07 Aug August 7, 2020 – Cultivating in Crisis Dr. Jim Taylor and Navigating Covid Rob Pasquesi
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There is a way to get through a crisis, not only surviving,
but growing from it.
Dr. Jim Taylor, Ph.D. is internationally recognized for his work in the psychology of performance in business, sport, and parenting. Dr. Taylor speaks regularly to elementary and secondary schools, parent and education associations, and youth-sports programs around the country. Dr. Taylor has works extensively in the corporate world providing individual and group training to executives and businesses throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He is a frequent speaker at Young Presidents’ Organization events internationally and a featured speaker for Natixis Global Associates, the 14th largest asset management company in the world. Dr. Taylor also hosts three podcasts, From Crisis to Opportunity, Raising Young Athletes, and Train Your Mind for Athletic Success. Dr. Jim is the author of 17 books, including Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You and Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Child for a Media-fueled World. Dr. Jim has also published more than 700 articles in scholarly and popular publications and has given more than 1000 workshops and presentations throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Small businesses are realizing that having that relationship with
a lender is pretty critical. It does not need to be the biggest bank.
The small regional banks were the winners in these PPP loan process.
Rob Pasquesi is the Founder of Pasquesi Partners; an accounting firm that applies a modern approach to accounting and tax services for today’s entrepreneurs and small businesses. Rob started his career at Deloitte and later worked at Grant Thornton, where he spent 14 years working closely with business owners, CFOs, and controllers addressing their accounting, tax, and financial needs. From his own experience launching ventures NextIntro and FounderPrep, he realized that many of the best tools were often out of reach for growth-stage businesses. By using emerging technology and combining that with years of accounting experience, Rob found that every-sized business could unlock significant growth insights without needing to hire an in-house analytics team. After working with over 400 companies, Rob noticed a trend; new companies were not given proper guidance on tax compliance resulting in over $1,067,000 in interest and penalties paid to the IRS and States finance departments. So Rob decided to create a free service, FounderTax that would help clients, and other small business owners, better manage their tax deadlines, stay compliant, and stop paying avoidable fines.
Highlights from Jim’s Interview
Out of the 17 books that I’ve written, one that came out last year is called How to Survive and Thrive When Bad Things Happen: 9 Steps to Cultivating an Opportunity Mindset in a Crisis. It was entirely fortuitous, it was just a topic that I’ve been seeing coming up more and more with my clients and the organizations I work with. I certainly wasn’t expecting a pandemic, but the reality is we experience crises all the time, whether a parent with a struggling child, financial challenges, whatever they might be. So I had this idea that people might benefit from a guide, if you will, on how to navigate a crisis. It just so happens that, of course, COVID hit and it was very good timing, I suppose.
The mindset is the single most important piece of getting through whatever the crisis may be. Because what’s most interesting about crises is that the crises of today are very different than the crises we’re wired for. So back in the Serengeti, 250,000 years ago, a crisis was a saber-toothed tiger or a rival tribesman with a really big club. So being confronted with those threats or those crises triggered our survival instinct, which of course, we all know well which triggers the fight or flight reaction, where we can either fight fiercely or run as fast as we can to get away, the goal of which is to survive. Let’s move ahead 250,000 years now and come to some of the crises we face now. They could be health crises, they could be about relationships, they could be career-related, financial, technological, societal. In these crises, survival instinct doesn’t work so well. Because again, those primitive crises which triggered what I call the crisis mentality, the threats to our physical survival, they were immediate, they were clear and obvious, and they were tangible; so you could actually act on them. But modern crises, it’s not that simple.
My sort of thesis of the book is that what worked then doesn’t work now. Because let’s look at COVID. First of all, for the most part, it was unforeseeable. Yes, experts had said it could happen, but it wasn’t very likely it seemed. Also, COVID is distant and indirect; we can’t touch COVID, we can’t see it. Also, it’s seen as delayed and lingering, it’s something that’s going on and on. The fact is, we can’t control it immediately. Most directly, we can’t run away from it exactly. We can lock ourselves in a house of course, as we’ve done for the last couple of months, to varying degrees. We certainly can’t fight it directly except I suppose, by washing our hands, wearing masks, and so on. So our natural reaction is this crisis mentality, where we feel intense emotions, the frenzied reaction is often panic and stress, and that doesn’t work so well today. So what I’m suggesting is this need to move away from this crisis mentality that is primitive crisis mentality, more toward what I call an opportunity mindset, where we approach it in a very different way in a very evolved way.
One thing to realize, first of all, and we’ll use COVID as an example because it is such an immediate crisis for us. Also, I want to be very sensitive to the fact that there are a lot of people who are really suffering, either financially, or they’ve got COVID or family and friends have COVID. So I want to be considerate of that fact, but for most of us, it hasn’t touched us. So it’s more just the indirect effects of social isolation, social distancing, not being able to do the things we normally do. The fact is a couple of key things about a crisis are, they’re unexpected, which, of course, we’ve seen, and they create instability. So they take us out of our routines and out of our normal life. The fact is COVID, even for just people who haven’t experienced it that directly, it’s traumatic in many ways; whether it’s physical, psychological, social, political, emotional, economic, it’s going to have a traumatic effect on us, not only in the short-term but for many years to come. So it’s important to be aware of the fact that many of us aren’t affected directly by it, it is affecting us in very deep and powerful ways.
One of the great questions that I’m asked all the time is whether kids being away from school is going to result in a whole generation having serious issues. Of course, I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I’m not a psychic. First of all, let me say that kids respond in different ways, based upon their natural inborn temperament, their emotional style, how their parents respond. But I do believe that we’re going to see an impact: educationally, in terms of post-traumatic stress, in terms of basic comfort that young people and children have in their lives. Because this is a unique and potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience; hopefully, it’s not a frequent thing. So it’s going to affect kids, for sure, and I think we’re going to see the effects of it over the next 15 to 30 years, sadly enough, because of the significant impact. The longer it lasts, the greater the impact. So for example, it’s one thing to be out of school for a couple of months, it’s another thing to be out of school for the next six months or a year. That affects kids, in terms of academic and educational development, but also their social development, their overall mental health, and stability, all these different areas. So it is definitely an area of concern for me.
If I was to decide whether to send kids back or not, I think that it’s the trade-off of the immediate physical risks. This is the bigger question not just for kids, but for going back to work and reopening our economy. Because certainly, there are going to be effects of not opening the economy and not opening life long-term, in terms of deaths and so on. So what I would say is that following appropriate protocols, in terms of face masks and distancing and maybe alternating days and things like that, I do believe that kids should get back to school; maybe not full time. But the fact is that a lot of kids aren’t going to learn effectively through virtual education, and most often, it’s the disadvantaged kids who aren’t. Because as we all know, with kids at home, you’re trying to work, and you’re trying to get your kids to sit in front of a computer and do their homework until school ends. So the costs there are very significant. So if you just made me president temporarily, I would say get kids back to school in some sort of regular consistent routine, even though it might not be past normal.
So we digressed from our main topic here, but back to the book. So we were talking about making that transition from the crisis mentality to the opportunity mindset. Basically, what happens with the crisis mentality is, and I’m going to give you a little neuroanatomy lesson very briefly. There’s a part of the primitive brain called the amygdala, and basically, it’s the gateway through which all information passes. It basically is responsible for our immediate reactions. So if that rival tribesman with a really big club approaches us, we don’t have time to stand back and go, what should we do here? How should I respond? What would be the best way to deal with this situation? Because if we did that, we’d be dead. So the amygdala produces an instantaneous response, driven by that survival instinct: threat, fight or flight, intense emotions, frenzied reaction, all that stuff. Again, panic and frenzy don’t work in a modern-day crisis because there’s nothing you can do exactly in the moment.
A slight digression here is using the great recession as a good example of how the crisis mentality kicked in. The stock market plummeted, what did a lot of people do? They pulled their money out of the market. But the opportunity mindset is to have the prefrontal cortex make the decision, which is involved in executive functioning; which is decision-making, identifying choices, weighing risk and reward, future versus a present. It basically disrupts the circuits of the information going into the amygdala. Because what that does is, it stops the amygdala from causing that instantaneous, powerful, overwhelming survival instinct, and all the reactions that come from it. So you want your prefrontal cortex to lead the reaction to this crisis and modern-day crises. One of the challenges though, especially for young people but maybe for older, is that the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until people are at least in their 20s, and often not until their 50s. It depends, but women tend to have a more developed prefrontal cortex at an earlier age, and we know this by the fact that so many men do stupid things.
So a couple of things happen then with this opportunity mindset, first of which is the ability to stay calm, not panic, and take purposeful action; that’s a really important thing. If you’re going to do something to deal with this crisis, let’s do it in a way that’s purposeful. Also, a couple of things go into this opportunity mindset, and the first is values. I’m a big believer in values. I have to tell you that when I talk about values, people go oh my gosh, values because it’s become very much of a hot button topic: political, religious, all the red, blue states, things like that. That’s not the kind of values I’m talking about, I’m talking about the values upon which we build our lives. Because basically what happens in a crisis is our world is rocked, our world becomes unstable. The thing we knew we could trust, especially in let’s say, an earthquake, or a flood, or a pandemic, is that we felt we could trust our world to be the way it was going to be, but what we learn with a crisis is that it’s not. So what we need to return to is our values, and that creates our solid ground because that gives us a foundation from which we can act. So what values are most important to us? Maybe it’s family, maybe it’s taking ownership and responsibility, maybe it’s helping others. But by returning to our values, that provides us a foundation. It also provides us with our Northstar of how we want to come out of the crisis i.e. what we want to do at the end of the crisis because that gives us a sense of what we need to do throughout the crisis. So values are really important.
Second is attitudes, and that’s how you approach the crisis. So you could be Chicken Little, you could play the victim and be like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s the most horrible thing in the world. There’s nothing I can do.” That adds insult to injury because not only is there all the bad things about the crisis, but then you’re creating a psychological and emotional perfect storm that adds to the crisis even more. So two really important components to this idea of attitudes is, being a master and not a victim. Because with a victim, there’s nothing you can do about it, you assume you can’t take any action. But it’s really important during this crisis to take action. You can’t find a vaccine unless you’re Dr. Fauci, but there are a lot of things that you can in fact do. They’re very basic things such as, again, washing your hands, mask, six-foot distancing, but also, maintaining your work, eating healthy, staying active, staying connected with people; there are things you can do.
Another key component in one of my steps is emotion, it’s important for us to experience our emotions. Especially when, and this is also sort of a traditional guy thing, you’re supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to be stoic, you’re supposed to just get through it, stiff upper lip and all that stuff. But the fact is that a crisis takes an immense emotional toll on us. The problem is if we’re in a culture of, which we are, you’re not supposed to be emotional, that’s a sign of weakness, then you’re going to repress it, you’re going to push it inside of you. But the fact is with emotions, ultimately, you can’t lock them in a chamber and put them away, they’re going to leak out in some way. So for example, if your spouse comes home and she’s really upset, don’t try to solve the problem, let her express her emotions. For guys especially, allow yourself to feel bad, allow yourself to cry or be angry or frustrated. But don’t let that guide your thinking and decision making in your actions. Because in this situation, it won’t work.
In the case of kids and how to get them to express their emotions, it depends also on what age your kids are. Most kids are not that oriented toward experiencing emotions, so I typically suggest looking for opportunities where they actually are starting to feel their emotions. Maybe they’re sad or they’re angry or frustrated. For example, anger, kids in crisis situations will often express anger toward their parents. But anger is never the real emotion, anger is a defensive emotion that protects them against the real emotion. The real emotion in this case of a pandemic can be fear, especially with younger kids. Maybe they’re like, “Oh my gosh, are we all going to die? What’s going to happen to mommy and daddy? Are we going to have to move out of our house?” So you want to allow your kids to feel bad, and allow them to cry and be angry if necessary. But at the same time, then provide some sort of calming, and maybe say, “We’re in this together, I feel the same way sometimes. This is what we’re going to do, this is how we handle it.” It goes back to my idea about being a master and owning, taking responsibility for what we can control. So this is what we’re going to do; we’re going to wash our hands, wear a mask, social distancing, and so on. It’s really important because kids look to their parents to see how to react to situations. If their parents are freaking out, then the kids go, “Oh my gosh, this is so bad, my parents can’t even handle it. So I should be even more scared.” So it’s really important that when we’re with our kids, we are solid as we can be, and we provide them with that stability and that comfort and that solidness that they’re not feeling.
Now, to change the topic a little bit, one of the things I want to talk about is how to get people who are not participating in their life off the couch, and really what it gets down to is what’s holding them back, because that’s usually the issue for me. Because for example, striving to start a new business, that’s inherently motivating, because it’s exciting, it’s thrilling, it’s also a little scary. So often, when people come to me and say, I can’t get myself off the couch, it’s not like what’s motivating them, but what’s holding back their motivation. So we begin to explore whether it’s fear or doubt or uncertainty, or not having an idea or not thinking that they’re capable. So a lot of it is looking at what’s holding them back, not so much how to motivate them. If they can answer that question, then that is going to help them get off the couch.
So if you’re on the sofa, deep down, even you yourself don’t know why you’re afraid. Again, that’s why people come to me, they don’t know why they’re afraid, they don’t know why they just can’t get up. Why can’t I just get going and just take one step? So it takes some exploration to figure that out. Then, of course, there’s all the classic stuff of let’s make a plan, let’s take the first step. Because building a business is a marathon and it’s a long way to go, but I can run the first half mile and then see how it goes. So there are typical things you can do about setting goals and having a plan and getting support from others, all those things are perfectly legitimate and can work. But if somebody is really stuck, it’s not about their motivation, it’s what’s holding their motivation back.
I think what you can also do is if the big picture is just too overwhelming, break it down into manageable bits, and just take that and get it done. Then it becomes a bit of an upward spiral if you can just get off the couch for the first time. Because being on the couch is fundamentally not rewarding, not inspiring, it doesn’t feel good. But taking action feels good, taking control of your life feels good. You might have to get your spouse or your friend or your parent to say, get off your freakin apps and move, whatever it takes, just do it once and it gets easier because it feels good to take action. So they do it once, they take the first step and go, actually, I felt pretty good, now I’m going to take the next step. You take all those little steps, you take a bunch of little steps and you start to cover some ground, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and become self-perpetuating.
So the book is, How to Survive and Thrive When Bad Things Happen. You can go to Amazon, you can get it there. Also, I have a website based on it called Crisis to Opportunity, which is on my website, DrJimTaylor.com. I’ve written a bunch of blogs about COVID as well. So if you visit my website, you’ll find way more than you’ll ever want to know about me and the work I do. So we didn’t go through all the steps, but you got the idea that there’s a way to get through a crisis, not only surviving but also actually growing from it; the book talks about a lot of different ways to do that.