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It's Unbelievable!

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 5, 2020

Three Short Stories

Julie spent a week preparing a cookout event for 18 people on Memorial Day and it poured all day. “The weather was unbelievable,” Julie sighed. “Cookout cancelled because it was impossible to properly distance inside.”

Meanwhile, about 800 miles south, the weather was better. Mark teed up his golf ball, stared down his target some 170 yards down-wind, and then proceeded to slice his ball deep into the woods, never to be found again. An ugly shot. “This is unbelievable,” he shouts as he tosses his club in disbelief. Not to mention his list of a dozen well- chosen R-rated phrases of frustration. Match lost.

Then there’s Tiffany and Andrew, who watched their 11-month old daughter successfully take her first steps; walking on her own for the first time. A memorable milestone for sure. They smiled to each other and Andrew said, “Isn’t this unbelievable?” And Tiffany, totally excited, agreed, “Yes, this is just unbelievable; she’s really walking on her own!”

The word, unbelievable, by definition means not able to be believed; unlikely to be true; too improbable for belief. “I put my cape on, attached my backpack and power pack - climbed on the roof of my house, jumped off and flew to my friends house for an overnight.” If I could fly, now this would properly fit the definition as “unbelievable.”

Let’s be honest

Julie lives in Rhode Island, where it rains 127 days a year on average. Google it. A rainy Memorial Day Monday (or any other day in Rhode Island) that nixes a cookout is not unbelievable. Mark’s golf buddies will tell you that Mark spends more time hunting down his golf balls in the

woods than he does in the fairway. So slicing a ball out of bounds is not unbelievable. And as much delight, pride, and excitement that parents get watching their baby walk for the first time, this process is a normal phenomenon. It is not unbelievable and would easily explain why most people walk.

The word unbelievable is the most overused and exaggerated word in the English language. If you were to stop and think about the words and phrases we use on a regular basis, you’d have to agree that most people treat language casually. Jim’s wife returns home from work and he can tell by the look on her face that she’s had a really tough day. “Hey, what’s the matter with you?” he asks when she enters the house. Perhaps a more appropriate set of words might be, “Honey, what’s troubling you?”

Maria says, “This lobster is to die for.” Now, I understand that Maria is simply making a point. From the lobster’s perspective, this statement might be true. It’s dead! But really Maria, good enough to die for? How about, “This is one of the best, tastiest lobsters I’ve ever had.” So yes, an excellent meal, but not quite good enough to die for.


Now this is unbelievable. The world shut down, economies collapsed, oil prices freefalling, and death... lots and lots of death and illness all around us – 100,000+ as of this writing alone in the US. Some people have self- isolated in impossibly small and crowded spaces. Others have dropped their loved ones off at hospital emergency rooms only to never see them again. Scores have lost their employment with no clear sense if their jobs will be waiting for them on the other side. For those who have kept their jobs, many (most often in vulnerable, disproportionately minority communities) have been forced to work without


adequate protections, risking both their lives and the lives of loved ones. Health care workers have also continued to work through the pandemic when they often did not have the basic supplies they needed; have held iPads up to patients so their families could say their last good- byes; and have had to witness the unimaginable deaths of young people, family members, and even their colleagues.

This is what unbelievable really looks like.

The “new normal” is also a phrase used far too casually I always associated “2020” with the word clarit—as in perfect eyesight. “Jay, you have 2020 vision, you see clearly, and don’t need eyeglasses, contacts, or surgery. Your eyesight is NORMAL.” Fast-forward to my AARP years, “Jay, you need eye glasses.” Welcome to the new normal.

But for the first six months, my eyeglasses were anything but normal. For me it was the new abnormal that would eventually become the new normal. Like TSA protocols after 9-11. I never thought I would have to take my shoes off and nearly disrobe before getting on a plane. In fact, I used to smoke cigarettes on a plane back in the day. And perhaps like you, I never go anywhere without my bottle of water. But today, I must go through TSA sans my water bottle or any liquids. The new abnormal was anything but normal. Now years later, the abnormal has become normal.

Words and phrases matter. As wordsmiths and marketing professionals—we need to be accurate and precise with language. I take offense to someone who tells me it’s normal to wear a mask while getting a haircut. It’s not! It’s abnormal. And now, 2020, once numbers signifying clarity, has a new meaning. Nebulousness. A thick fog into an uncertain future, and a present that includes chaos, fear, and anger. The nebulousness includes death, severe illness, masks, social distancing, a toilet paper shortage, hoarding, lines to get into stores. Anything but clarity.

The new normal is NOT normal. And it won’t be for a long, long time.

So how do we address the new abnormal in our profession?

The Coming Jobs War – we are in the midst of the PERFECT STORM:

The coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs. If you were to ask me, from all the world polling GALLUP has done for more than 75 years, what would fix the world – what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global wellbeing, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development, I would say the immediate appearance of 1.8 billion jobs – formal jobs. Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.”

The name of the book is, The Coming Jobs War – What every leader must know about the future of job creation. The author is Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallop Corporation—the polling company. And this critically important book was released in 2011 following the Great Recession. It received a lot of attention. It was a warning shot across the bow of the American free enterprise system. It was a telling of things to come caused by a near perfect storm: high technology, outsourcing, and giant companies eating up small entrepreneurial ones—all leading to significant job losses.

With grit, determination, and courage, the American economy started to rev up again in 2014 and suddenly, the near perfect storm was ignored, and the warnings offered up by Clifton were viewed as overkill and unjustifiable. Once again, in the history of the human experience, humans passed on the facts. The earth is flat, the earth is the center of the universe, and climate change is a hoax. When will we face the facts, or is it the fear of facing the truth that is the issue? At any rate, as I continued to raise the alarm to leaders at all level of society over the past seven years, using Clifton’s polling statistics and analytics in the book to support the argument that we needed to create more and better jobs (even with a <4% unemployment rate), my perspective was not deemed relevant. Apparently, neither was Clifton’s.

With a soaring stock market, unemployment rates at historic low levels as 2019 ended, and a new year and


decade about to begin, hopes were high that 2020 would kick off the decade with a bang. And it did – with a fourth major economic knock-out punch that has caused a living hell. COVID-19. The final factor that created the Perfect Storm. A storm that closed the world!

Without warning, almost everything in our global society came to a screeching halt - travel, vacations, entertainment, sports, graduations, weddings, funerals, work, factories, schools, elective medical procedures... stay at home! The world became paralyzed by COVID-19. And most of us are still numb. Totally not normal!

How do we adjust
to the new abnormal?

Economist Joseph Schumpeter was touted as one of the most powerful thinkers ever on innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism. A 20th century Harvard Business School professor, who described creative- destruction as the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”

Cell phones destroyed the payphone. Fuel injection destroyed carburetors. Cars replaced horses as the primary means of transportation. Just about everything that is new – destroyed just about everything that was old. Hey—would you invest thousands of dollars today in a set of encyclopedias? Google killed that. And how many jobs did it take to create, sell and distribute a full set of encyclopedias – jobs that were lost?

Jobs are created and jobs are lost because that is what the free enterprise system and kaizen is all about. And the creation-destruction process doesn’t always occur simultaneously. Since 2014, it’s been pretty-much a job seekers’ job market. But now, as a result of the perfect storm, it is an employers’ job market. And it will take years, if not decades, to recover. As of June 1, 2020, there are 38+ million people that need our help.

That’s unbelievable.

Final comment:

We need to begin planning for the new abnormal – the new creations – as the status quo suffers a rapid and painful death.


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