Updated: Nov 16, 2020
“The race doesn’t go to the swift or the strong, but to he who endures until the end.”
In times of crisis, fear and uncertainty spread quicker than the crisis. They bring out the worst and the best in human nature. The worst in the form of hoarding, blaming, and ignoring; the best in the form of caring, providing, and leading. I know because in my life I have had to deal with various forms of crisis ranging from the unexpected death of my father that left my thirty-three year old mother to raise five kids alone, hurricanes that devastated parts of the country, to major product recalls that affected the lives of thousands of people.
The current state that we are in makes me think back on those times. Specifically, what caused people to not only survive the crisis, but also thrive afterwards. There is one thing, only one thing, that is common--People who made it through had something to hold onto. It wasn’t material; it was spiritual. Spiritual in the form they had a higher calling. Bill George, Medtronic’s legendary CEO, refers to it as a “North Star”. That inner compass that causes a person to do what is best for others before doing what is best for him or herself. Their compass is what they hold onto and guides them when the course isn’t clear and allows them to stay focused when there is chaos all around them. I have always wondered where that compass comes from. In my case, it comes from my paternal grandfather, who I never met, and my father-in-law, who I met when I was twenty years old.
As for my grandfather, I would listen to my mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles tell stories about him. The one I remember the most is how he was one of the few people who had a job during the great depression. He not only took care of his family, but also the entire neighborhood. He put his job at risk to help others. When I learned that I was named after him, it changed my whole outlook on life.
In the case of my father-in-law, he was a barrier-breaker. He didn’t let unfairness, personal setbacks, and other people’s negative opinions make him bitter or discouraged. When he would tell me stories about the very tough situations he had been in, he would always end them with how he made it through them and the many people he brought along the way.
Both my grandfather and father-in-law gave me something to hold onto. They were both old soldiers. I’m one now and I’m hoping that I will do some things during this crisis whether it is providing food, providing online schooling, or providing financial assistance that my kids will tell their kids, their kids will tell their kids, and so on.
In closing, we are all old soldiers in this crisis and will have opportunities to give others something to hold onto and stories to tell.
James Dallas is the author of Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change: Inspire the People and Succeed Where Others Fail and an accomplished senior executive. As president of James Dallas & Associates, he consults with and speaks to companies and organizations about leading change. He is recognized for his ability to develop leaders who engage and align all levels to successfully execute.