Matthew, my 11 year old, had a recent homework to design a marketing campaign. He chose to market a Black Death Museum. I have the flyer next to me, with a helpful map showing the Symptoms room, the Geography room, the Consequences room and finally the ‘Make Your Own Black Death Remedy’ room. A few weeks on, and he now has a history homework to keep a daily diary for future generations of his experience of living through Covid 19. I like the idea, although I’m thankful I’ll be long gone before a future 11 year old reads Matt’s musings on questions such as, ‘How long can Dad put off tidying up his stuff?’ And ‘Why did Dad prioritise putting together a Covid 19 playlist over hunting for loo rolls for his family?’ I’ll come back to that second question in a moment.
If the Covid 19 museum existed now, the Consequences and Remedy rooms would be under construction. Some consequences are clear already. We’re under stress and many people are worried, busy and feeling overwhelmed. There’ll be an economic downturn. We’ll fly less. Staff wellbeing and engagement have moved to the top of a pile of business priorities that include survival measures, reducing costs, remote working and innovation. The premium will go up for managers with the values and skills to engage and focus their people at distance (which we’re doing a lot of here right now). And yet poor Command and Control Clive in Cleethorpes will struggle on, trying to control people as if they were in the office because he doesn’t trust anyone he can’t see.
But on the first day of lockdown in the UK, I’m most interested in the Remedy room. Pending a vaccine, you could draw inspiration in Matt’s Remedies room, most of which are admirably sweet. Chopped gummy snakes or rubbing chopped snakes on yourself? Sherbet instead of arsenic? Apple juice instead of urine? Choices, choices, but not tricky ones. I bet Hotel Chocolat will come out of this better than most retailers.
Which brings me to the music. These are Strange Days (The Doors) and clearly Everything’s Not Awesome (Lego Movie 2). Conspiracy theorists may wonder whether Tiffany, the members of the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Louis Armstrong and Dusty Springfield had inside information that this was coming – I Think We’re Alone Now, Behind That Locked Door. I may be Staying Alive, but I Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself - so Help! Classics one and all, but we don’t need sonic consultancies telling us what we already know. What we need is insight, help to make good decisions and encouragement to see them through. Otherwise we risk following the footsteps of The Smiths’ fan (possibly) lawyer in Jurassic Park who was the first to get eaten (Panic). Good result for the T-Rex, not so good for him.
If It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (R.E.M.) and we are to feel fine, then we need effective tools. The sort that I’ve seen work time and again for people going through tough times at work, albeit normally due to someone’s behaviour rather than a virus. And they’ve helped me too. You see, I spent a good chunk of my formative years living in an isolated and somewhat hostile environment where three things helped pull me through – the plan to get out, a few key people and….music. It can inspire, challenge, encourage, excite, calm and make you think and feel. So pause the Radiohead, create a playlist, add your favourites and get ready for the Top 5 countdown of the most Covid destroying, life affirming, hope building, stress busting songs out there.
Here’s the first of the five must dos (stay tuned for the others):
No. 1: Keep perspective (Song - Sky’s Still Blue, Andrew Belle)
In the olden days when people used to travel by aeroplane, one of the things I enjoyed most about daytime flights was getting above the clouds. Whatever the weather on the ground – grey, rainy or generally cloudy - up above was blue sky. You know where I’m going with this, but it is true. There are a lot of negative things to focus on, but above them all are some things that are bigger, permanent and bright. Kindness. Generosity. Love. Friendship. Peace. Hope. Belief in something bigger than you, I’ll call it Faith. Easy to write, harder to do. I know, we all have people we are worried about for good reason and tragedy strikes - even this morning I heard that a wonderful colleague and friend had passed on.
Takeaways Before the mainstream Western world discovered mindfulness, what did we do if we were losing perspective? We took on less news and dialled down the merchants of doom. We tried to look at the situation in balanced way and talked to some we knew who offered us another view. Richard Martin’s post last weekwas cracking on this. I can’t be the only one who’s picked up the phone or (horrors) had video conferences with a wider range of people than I have for ages. We made a choice only to worry about what’s in our face rather than everything. Some prayed more. These options are all still there – plus mindfulness.
Other songs on the same theme:
All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
Me Party, Amy Adams & Miss Piggy
Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way, U2
Nothing Really Matters, Madonna
Out Of All This Blue (Soul Choir version), The Waterboys
Next time, we’ll talk about spending the day in bed.