“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

— Woody Allen, 1979 My Speech to Graduates

“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch.”

— Jack Thorne

“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.”

— Rob Liano

“Lucky is the spouse who dies first, who never has to know what survivors endure.”

— Sue Grafton

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.”

— C. S. Lewis

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day.
Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed and very dear.”

— Anonymous

“There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”

— Helen Keller

My dear wife of nearly 60 years died last week, on April 19, 2022. A great blessing is that she suffered for only a short time and died in her sleep. So many tell me that this is indeed a happy ending, especially for a life well-lived.

I am just beginning to learn that being the survivor is a really tough job. So much of our life was actually just living each day together. Nothing special but sharing thoughts, experiences, and quiet times. This is the part that I am hugely missing right now. You don’t know how important the little stuff of loving and being loved is until it goes away.

If you are interested, her obituary is in the Related Reading section.

So, like it or not, I have a new life to design and move forward on

Having not done anything like this before, the mechanics are far from obvious to me. Easy way out is just to continue whatever it is that I have been doing for many years. My gut, however, tells me that this is not the right thing to do now.

This is, I am feeling, an important transition to something new. An opportunity. As military general, writer, and philosopher Sun Tzu noted about 2,500 years ago: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.  Chaos we definitely have in abundance, as my previous post described.

It is the “opportunity” part that seems to be the real challenge.

Figuring out just such things is what I have done for decades, except this in this case, I am the client. Kind of along the lines of “Physician, heal thyself”?

So myself-as-client, what might myself-as-coach-consultant recommend as a way of moving forward on an opportunity basis?

Fortunately, I have a great deal of experience here. The main problem is the “myself-as-client”. Who ever listens to their own advice?

Physician, heal thyself

The approach that I would recommend, ignoring the “myself-as-client” complication, is to ask what real people out there in chaos-land might value and that I can provide. Starting point is the “what do people need today” question.

My long-term focus has been on executives, entrepreneurs, and managers so these are the “people” in my question. Their world today is so crazy that what they might need most is an objective, informed, experience-rich, real-time perspective on where things may be heading and what they might be able to do in this context. Specifically directed at their particular challenges and concerns.

Blog-writing and associated research, which I love, cannot address this need today. They tend to address general issues, rather than specific actual issues, and they do not address anything in anywhere close to real-time. The blog is being done mostly for me, and not for clients.

In my “new life” planning, doing my old stuff does not seem to be appropriate. The needs that I might be able to address going forward are far different than those of a few years ago that led to this site and blog. A bigger change seems vital for my own new life.

At this moment, I am thinking that this means a return to coaching and related consulting but in the context of our current world. Helping real clients address their real and near-term challenges and issues. Getting back in the game, so to speak.

Defining “getting back in the game” in practice

The main challenge for me here seems to be in adjusting what I have done for many years – business coaching and related consulting – to reflect both the current world and the technologies now available. You know the difference between coaching and consulting, yes?

  • Coaching involves helping you solve problems yourself and developing relevant skills, knowledge, and approaches.
  • Consulting as related to coaching typically helps address client challenges and issues directly. It is a kind of joint problem-solving with a client.

A past post deals in more detail with the differences.

The most effective order is coaching-consulting, with as much emphasis as possible placed on coaching. A particularly valuable aspect here is acting as a sounding board. There is even a company that specializes in this type of service. You need both a listening component and a knowledgeable – expertise plus experience – response component, however, to make this really work well.

Since nobody today has experienced whatever is going on out there, a vital need exists for collaborative improvisation. The client presents a current view of the challenge or issue and the client and coach creatively develop practical approaches for addressing these. Mostly real-time.

Coaching process practices

Technological advances over the recent past have greatly facilitated the primary interactions and requirements for truly effective remote coaching. What was once a largely face-to-face, travel-intensive, costly, and time-inefficient process has been made fully-remote, no-travel, low-cost, and time-conserving.

In many respects, I would have much preferred to provide coaching-consulting services with the advantages of today’s technology and management practices. So much easier, faster, and almost certainly more cost-effective.

First thoughts on coaching process practices going forward:

Remote: In these times, “remote” is almost a no-brainer. Advances in technology over the past two years have made this practice essential for many workers. In practice, this involves messaging technologies extending from the fully informal (e.g., email, phone) to the fully secure. I was planning to use the Slack platform but today, Signal is much more secure and simple.

Communication Security: Apart from early and informal exchanges, security is a top priority. You need SSL-connections, secure end-to-end encryption, and a number of other precautions.

Asynchronous: Messaging is inherently asynchronous even though it can be used in a more or less synchronous manner. Having the ability to think through interactions before responding is vital.

Test Drive: I would think it of value to offer a free trial period of some nature. Perhaps a free month of services.

Voice Calls: The Signal platform supports voice and video calling but my preference is for voice calls only.

An alternative to groupthink

A common concern that I read about is the growing tendency among leaders to align with peers and media thought-directors. In times like today, this is a pretty natural reaction, but not always constructive.

Most groupthinkers have some pretty credible reasons why they prefer to think largely alike. Teams often need a good measure of groupthink to function effectively. Being aligned, I think they call it.

However, there always needs to be an offsetting perspective in the mix. An independent view input, typically from an outsider, can provide vital balance to a wide range of internal perspectives. External inputs can be extremely valuable in our COVID+ times.

OK, so what about this “new life” for “all of us” bit?

You may have noticed that the world is busy undergoing quite a number of fundamental changes. Chaotically. A recent post had a look at one of the most important changes – a shift from a unipolar political and economic world to a multipolar one, thanks mainly to Russia. With China helping out.

We now effectively have an East vs. West world. This is kind of seriously new, yes? It will affect pretty much everyone on earth in some significant ways over the next year or so. There is no going back from this one. Definitely a new life for all.

Our “new life” of course has a great number of complications that are becoming visible and probably getting ready to bite. Hard.

As with so much today, the threat seems pretty clear but the timing is not at all clear. Even to the extent of possibly being roughly never. There are quite of few of these that I’ll address in the next post. Here is just one example:

“The Fed has already printed trillions—and shows little sign of slowing down—which means much higher inflation is already baked into the cake. The only question is how the Fed will respond to it. Ludwig von Mises, the godfather of free-market Austrian economics, summed up the Fed’s dilemma:”

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

“The Fed has two choices:
1) keep printing trillions and let inflation skyrocket
2) tighten monetary policy and watch the markets crash.
In other words, it can sacrifice the stock market or the dollar.”

“When faced with the choice, politicians usually choose the most expedient option. Therefore they are likely to choose the easy option—keep printing money and pretend inflation is under control for as long as possible.”

“But there’s another compelling reason the US government won’t tone down the printing presses. That is because inflation reduces the real debt burden. It allows you to borrow in dollars and repay in dimes.”

“Inflation is a boon to debtors, and there is no bigger debtor in the history of the world than the US government, with its more than $30 trillion debt.”

“The markets have become dependent on the Fed injecting over $120 billion a month of freshly printed dollars into the system. So even the slightest hint that the Fed could cut back on printing could tank the markets.”

What happened in 2000 and 2007 is ready to blow again? Or worse?
What happened in 2000 and 2007 is ready to blow again? Or worse?

You will of course have figured out at least roughly how vulnerable your business or organization may be to the primary threats you are facing. You will of course also have identified your resilience-building options and have some already in motion. Of course.

Bottom line:

Will my new life advice to myself work? Gut says yes, but the only way to really find out is to try it. The risk in doing so is very low. And, as is so often the case, trying something out can be an invaluable learning experience.

Related Reading

Jolaine was born in Lethbridge, AB, Canada in 1942, to her mother Frances and her father Pete, a coal miner who immigrated from Poland in the early 1930’s. She was the youngest of their ten children. She grew up in Calgary, AB after her mother died, and went on to study hospital pharmacy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. After graduation, she practiced for several years in a big city hospital and later for vaccine-maker Cutter Labs in Oakland.

She and Gerry moved to Vancouver in 1965, and then to San Francisco and Berkeley where Gerry worked for a major engineer-builder. Son Robert was born in Oakland CA in 1967, followed by son Jim in 1970. The family moved back to Calgary in 1971, and then to Boston in 1973 where Gerry was studying for a doctorate at the Harvard Business School.

While in Boston, and later in Newton, Jolaine began working actively as an artist, first with a soft-sculpture designer, and later with Brandeis art professor Paul Georges. Her primary teacher for several years was the well-known abstract expressionist painter Hyman Bloom, who turned Jolaine into a strong colorist like himself.

In 1998, Jolaine and Gerry moved to the Town of Mount Washington, MA in the Berkshires and began a nearly 20-year life in a 1780’s-vintage farmhouse. Her painting and drawing continued uninterrupted. She became close friends with several black bears and cubs who often kept her company while she was gardening and sketching.

The joyful mountain years came to an end in 2017 when she and Gerry moved to a townhouse in Cambridge, MA, adjacent to Harvard University.

Jolaine was a very private person in her life and her ashes will be spread by her family in her favorite place – near an old water well in Mount Washington, where she went almost daily to pray.