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Millennial Ponderings: Reflections on the Crisis

I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of this pandemic on our lives. I know—so original right? But hear me out. We tend to consider this crisis at scale: economies ground to a halt, borders closed, and millions sick, unemployed, and isolated. Tens of thousands are dead with the worst still to come for many. But what can all that mean—what does it really mean—for us as people?

Let me be clearer: this is a moment in history that will be judged by historians for centuries, so how are we handling it? How we process the economic impact of a shutdown and the potential loss of life will reverberate into the future. The choices we make today will be felt for generations. So what choices are we making, exactly, and how is life as we know it tangibly changing?

As a millennial, it’s been surreal to watch it happen, but the truth is that this crisis is forcing many people in my age group to embrace a set of long-ago dismissed values. There are millions of young people across the world hiding out at home—and they’re learning how to cope, how to breathe, how to enjoy books, how to relate to their families, and how to sustain themselves when all they have is their own ingenuity for stimulation.

Right before our eyes a generation of people is learning how to unironically cherish life itself.

So How Are You Doing, Really?

Suddenly, millennials for the first time have been forced to slow down and talk to one another and, if I’m honest, just like the coronavirus, this is something I’ve never seen before.

Every day now I drive through my neighborhood and there they all are—not just millennials but people of all ages—outside in the sun playing catch, walking the dog, and actually talking to each other. That’s entirely new. And it’s bizarre. Truly. And it shouldn’t be!

The point is, the context around us is shifting wildly, and our priorities seem to be changing right along with it.

Work Life in the Time of Covid

When it became clear that we’d all be working from home for an extended period, I wondered what effect the coronavirus might have on productivity, too. This is a massive shift in the way we’ve done things for so long. Would people do the work they’re supposed to, or would they just slack off?

I haven’t seen any studies, but I can say that, with literally nothing else to do, I personally am working harder and longer than I ever have in my life. I’ve found that so-called work-life balance is no longer a thing because my “office” consists of two folding tables in my kitchen. My life is my work-life.

But having eliminated all distractions found in a typical office, my critical thinking skills, creativity, and drive have all increased because there are few distractions left. And, for yet another surprise, what I end up building these days because of this is not just temporary business success, but real long-term relationships. If you’ve noticed, folks are now more than ever open to having actual conversations. They’re isolated, even a bit lonely, and even though this might not translate into immediate business opportunities, it does mean that I get to build meaningful relationships in an unprecedented way with people I never thought possible.

Making money will come later, but just getting to know one another is what’s important at the moment. And you know what? I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying getting to know everyone better.

My Advice

I advise other millennial salespeople (like myself) out there to use this time to listen to people, to slow down, to make a new friend or two, and to put aside making your numbers for now. Learn something about that prospect—that human being—you’ve been chasing and just ask how things are going. Use this time to grow as a person, to improve yourself. And not just because it will pay off once things get back to normal (whatever that is), but because this moment is an opportunity for a better society once things do return, later on, to something close to sanity.

But whatever you do, don’t bother trying to sell. Do not send those LinkedIn messages or emails with subject lines like “Coronavirus-Proofing Your Business.” Look dude, it’s just unseemly. Don’t use fear as coercive pressure and, for the love of all things holy, please do not try and act like you know what effect the pandemic will have on your prospect’s business. You do not know. Nobody knows what the world will look like in two or three months. We’re all clueless. And we’re all focusing on other things right now. So, get out of here. No one’s buying it.

The Takeaway

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Roaring 2020s and how it would be one of the best decades in modern history. Well, maybe not the best prediction to make, you might say! But you know what? Take this for what you will, but I still believe it will be a great decade. I think there is a light at the end of this tunnel, even though that tunnel remains long, dark, and lonely. And that that light is brighter and more nourishing than the light we had before it. I think millions of people will emerge form this with their blinders off, knowing a bit more about what life is and what it means, knowing a bit more about themselves.

Am I overly optimistic? Perhaps. But I’m also realistic. And this is stuff that I really do see out there in the world. Things are changing, and not all of those changes are for the worse. That’s just my take.

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