Growing Pains - Use the Crisis to Transform Your Life

by Lenwood Ross August 3rd, 2020

This summer is a rough one.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the effects of the pandemic.

My family and I didn’t escape in an RV or go to a vacation retreat. Like most folks, we’re stuck in our house together. 

While I sometimes feel like my kids are driving me nuts, God has blessed us in this challenging situation.

One of my Yale classmates reached out to me last week to connect about her recent job loss. We had spoken just a few weeks prior. During our prior conversation, she had expressed total dissatisfaction in her career, and I had offered to share my experience of personal and professional transformation with her.

You can read about my story here.

So she asked me, “how did you do it? How do I manage this change with everything that’s going on?” 

My response, “I was in a personal crisis. It was that crisis that created the catalyst for the change. It was the crisis that forced me to grow.”

During the pandemic, I have taken up gardening. Here are some of our flowers. This one is a giant azalea. 

There are over 100 different varieties of plants all around our house. Among them, we have three large rhododendrons called Great Laurels.

One day, my wife asked me, “why aren’t ours [the rhododedenrons] flowering like all the neighbors?” As she listed ½ a dozen houses where the rhododendrons were flowering, I stood there dumbfounded.

I had no idea why they weren’t flowering. My new hobby started with necessity.

But, I do have an iPhone.

I found an app called “Picture This” that both helps you to identify a plant and also tells you how to care for it. It’s pretty cool. 

This picture is one of the Great laurels that would not flower. 

I had searched out the app in the springtime because it’s challenging to tell the difference between flowers and weeds.

Anyway, when I used the app on our rhododendrons, it said to cut off the dead buds from the previous year.  

Knowing nothing about gardening, I had no idea what to do. But the concept of pruning resonated with me. 

I bought some pruning clippers. Then I clipped off all the dead buds even though I wasn’t sure exactly where to cut.

Remembering some biblical principles, I expanded my approach. I decided that if a bud or branch looked like it wouldn’t flower or there were little or no leaves, I’d cut it off. 

For a couple of months, it didn’t look like anything would happen. Then leaves began to appear.

Shortly after that, beautiful pink flowers began to appear.

It turns out that you’re supposed to cut off dead flowers as soon as possible after they bloom and then die.

This pruning has a significant impact on the next year’s harvest.

Why? The dead branches consume energy and nutrients even though it’s impossible for new growth to occur in that dead spot. 

The result is that the live branches get fewer nutrients. 

This principle has a broader application.

Anything that we keep in our life, whether it’s spending an excessive amount of time on social media, focusing on bad news, or working in an unfulfilling career, consumes energy. 

The unproductive things drain time and energy from productive things, like fulfilling and purposeful work, our marriages, family, friends, and enjoyable hobbies. 

We have to cut out the unproductive, dead things so that the life-giving, joyful things can grow. 

A crisis creates an opportunity for a new beginning. 

It’s life helping us to cut out something that may be dead. 

We now have time to reevaluate. What is life-giving? What is fulfilling?

We all need to make money. That is without argument. But, when we’ve lost a job that we hated, what have we lost? 

More importantly, how do spending time and energy focused on finding another job help when no one is hiring? 

Here are five recommendations based on my experience.

  1. Don’t give in to fear and worry. Fear and anxiety are a waste of time and energy. They are unproductive activities. Instead, use the time to rest, renew, and revive. 
  2. Don’t take your layoff personally. It’s easy to internalize a layoff and become depressed. Resist that emotion. Depression is an enemy of your well being. 
  3. Don’t retreat into a shell. Now is not the time to do nothing or worse go into hiding to lick your wounds. There are rapid changes underway, which means the new normal will be different from the old normal. Now is the time to research, analyze, and prepare.
  4. Identify significant trends impacting your industry. The pandemic is causing massive economic shifts. How is your industry changing? For example, the adoption of digital technologies is accelerating rapidly due to remote work. How does this impact your expertise?
  5. Pursue re-education and upskilling. Learn about new technologies and improve soft skills. Build a learning habit and writing habit. Employers will be looking for people that have demonstrated an ability and willingness to learn something new when hiring restarts. Acquire a certifiable new skill and add the certification to your LinkedIn profile. 

Invest your time and energy into something that can grow. Focus on building skills, learn about new technology, or take a leadership training program.

Identify an area where your local economy is likely to be growing when the economy comes back and prepare to take advantage of that opportunity by upskilling. 

Focus on an area that is interesting to you, not just one that you think will pay well. 

We want to enjoy our work because the amount of effort, diligence, and perseverance required to become an expert requires you to invest time and energy to grow your skills. 

If you’re already doing something, let me know what it is. If you have questions about digital and want to discuss significant trends to train around, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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