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Finding Purpose Amid the Coronavirus: Helping As Many People as I Can

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

In response to last week's blog post on how to be a great leader to your team right now, a friend of mine sent a reply asking me how I was doing. I appreciated his check-in because my tendency is to worry and care about everyone else without checking in with myself.

In truth, I'm doing fine. Not bad, not great but taking it day by day. Never in my lifetime did I think I'd live through a pandemic so each day is unique in of itself. And, not unlike the rest of the world, my business is suffering but I'm healthy and so is my family and for that I'm grateful.

I keep reminding myself that I'm strong and have endured other super stressful periods in my life where I felt like I couldn't handle another thing and then that other "thing" happened and pushed me to my edge.

Take 2008 when I was working at Starbucks and our business was in a tailspin. Even though I didn't lose my job, thousands others did and I had to lay off A LOT of people that trusted me and looked up to me. Two weeks later, my cousin and best friend died of a heart attack at age 32, leaving behind her five year old daughter (who now lives with me). And just a few months after my cousin died, my job relocation to Miami was abruptly yanked after my husband sold his Seattle based business in preparation for our move.

There were a lot of tears and anger and eventually I regrouped (after a leave of absence from work to rebuild my mental health) only to take on even more monumental life challenges a decade later in 2019.

At the wise old age of fifty, I'm finally realizing that this is life and the ups and downs don't go away, I just get better at working through them.

I've come to learn that two things provide me comfort in times of extreme stress: routine and purpose. Without either of those, I float restlessly trying to make sense of things and my anxiety creeps to unhealthy levels.

Of course my routine had to change with the current shelter in place order and it took me about a week to sort it it out. My new daily routine includes running or some sort of exercise, writing, working on my business, making connections with others, extended walks with my husband and our dogs and family dinners. These big blocks flex in their timing and the specific activity but, the point is that I commit to them happening because they provide me a much needed anchor in a time of uncertainty.

It took me a little bit longer to figure out how to activate my purpose amid all the ambiguity. Early last week, I was still swirling a bit and unclear how to move forward. My business came to a stand still, my weekly volunteer activity was put on pause and my running group meet ups were cancelled. Active business development felt rude (no one wants to be trolled right now) and the hands on community service I love had come to an abrupt halt.

My pent up energy to connect and serve needed to go somewhere but I wasn't sure where or how until a conversation I had with my friend Eric Boles, an executive coach, trainer and keynote speaker, unlocked it for me.

We were chatting about leadership and what that looks like in the current environment when he said, "how do we take what we've been gifted with and help as many people as possible right now without worrying what we get in return?"

Done. I got it.

After a little bit of brainstorming, I came up with three main priorities to helping as many people as I can: content, consulting/coaching and community.

  1. Content: I'm going to focus on creating original content that is of help to people right now, particularly as it relates to leadership, personal development and storytelling about companies and people that I'm proud to know. I'll also be sharing my own voice and experiences more through my own channels and in partnership with others. One such vehicle is a weekly live podcast I'll be doing with the co-founder of ADURO, Dr. Toni Best.

  2. Consulting/Coaching: I've decided to offer pro bono virtual office hours to those that need it. People can sign up to discuss business, leadership, career, culture and/or life issues. The point is to be a listening ear and offer perspective as needed. This is not a lead generating activity and there is no hidden agenda. It's purely in the spirit of helping as many people as I can. You can sign up HERE or feel free to pass along to anyone you think would benefit.

  3. Community: I'm offering the pro bono leadership and career coaching office hours to my running community while we run "together" virtually (sign up HERE) and also to the members of the Green Apron Alliance, an alumni network for former Starbucks employees. Any additional free time I have to support our community will be to the food industry. People are overworked and understaffed and food insecurity is increasing. If you'd like to support Northwest Harvest with a virtual food drive, click HERE.

We will get through this and are stronger and smarter than a stupid virus. Hang in there, take care of yourself and take care of one another. That's the only way we well get to the other side.

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