Seth Godin on Responding to COVID-19

By: Elaine Fraser

Feature Image:  “Seth Godin in 2009″, by Joi Ito, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Seth Godin’s perspective on life is always inspiring and one of his big, beautiful drivers in life is generosity.

He was recently on The Moment with Brian Koppelman and his response to the COVID-19 crisis gives us encouragement to develop resilience and generous leadership, to filter the voices we listen to, and develop a larger perspective.

The biggest question he asks is, ‘Who are we going to be at the end of the next few months?’. You can listen to the podcast yourself, but I’ve summarised a few lessons that I think apply to my life, and hopefully yours.

1. How we tell ourselves the story of what’s happening matters.

photo of a thought bubble on a grey background

We need to tell ourselves a story that avoids panic and builds resilience. Sailors accept the fact that the sea is not flat. Someone who’s not good at this has a brain that tries to make the boat be calm, but this makes the seasickness worse.  You can’t force a boat, through sheer force of will, to be calm. Resilience begins by accepting the fact that the sun sets every night and it’s going to get dark. We need to speak to ourselves in a different way. The reason four hundred million toilet rolls were sold last week was that people were looking for a way to insulate themselves from a world that isn’t how they expected it to be. We do things to try and get things back to the way they’re supposed to be.  We’re on a COVID-19 ship and it’s going to rock our world, we just need to accept it.

2. The best source of resilience turns out not to be selfish fear but generous leadership.

photo of a man helping another man up a mountain

If you help a neighbour you get the benefit of being a part of a community and know you are thriving enough to be contributing. This sense of sufficiency is really important.  Every one of us has a phone and every one of us has the ability to connect with the entire world. We have access to things that were miracles fifty years ago.  If we tell ourselves we’re drowning, it’s hard to feel sufficient. We can seek to adopt generous leadership by writing or putting out a podcast or setting up Zoom groups for people to connect to. Doing these things reinforces in our head the fact that we can do things and helps us to feel we have the capacity to get through this.

3. Ask yourself: What would the best version of me be doing right now?

How would the best version of me be spending their time? What will the best version of me be like at the end of this crisis? Putting ourselves under pressure to be more productively generous is exactly what we should be doing now.  I could binge on Netflix or tutor kids on Zoom.  Ask: Who can I teach? Who can I connect? Who can I lead?  Think about what you should do. Your contribution will help you get out of your own head and move things forward. Contribution fills up space and alleviates panic or anxiety, leads to growth, and makes you stronger.

photo of a woman walking in a park at sunrise

4. Develop new routines for this time.

If you’re not able to continue normal work hours outside of the home, organise something. Have lunch with friends on Zoom every day. Reach out to isolated friends and family.  Be productive and then turn off. There are no prizes for people being online longer than others.  Do things you’ve been putting off or that scare you. Spend an hour a day tackling these things. Our bodies respond to being used so exercise each day. Eat healthily and don’t use food to self-medicate. Avoid stacking on the COVID-19 pounds.  Try and separate the fear from reality and take action instead of being paralysed. I felt paralysed the first two weeks of this situation, but am now back at my desk working on projects. Once this is over, I want to have worked and achieved.

5. Process information by filtering your feeds.

photo of white headphones on light blue background

Don’t listen to everyone who shows up in your feed. Pay attention to a finite number of the best voices. Your attention span is valuable, don’t waste it on voices you don’t need to hear. You don’t need to be around people who panic. Likewise, your job is not to contribute to everyone, contribute to someone or a few someones. Think about how you are communicating with others. Come with a generous spirit.

6. Get some perspective.

Seth suggested writing ten paragraphs to describe how you spent your 2019. Then think about the ten paragraphs you’ll write for 2020. This season now will only be part of the narrative. This will be a few months in the context of a year. These few months in the context of the next decade won’t be the main thing. Ask, who am I going to be? If everything you tweet or write over the next few weeks was published, what would be your legacy? What would be left for posterity? This gives you a longer view.

7. What are you going to bank on and have faith in during this time?

text image which says gratitude, kindness, care, appreciation

Are you going to let every little bit of news trigger emotional pellets a thousand times a minute? What things are going to help you stay firm and hold on so you can be calmer, have more perspective. What’s going to help you come out better on the other side?  Collateral Beauty Couch Choir has drawn more than 1,000 videos from across the world as they strive to bring people together during social isolation. I saw this clip the other day and it brought tears to my eyes. There’s something amazing about people joining their voices for a single purpose. Each voice is unique and blends with the others in beautiful harmony. Isn’t that something that we all need at this time?  We’re all in this together, so let’s use our voices in whatever form, whether it’s singing or writing or art or politics, to help, encourage, and bring beauty to the world.

Article supplied with thanks to Elaine Fraser.

About the Author: Elaine Fraser is from Perth WA and is a teacher, mentor and author.