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The Smarter Startup

I Don't Want to Go Back to "Normal"

Steve Schreck, startup founder and executive coach shares his perspective on the effect COVID-19 is having on him, his clients and the startup community.

Our guest blog author is Steve Schreck, a seasoned executive and startup founder, who is now a sought after executive coach. Steve has founded two startups, leading their growth and ultimate exits. He was a founder, board member and Studio General Manager at TapZen, a mobile gaming company founded in 2012 that sold to Kabam in 2015. He was also a co-founder, board member and Chief Operating Officer at SpotOn Parking, a shared economy company that was sold in 2016.

We asked Steve to share his perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it is having on him, his clients and the startup community. We found it insightful and helpful to hear his perspective and hear how he has continued to evolve with the evolution of the pandemic. We hope you find the article equally impactful.

I don’t want to go back to “Normal”…

As a professional executive coach, I work with and study over thirty people each week. And, I’m a closet sociologist at heart. As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, I’ve heard a couple of phrases over the past few months that have me contemplating.

“I can’t wait until we go back to normal…” or “As soon as we go back to business as usual.”

These are phrases that I can completely understand during these unprecedented times in our world’s history. Times where we have been quarantined, out of control, and our lives have literally been turned upside down. People have been laid off of their jobs and can’t pay their rent, their mortgage or afford food. Kids can’t go to school or play with their friends. 8th graders, 12th graders and college seniors have missed so many rites of passage, things that they can never get back. It’s been disheartening.

Let’s not forget that just weeks ago, I couldn’t find toilet paper, rubbing alcohol, paper towels and so many other basic necessities. I still can’t find sanitary wipes and jigsaw puzzles remain universally sold out. And far worse, more people are getting terribly sick and dying. We are experiencing horrific times and there is literally very little we can do about these circumstances as individual citizens except to wear a mask in public, emphatically sanitize, do our part to rigorously social distance and “flatten the curve”. And, possibly change our perspective? More on this later.

With all of that said, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to normal or back to business as usual!

Do I want the economy to recover and thrive? Do I want people to be able to pay their rent and mortgages? Do I want people to recover from sickness, stop getting sick and stop dying from this? Do I want the Coronavirus eradicated and a vaccine developed? Do I want the quarantine restrictions to be lifted so that we all can get back some control over our lives? ABSOLUTELY!

But, I’ll say it again…I don’t ever want to go back to normal or back to business as usual.

During the past few months, I have done a ton of retrospection and introspection. And, I have learned a ton about myself, my friends, my family, my clients, my colleagues, and our society as a whole. This unprecedented time that we ALL are going through together has forced me:

  • To be more creative and resourceful
  • To fill my time with new experiences
  • To spend more time “thinking” than “doing”
  • To be vulnerable, supportive and resilient in new ways
  • To communicate and connect in ways that I haven’t before
  • To evolve how I fulfill and take care of myself
  • To respect my freedom and not take it for granted
  • And so on and so on…

These unprecedented times have forced me to do unprecedented things. And I don’t want those things to get lost or forgotten when we “go back to normal” or “back to business as usual.” During what I call this “Interim Normal,” I want us all to learn, grow and evolve. I want us all to take what we’ve learned from this unparalleled time and apply it going forward. I want us all to create new, more fulfilling lives for ourselves and for others. I want us to take this terrible event and remember it as a moment in time where we all were forced to stop, slow down and take stock in what really matters most. I want this terrible virus to be the reset and inflection point for us, regardless of what stage of life we are in. I want us all to evolve as individuals, societies, countries and as one universe. So no, I don’t want to go back to normal and I don’t plan to either.

So what now? How am I learning from this? How do I plan to leverage this “transition” period, this “Interim COVID-19 Normal” for the better in my future? And what am I encouraging my friends, my family, my clients and anyone who will listen to consider during this Interim Normal?

  1. First, I am really trying to shift my perspective and embrace these circumstances with open arms. I am being intensively retrospective and introspective. Rather than simply focusing on the negative and wishing for an immediate reversion to the Old Normal, I’m appreciating the moment and the perspective it’s enabling.
  2. Second, I am reflecting on the Old Normal with a magnifying glass. I am looking at the things that I used to do in the Old Normal that I miss terribly and can no longer do because of the quarantine restrictions. Things that I can’t wait to get back! And, I am also looking at the things that I did a lot because of old routines or habits. Things that existed just because. Things that might have been unproductive or opportunity costs for me. Things like watching too much ESPN, being perpetually over-scheduled, going for drinks with friends instead of walks with friends, etc.
  3. Third, I’m realizing that some of the quarantine restrictions have actually given me time to explore new things that I now thoroughly enjoy. Things that I have creatively done for entertainment, connection and sanity…things that are now mainstays in my Interim Normal and things that I want to bring forward into what I call my “New Normal”.

Things like:

  • Taking a walk alone
  • Doing “Walk and Talks” with friends and family (using social distancing of course)
  • Eating together as a family
  • Doing yard work
  • Hosting video chats instead of phone calls
  • Partaking in virtual happy hours with friends
  • Playing Xbox Live and board games in person or virtually with friends/family
  • Devouring jigsaw puzzles like they are candy
  • Being mindful and rigorous about hygiene and immunity
  • Oh, and last but not least…writing articles like this!

At some point in the near future, the curve in the U.S. will flatten and I will cautiously and happily move forward. My kids will be back at school, I will be able to eat inside at restaurants again, hang out with friends, go into workplaces, attend large events, play and watch live sports, hug people, travel….Exhale!

But, how will I act upon what I’ve learned during this unfortunate reset? How will I combine my foundation of the Old Normal with my evolution from this Interim Normal to create the most fulfilling New Normal?

Well, for me, it is simple, but not easy. I will make this transition thoughtfully, deliberately and with intention…how about you?

Stay safe, stay healthy and keep evolving…

Old Normal + Interim Normal = New Normal

Retrospection + Introspection = Evolution

You can learn more about Steve’s executive coaching practice, built on his experience founding and scaling startups, at  – https://www.reachthesummitnow.com