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Last Saturday night I decided to host a โ€œQuarantine Networking Partyโ€ via Zoom with a few women from my Letโ€™s GROW community. We hadnโ€™t gotten together since January 11, and I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a quick check-in. Here's what happened...

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At the start of 2020, the beginning of a new year, and a new decade, many of us had had lofty plans, resolutions and goals, or whatever we chose to call them. A few months in, and COVID-19 has upended every facet of our lives. We are now reaching for some semblance of stability in a world of uncertainties. Some of the everyday things we once took for granted now have a deeper sense of purpose. Chief among these are the relationships between family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There seems to be an urgency to connect, of course within the #StayatHome restrictions.

Last Saturday night I decided to host a โ€œQuarantine Networking Partyโ€ via Zoom with a few women from my Letโ€™s GROW community. We hadnโ€™t gotten together since January 11, and I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a quick check-in. What I thought wouldโ€™ve lasted an hour, took two hours.

We opened with an upbeat rendition of Bob Marleyโ€™s One Love: โ€œOne love, one heart, letโ€™s get together and feel alright.โ€ What is striking about this is, I wanted to begin the get-together with something fun and upbeat. It wasnโ€™t until one of the said out loudly, โ€œEverything is gonna be alright!โ€ (another of Bobโ€™s songs), that I realized we were actually going to get together, and whatever happens post-COVID19, everything is going to be alright.

We took a few minutes to introduce or re-introduce ourselves and discussed how the evening would proceed. We then entered the breakout rooms where the aim was to go beyond the customary โ€œHow are you doing?โ€ question and really dig deeper. This idea came from a Quartz article written by Elizabeth Weingarten of Ideas42.org. (Credit goes to my friend and supporter Kasindra Maharaj who shared the resource with me.)

In the article Weingarten says, โ€œIn this challenging moment, letโ€™s move beyond โ€œhow are you doing?โ€ and get more serious about the questions weโ€™re asking our colleagues, friends, and familyโ€ฆItโ€™s a matter of keeping our relationships strong and solvent during what may be a long stretch of healthy spacing ahead of us.โ€

Asking the right questions

In line with the article, I preselected a few of the questions to do just that โ€“ move beyond โ€œhow are you doing?โ€ Each person was to choose any of the questions and discuss them in their group. The seven below is from an original list of 20:

  1. How are you taking care of yourself today?
  2. What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
  3. What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isnโ€™t toilet paper)?
  4. What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?
  5. Which specific place in your neighborhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
  6. Whatโ€™s the easiest part about the quarantine?
  7. What are some things you have realized that you donโ€™t really need?
  8. โ€œWhat problemโ€”either yours, or something more global โ€”do you wish you could solve?โ€

The Debrief

We regrouped for a debrief. We learned that someone in the group was recently laid off as a result of COVID-19, and two had been job hunting. Someone immediately shared a link to jobs in the GTA. The others of us are okay at this point. In view of the COVID-19 crisis, it was not surprising during the debriefing to hear comments such as:

  • Family is much more than โ€œHow are you?โ€ Deeper conversations are taking place.
  • Nobody knows what the new normal will look like. It is scary in one respect, but exciting in another.
  • People seem to have become more collegial, and empathy and compassion are more evident. This is one thing we would want to see continue.
  • Remote work is here to stay. More employers are going to buy into the concept that remote work makes good business sense. Put another way, the toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube.
  • There is more communication between employers and employees, online meetings are more prevalent, and relationships overall seem to be much better.
  • Those deemed essential workers are garnering more respect. Not only those in health care, but train and bus operators, retail and grocery clerks, delivery drivers, etc. People are waking up to how important they are.
  • Some companies are demonstrating social responsibility by, not only keeping their staff pretty much intact, but also ensuring that PPEs get to some hard-to-reach northern communities.
  • Being laid off come with blessings, but the job search will continue
  • Virtual coffee chats and kitchen table bible study groups have been created.

The last question, โ€œWhat problemโ€”either yours, or something more global โ€”do you wish you could solve?โ€, was reserved for the main discussion during the get-together. It was to put legs to a book idea I have been mulling over for my 2020 Letโ€™s GROW theme. It was a question we agreed to contemplate beyond the meeting, but it provided a segue into a brief introduction of Ikigaki.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that examines all areas of our lives that give us purpose and meaning. โ€œHaving a direction or purpose in life, that which makes oneโ€™s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.โ€

The plan, moving forward, is to apply aspects of the Ikigai concept to our lives: Whatโ€™s our passion and mission? What can we do in the space that we have? Who can we empower, inspire and motivate? What will our legacy look like, and how can we capture that legacy? Equally important, what are we learning, or what have we learned? How are we growing, or how have we grown?

Thatโ€™s how we ended our quarantine party โ€“ with lots of food for thought, as we consider the book project and where it will take us. The coronavirus may have descended on us and created a lot of uncertainties, but all is not doom and gloom. Out of a crisis comes opportunities, and we need to seize the moment. Thatโ€™s what the Letโ€™s GROW 2020 project is going to do.

First published on LinkedIn.

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