The pandemic has been overwhelming in many ways and most people have had a few characteristic responses:
Some froze. They stopped everything and continued avoidant patterns even as evidence came out that certain behavior was safe.
Others went into denial, thinking “The pandemic isn’t real.” “Masks and vaccines aren’t effective.” Or “It’s fine if I go out because it can’t hurt me.”
Still others calmed themselves and responded with a growth mindset saying, “OK. I’m going to accept what’s happening, I’m going to learn what I need to know and adapt to it.” E.g., the Chicago pizzeria owner who realized his oven was the perfect temperature to make face-shields for nurses. Another example are the store managers who pioneered curbside pick-up.
In short, they pivoted.
How do you pivot to adapt to a situation? I have two words for you: “Yes, and.”
I learned the magic of “Yes, and” while I was moonlighting as an improvisational comedian.
The underlying premise is this:
Step 1 — Whatever happens, say “Yes” to it. Even if you don’t like it, you have to accept that it happened, it’s now part of your reality. Try to find something to affirm and embrace about it.
Step 2 — After accepting the situation, add to it. This is the “and”, or in business jargon, this is the pivot.
It can be used to keep people on-track at work:
“Yes… your employee had a genius idea! And… what can we do to use that idea on the current project?”
Sometimes, the “Yes” is about accepting hard realities we otherwise would rather avoid.
At the start of the pandemic, I was stuck in the frozen stage. My two biggest clients were the Red Cross and NASA—both amazing organizations I have the utmost respect for.
I called both of them up and said, “I will do whatever it takes to make all our programming virtual and also dynamic, entertaining and worthwhile.” I dedicated myself to learning a completely new skill set. It took a lot of work, but I made the pivot work.
Get out of freeze and denial modes by saying “YES” to reality. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it does mean you’re able to find solutions more quickly.
Think about the pandemic—when did you freeze up or enter into denial mode? When did you adapt a “Yes, and” mindset?
Most importantly: where could you apply that kind of improvisational growth-mindset in your life today?