Here we go again…

“It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger” – Unknown

This past Monday, August 30, the US reported 280,000 confirmed new COVID cases, falling just short from the 300,000 peak we saw in January of this year. This, following a spring and early summer that suggested we might be seeing the pandemic in our rear-view mirror. Unfortunately, the last two months have seen a dramatic reversal of that downward trend, and it seems we are right back where we started, deep in the middle of yet another COVID outbreak.

Here we go again.

The challenge we now face is a COVID mutation that is much more contagious. The random nature of evolution has resulted in a new pandemic, but one with a much stronger culprit. It has found a way to linger, to infect, and to make our lives difficult once again.

It doesn’t get easier.

But unlike before, we’ve learned from the past. The challenges we faced with the original virus taught us how to compensate, how to overcome. We developed vaccines that can defend against the virus, or at the very least, minimize the impact of infection. We’ve gained patience and understanding in the use of masks in large gatherings. Our infrastructure has evolved to test more quickly and treat more effectively.

Here’s the thing. My message today isn’t a lesson on COVID. It’s a metaphor for life. That constant cycle of facing challenges and learning to overcome them. Only to find that similar challenges will reappear, only this time even more difficult.

So much in life – and in business – follows this very same cycle. I’ve seen so many situations where we’ve successfully grown the company, only to hit an economic downturn that forces you to retrench, restructure, and rebuild. I’ve seen branches lose half their business and account managers lose almost their entire book, only to have to build back to where they were before.

It’s a painful process. But it makes you stronger. You learn from those experiences. As a business, you recognize that these challenges come back. Economic cycles happen, and they are unavoidable. But you also learn how to compensate. How to build in safeguards to weather them more effectively. Leaders learn this – painfully – but they learn it.

Same goes for us as individuals. In sales and recruiting, you work so hard to build your business only to have a client change direction, leaving you empty handed. Or you chase that huge deal, putting countless hours into the pursuit, only to lose it to a competitor.

Or maybe you are in a different role, working on several critical projects necessary to support the business. And then it happens. Something goes sideways. A system crashes. You lose all your hard work. And this project was a big one. It will take weeks, maybe months, to get back to where you were.

But you learn to compensate. The next time it happens you’ll be prepared. You won’t put all your eggs in one basket, you’ll have a more diverse client base to weather these challenges. You’ll learn how your competitor beat you, and you’ll approach the next pursuit differently. You’ll put in safeguards for that project, so lost files or system failures won’t set you back.

Life is just like that, isn’t it? The hardest of steel is cast in the hottest of fires. And the sharpest of knives come from repeated endurance of the roughest of stones.

“It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger”