Responding to disruptive forces is what truly matters

What will life look like after this?

By Walt Pavlo
For the Leader Herald

A year ago, Everett’s future was about as bright as it had ever been. Looking down Broadway toward Boston one could see a completed casino, a huge bronze building that defined our side of the Mystic river. Then, Everett was on edge and many in the state divided as to whether Wynn would or should get its license because of strong allegations of sexual harassment by its former chairman Steve Wynn and an environment of covering it up. Wynn prevailed, the casino opened and, despite a few scuffles by late-night miscreants, we had 5,000 new jobs in our town.

Now, the casino is closed like many businesses in our town. While Encore is paying its employees for now, something we applaud here at the Leader Herald, we are all experiencing a time of uncertainty. What will life look like on the other side of coronavirus? It will be different.

We are all taking time indoors, for the most part with family, but we have our moments of solitude where we must confront the reality. We are asked to be brave and be strong but it is okay to feel fear, to embrace it for a positive change.

First responders, doctors and nurses do not have time to reflect but they are reacting, adapting, to this pandemic. They are learning valuable lessons by the minute to protect themselves and save others. Many of us have time to reflect on what is to come after COVID-19 and it will be different. However, that does not have to be a bad thing nor do we need to paralyze ourselves with fear while we wait.

My college professor, Dr. Jack Byrd (College of Engineering, West Virginia University) sent out a note to all of his former students, me included. His words of encouragement were based on his technical and pragmatic means of solving problems and teaching others to solve problems. He described the events of today at “Disruptive Forces,” events that will change the trajectory of our history. In his own words, I share portions of this letter that comforted me:

It was 1665, and London was virtually shut down due to the Great Plague. Cambridge University sent its students home to study alone. One of those students, Isaac Newton, used his time to pioneer work in what we now call calculus. He also developed his theory of gravitation. When the plague subsided and Newton returned to Cambridge, the world as it was known at the time would fundamentally change.

Disruptions can vary in scope by geography, by business sectors or even on a personal level. They are often accompanied by a realization that fundamental change is about to occur. While disruptions can be frightening or demoralizing, they don’t have to be negative in the long run.

How do we cope with disruptions? One way is through personal reflection. Disruptions give us an opportunity to think about the past especially what worked well for us and what we want to avoid in the new reality we face.

Disruptions give us an opportunity to change course. Disruptions may result in new career paths, new life-styles, new relationships, or a new sense of what is vitally important to us. In effect, disruptions give us an excuse to do things we may have dreamed about but were afraid to try.

Disruptions can spur innovation. Since our former ways of doing things are no longer possible, we need to invent new ways of doing what remains important to us. These new ways often result in permanent ways of doing things after the disruption has passed.

Disruptions often result in more efficient ways of living. We realize that so much of our lifestyle is not that necessary. We also become more self-sufficient and less reliant on others to meet our needs.

Finally, disruptions can change who we are as people. Our values shift to those that are much more meaningful. We have a greater appreciation of the loved ones for being in our lives. We are kinder and more caring. Our faith in society is renewed as we see countless acts of genuine kindness.

It is our hope that you and your family remain safe and that you embrace this time to contemplate what comes next. Because what comes next is a surprise, a gift that we did not see coming.

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