So it is with the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are a seasoned entrepreneur, perhaps one who is mentoring students in an incubator or influential in your local ecosystem, here are two simple ideas to make things a little bit better.Model Perseverance
The defining quality of a successful entrepreneur is supposed to be grit. Perseverance. Tenacity. Determination. Resolve. The ability to struggle through obstacles and weather hard times.
Nobody wants to be locked down. Nobody wants to wear masks or miss summer at the beach. Everyone wants to eat at a restaurant and get their hair cut. But mercy, people: we live in a nation that stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the viscous soup of a swimming pool, spreading SARS to our closest friends.
We live in a nation where half of us are about to fail the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. And the price of failure is suffering and death.
If you are an entrepreneur who built your business on perseverance, it’s time now to model that trait--alongside kindness and civility. What’s good for entrepreneurial success turns out to be good for life success as well.
Being optimistic is not about putting on a happy face.
It's about acknowledging that the crisis is real, that people are hurting, that solutions are elusive—but that we have been in this situation before and we have overcome. Every single time. We just tend to forget our own history.
Some of us have already forgotten how bad the 2008 Great Recession really was; the housing market imploded and almost took down the entire global economy. But that was only one of nearly 20 significant recessions the US has survived. Not to mention the Great Depression.
The recession of 1857 destroyed 5,000 businesses. The Panic of 1873 destroyed 18,000 businesses. The Great Depression lasted a decade and drove unemployment to 25%.
When I was learning how to drive, I sat in long gas lines thinking we might all have to give up our cars. There was war in the Mideast, an OPEC oil embargo, a run on gold at Fort Knox, five quarters of negative growth and unemployment of 9%. There was something called stagflation that had the experts baffled. Nobody knew what to do or how it would end.
Then there was the horror and uncertainty of 9/11. Pearl Harbor and WWII for my parents. The Lusitania and WWI for my grandparents. Our nation nearly collapsed in the Civil War, nearly ended in the War of 1812.
The year I was born, the Asian Flu was in the midst of killing 2 million people. The 1918 Pandemic took 50 million souls.
On this kind of a summer day not that long ago, your great-grandparents forbid your grandfather or grandmother from swimming in the local pool because polio was so insidious and destructive. The 1952 polio epidemic infected 58,000 people and killed more people than died on 9/11.
And yet, we are still here, coming off a bull market that lasted more than a decade. Coming off a generation that saw the creation of the greatest national ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the history of the world, one that gave us the iPhone and Game of Thrones. (!) On March 10, 2020, had anyone asked, we would have told them that we were the luckiest people on the face of the earth.
For 275 years, American history has taught optimism. For an older entrepreneur, it's a story worth repeating.