees that last’s Star Wars movie was terrible (yea, probably a small contact list, but I’m sure we’d talk all day ‘cause there’s so much to criticize). It doesn’t matter what you talk about, more than topics or issues you can be human about.
Remember, when you get past all the talk about products or listen to a professional spewing out a billion different buzzwords as they present a slide deck, at its core, business is all about just one person getting into a relationship with another. Together, they make a sale rather than a baby. With that in mind, take the time to listen, learn about others. Be human. Be empathetic. You’ll plant the seed that, when watered with integrity and concern, will grow into opportunities.
What are you waiting for? Go little!
We don’t know when we will get back to “normal.” Even when we do so, normal will certainly be different. Take the time now to work on becoming the difference that the world of the new normal is going to need after COVID-19 recedes into the background.
To win big and be different, start with the little steps.