We are getting back to basics. We’ve needed to live more intentionally since the pandemic. How we gather food, spend time with loved ones, and how we work has required flexibility and planning. Social distancing has impacted our values and beliefs. Social responsibility has challenged long held cultural norms of rugged individualism. Considering the impact of our actions on others is new behavior for many people.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Beth Simόn.
After 30+ years in corporate financial services, Mary Beth now uses her strategic talents to help entrepreneurs and individuals build contingency plans that empower their second-in-command to keep life flowing smoothly in an emergency. Mary Beth founded Niche Partnership Consulting because her clients’ transformations inspire her. She believes that the combination of continuous learning, growth, and change is the fountain of youth and recently became a certified Les Mills BodyFlow instructor.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
While wrapping up my corporate career, I was preparing to retire when my close friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She asked me to help her husband navigate the finances if she didn’t survive. I agreed to help and asked her to show me what I needed to know, but sadly that never happened. She passed away eighteen months after her diagnosis. Then I spent three months working with her husband (when I wasn’t at my full-time job) to help him navigate the corporate maze to transfer her investments and benefits to him. Before she died, she managed all of the finances and investments. One day, I came home frustrated and complained to my husband how complicated the process was. My husband asked, “Who is going to help me if you die first?” Great question! I didn’t have an answer. I began documenting the process that I had learned, and that’s when I realized that we all need to do a better job preparing for our mortality. I retired and started my consulting business to help people plan for the unexpected. This is the most meaningful work I have ever done.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There are so many, but the one that comes immediately to mind is The Most Powerful Woman in the Room by Lydia Fenet. As a public speaker, I now channel Lydia’s strategies every time I am in front of an audience. Have you ever attended a class or presentation where the presenter worries out loud about themselves? They may ask, “where is everyone” or start their talk saying how nervous they are. Lydia explains how that behavior creates a dynamic where the presenter is a victim, and the audience feels responsible for saving the victim. It’s an exhausting dynamic for an audience. It’s neither something an audience wants to see twice nor one they would recommend to their friends. As public speakers, we must accept responsibility for our audience’s journey. No apologies from the stage.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Yes, I think there are at least 5 reasons to be hopeful during this Corona crisis!
- Science is in the spotlight. The emissions slowdown due to the global shutdown is welcome news to many of us and elevates climate scientist’s cause. The international collaboration amongst scientists to find treatments, tests, and a vaccine transcend global divisiveness that has become the norm — all of humanity benefits from the positive consequences of this global partnership.
- The human family has united against a common enemy. We have joined forces in this adversity spanning nationality, politics, gender, and race. I often think back to a sermon by my favorite local pastor shortly after 9/11. He said, “If only Martians invaded us, then we would all just be Earthlings.” We have found our Martian in COVID-19.
- We are getting back to basics. We’ve needed to live more intentionally since the pandemic. How we gather food, spend time with loved ones, and how we work has required flexibility and planning. Social distancing has impacted our values and beliefs. Social responsibility has challenged longheld cultural norms of rugged individualism. Considering the impact of our actions on others is new behavior for many people.
- It is beyond time for remote technologies to expand into almost every facet of life.
- Schools will be required to have remote learning contingency strategies. The socio-economic gap to access online learning is now crystal clear. Corporations helped solve the current access issue, but a national plan is needed.
- Telemedicine, previously not an option to most Americans by their primary physicians, is becoming more available and expected.
- Consumers expect near-flawless digital execution from service providers. In the weeks since the lock-down, I have forged new business relationships and will end others due to their agility to do business during this crisis. The market’s pressure to adjust and adapt will cause most companies to improve.
- Oh, this is why we need an emergency fund!
- Financial advisors have counseled adults to have three to six months living expenses saved, yet few heed the message. COVID-19 is a valuable context for how generations will manage finances in the future. Financial advisers will discuss this topic with clients with ease for years to come.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Help those you care about to create their contingency plan to ensure that someone is prepared to help them navigate the unexpected. Help them keep life flowing smoothly in an emergency by identifying a second-in-command to step in and take care of personal or business finances. Encourage them to get their estate planning documents in place.
- We reduce the anxiety of those around us when we have our contingency plans in place. It lets people who depend on us know that we care about how our absence would impact their lives.
- Let’s listen with all of our senses to what people are saying. When they describe how they feel, listen to what they say, and do not say. Let the words resonate in our ears, eyes, mind, heart, and soul. We are strong enough to stay present in the conversation and mirror that message back to ensure they feel heard.
- We are at our best when we lead by example and set the tone. Demonstrate habits that reduce anxiety by keeping a routine, maintaining physical activity, mindfulness practices, and healthy sleep patterns. Create excitement around meal preparation and lavish extra attention on family pets to keep them calm.
- Track the positive results from this unprecedented time. Expect good outcomes every morning and recount what went well before going to sleep. What we focus on expands.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
- Begin or maintain a daily fitness practice using on-demand tools such as Les Mills, Peleton, or YouTube. We need the endorphins now more than ever.
- FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom happy hours and meet-ups are a regular part of many people’s routines now and a great way to connect with colleagues, family, and professional organizations.
- Attend free webinars, group programs, or classes to learn something new or uplevel skills and emerge stronger. Check out Harvard University’s free courses!
- Review Gretchen Rubin’s (author of The Happiness Project) plan for Coping With COVID-19. Is there is anything you would like to incorporate?
- The pandemic is raising most people’s anxiety level. Check with your mental health service provider to see if telemedicine is available. See these tips and resources from the CDC.
- Step away from the computer, TV or device and walk outside. Go on a news diet. Limit how often you check the news and stock market. You’ll hear the recap soon enough.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I often say that what knocks us off our feet are the things we never see coming. So let’s not waste time worrying about what we think will happen next. COVID-19 is a perfect example. No one had “manage pandemic repercussions” on their personal or business plan for 2020. I had a hectic business travel year planned, and poof, just like that, all of the events are being configured as virtual.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire people to prepare for an emergency with a solid back-up plan. Our lives are complicated. We all need to identify a second-in-command who we can train to keep our financial life running smoothly when we are out of the game. I am grateful that we are all learning this lesson now, but I am sad about the suffering caused by the pandemic. The lessons we are learning now will spare many people future heartache.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!