The Struggle

As we live through our new reality brought onto us by the COVID-19 virus, we are finding ourselves wearing new hats and dealing with unprecedented challenges. Many of us are now working from home in hastily created “offices” that also function as video studios for our countless video conferences. We’re also helping our children deal with being cooped up at home away from their friends and trying to figure out this home-schooling thing. Some of us own businesses with employees that are relying on us to find unique ways to maintain revenue or tap into the promised federal assistance that continues to be just outside our collective grasp. How are we juggling all of these equally important things?

Life usually will throw one or two challenges at you and then give you a chance to recover your footing while prepare for the next one. We seem to be encountering wave after wave of challenges with no real understanding of when this will be over. And for me, that is one of the most frustrating things. When will we be back to normal? Ever? I’m thinking our new way of life, after we come out of this, will be much different. If you know me, I am a planner. Some may say an over-planner, but that’s how I’m wired. Without knowing how and when this will end, my ability to plan through it has been tested. I want to share a few things that continue to help me navigate these uncharted times and keep my level of stress down (but not gone).

Ration your news

This is an ideal opportunity to get overwhelmed with news and data. There are countless news conferences, blogs, tweets, etc. that are giving up-to-the-second updates on the pandemic. Early on I realized that I was over-indulging on this. I was getting so caught up that I was losing my perspective. There’s not a lot of positive messages being spread right now. Well, except for the health care community and the essential workers that are doing the much-needed, hard work. Thank you all for that! Recently, I started limiting how much I would read or watch on the pandemic and it really helped with my mood. I purposefully stay away from news for most of the day now and it has significantly helped my level of stress. I’m not sticking my head in the sand; I just decided my day is not going to be defined by news.


It’s important to keep communicating with others. While the multiple work videos & teleconferences that happen every day are helpful, don’t forget to have personal conversations. Whether it’s with your family or friends, verbalizing your thoughts and fears of what we are going through can be incredibly helpful. Members of my family have started a journal to describe what is going on from their perspective during the pandemic. Not only will this be an interesting perspective to look back on, it can also be cathartic to express on paper what you are thinking and feeling internally. This is also a great time to reach out to those you know may be having a hard time dealing with this situation. Just the act of reaching out to them could make a significant difference in their life right now.


Whether you exercised before this or not, getting out for a walk in the fresh air will do amazing things for your mindset. Walking through your neighborhood while the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing helps keep things positive. The other benefit is you may have a lot more flexibility in your schedule right now that would allow you to start that exercise regimen you’ve always thought about. This could be your New Year’s resolution do-over. This pandemic is going to be transformational – you can take the opportunity to make some positive transformations yourself. My wife and I have are taking walks together and today we went on our first kid-free bike ride in 10 years.

Just breath

As I mentioned before, I’m a planner. I love having a 6-12 month initiative that I can break down into smaller segments and then complete. I’ve had to adjust that strategy quite a bit. Instead of looking to something months away, I now focus on things one day at a time. I am keeping my time horizon shorter, but still break things down into small segments. Instead of weeks, I look at hours or even minutes. It’s also important to know that we will not be perfect in our new roles. Remember that we all handle adversity and stress differently. We need to be understanding and forgiving to each other as we adjust and potentially stumble (a lot) through this new normal.

We are all trying to arrive at the same place, hopefully soon.


Great Service Story – Google Fiber

We recently had Google Fiber installed in our house. As a little backstory, our house is about 30 years old and has seen at least three different cable companies come through and run cables. To say our cabling was a rat’s nest is probably an understatement. The Google Fiber installation tech came in and quickly realized he needed some help. Instead of rescheduling, someone showed up within 20 minutes to help him. Both were extremely polite and professional. Did I mention that neither of them were an employee for Google? They were subcontractors and really represented Google in a professional way. Once they were done, the technician walked me through everything and made sure I knew how to use all of the new equipment.

Shortly after they left, I realized that one (out of many) of the network cables was not connecting. Not a huge deal since 99% of the house would be using the blazing fast wireless network. However, we do have an office that used a switch to connect equipment. I’d prefer for that part to be wired. I was not upset considering the mess the technicians had to work with for the installation. I scheduled a follow-up visit to get my issue resolved.

The second crew came in a few days to fix this issue. I was surprised when he said he was going to go through my whole cabling setup to confirm everything was good and to see if he could improve the initial setup. Again, very professional and courteous the whole time. While he worked on that, the other technician fixed my wired setup issue. Usually in these situations when a follow-up crew fixes a problem left behind by another crew, the “clean-up” crew may say some negative things about the first crew. Not these guys. They were very complimentary of the first group and really spoke positively about everything. They were excellent ambassadors for Google. I continued to get more impressed.

Later that night, we received an email from Google saying they were going to credit our account for the time we were without some of our service. I was astonished. An unsolicited credit to compensate for our problems. Frankly, since our wireless worked the whole time, we really were not inconvenienced by the issue. This is a great example of how a company can, and should, handle unfortunate situations that arise. Google really impressed me, especially for a company of their size. They have a great product, really strong ambassadors for their company, and, at least for us, very loyal customers.

This was a great lesson for me, as a business owner, on how to effectively provide a valued service, find the best ambassadors, and treat customers appropriately.

Want better customer service? Be a better customer.

A few weeks ago I received a disconnect notice from my internet service provider for my business. We had an issue with a payment being applied to the wrong account (my fault) a few months before and, for some reason, they could not get it resolved. Because of this, my account goes into a delinquent status and I get this notice every month. I’m not sure about you, but I prefer not spending my time trying to resolve ongoing issues that should have been fixed. Having a little bit of a type A personality probably does not help this situation and being wired as a problem-solver really does not help. As I was dialing their customer service number I started getting into battle mode. What I was really doing was ensuring that this upcoming experience had very little chance of succeeding.

As I mentioned before, I tend to be a problem-solver. In this situation, I realized that if I started the conversation in a negative and defensive manner, it would force their customer service representative to react in a certain way. They would be trying to defuse my behavior as much as trying to defuse my problem. However, if I started out in a positive, problem-solving manner, it would allow us both to focus 100% on fixing the problem. If both sides are focused 100% on fixing a problem, the chances of success are much higher.

For most of my career, I have been deeply involved in service-oriented industries where excellent customer service is the standard. From firsthand experience I know agents will take the extra step or give a little more effort to customers that are positive and willing to work with them. I wish I could say that I take this positive results-oriented approach every time, but occasionally I let my emotions lead the way. I will say that the times when I create a positive mindset prior to engaging a customer service agent, my outcomes almost always are positive – for both sides. For me to expect excellent customer service, it’s only reasonable that I am an excellent customer.