By March 11th, 2020, coronavirus cases topped 1,000, with at least 32 deaths and cases in 37 states.
15 states across the country had declared states of emergency, with a suburb of New York City — only a few miles from where I live in Fairfield County, CT— setting up a “containment area” of about three square miles in New Rochelle.
Bottles of hand sanitizer have evaporated faster than their contents; schools have shut out thousands of students; and work-from-home has turned into just plain “work.”
In short, people be freakin’.
And that’s been a wonderful, wonderful thing for our society.
Let’s Be Honest About How Our Society Works
In my new book about the role honesty plans in our world, I define the first level of honesty as being honest “with and about the community,” defined in terms of our industry, geographic region, or society at large.
Part of what we must do, as proper citizens of any group of humans, is continually be honest about the community around us so we can use those honest assessments to drive our own behavior on the micro level.
So let’s dive in and ask some important questions about how our society moves and makes behavioral decisions — and to do that, I’ll invite you to think back to September 15th, 2008:
When Lehman Brothers collapsed, signaling a full-blown international banking crisis, panic ensued. Confusion reigned as more banks fell like dominoes, workers were laid off en masse, and families were unceremoniously booted from their homes.
Steadily, as we collected more facts, we began to understand what happened. Then, we took steps to fix it.
Enter our modern, changed society — one in which we a) don’t over-leverage people who can’t afford home loans, b) generally receive better information about the securities we rate and buy, and c) somewhat curtail banks’ ability to pass the proverbial buck when it comes to corporate responsibility.
In other words, there we were, chugging along with our norms and attitudes and behaviors, and then, WHAM! — something came along and blindsided us.
Then, we made big, sweeping changes…the type of changes that can only be made on a grand scale after a grand disaster.
We Know That Pain Produces Change, So Why Do We Fear It?
In our personal lives, we know this to be true: When we experience pain, we make change.
Otherwise? When we’re fat and happy and content? You might as well pry our habits from us with a crowbar, because without a reason to change, we simply don’t.
The same is true of us as a society, only the catalyst for change must be much, much bigger…because although we can make singular, split-second choices for ourselves, we can’t shift millions of people in the same millisecond.
Instead, it takes a large wake-up call that gets thrown up in front of us like a brick wall, and then, like the lemmings we are, we about-face and move around it — together.
To fear this process is to fear a failure in evolution; and by extension, to ignore everything that’s helped us build our world so far.
We know it takes pain to change, so we’re better off embracing it…which brings me back to coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Is A Blessing In Disguise To Us All
The headline of coronavirus is this: “Elderly, sick individuals are going to die.”
Should that be so surprising to us?
Mind you, before you send me hate mail, my father is about to turn 81 and he goes to dialysis three times per week. He sits squarely in the blast zone, and if he were to meet his demise sooner than we would all like, then that would seriously, seriously suck.
But that doesn’t change my stance that coronavirus is a good thing, because, as a global group of humans, we needed it.
Here we were, carting exotic wildlife around food markets (thanks, China), flying around the world without enough Purell (thanks, airline industry), and failing to wash our hands after we take a #1 or a #2 (thanks weird dudes I see all the time who for some bewildering reason don’t know how or don’t care to place their grubby hands under the miracle that is called “running water,” splash it with bubbly-fun detergent, and crush the evil empire that is the bacterial world).
I grew up near Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, where we learned all about how those mischievous Europeans decimated huge swaths of nature-loving natives who didn’t know what hit ’em.
Given our history, did we honestly think this wouldn’t happen to us, especially now that we’re so globally connected?
Not to mention, I’ve been watching the AMC documentary “The Walking Dead” for years now. And that’s my greatest point: One day, we’ll experience The One — the deadly virus that turns us all into zombies.
This coronavirus, my friends, is not The One.
But it is a fantastic wake-up call.
We Will Only Fail This Coronavirus Test If We Fail To Change
Just like after the Great Recession, we humans will now, in lockstep, make some big changes. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Finally, I can wipe down my airline seat and table without the person next to me thinking I’m a germophobic lunatic.
Finally, I can loudly call out those dudes for not washing their hands.
Finally, I have a palpable excuse to socially distance myself from people I wanted to socially distance myself from in the first place. Thank you, coronavirus!
Ultimately, we will survive this, no matter what the numbers say and which trials we endure and how long it takes.
That’s not the question.
The question is, will what we learn endure?
Will these lessons stick around to help us prevent the catastrophic virus that will one day infect 80% of us and kill half of those infected?
Because if this smaller test builds resistance within our global society, then we might just have a fighting chance.
After all, that’s how a vaccine works. This particular vaccine is just made more for society than for the bacteria within it…as long as we listen and learn.
Hey there! Thanks for reading :-)
I write about using brutal honesty to achieve massive success.
If you want to learn more about being honest with your community, the others around you, and yourself, pick up a pre-order copy of Honest to Greatness here.
And remember…stay healthy!