I think the way to navigate uncertainty is to remember that you’ve probably been through uncertainty before and that you managed through it. And that’s why you’re here today. Then implement a few simple practices that will create an experience of stability and direction.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robinson Lynn.
By age 25, Robinson Lynn had assumed leadership of a Manhattan training and development company, acquired a second location for it, doubled its client base, and reinvigorated its philanthropic activities. Today, he is Executive Director of Momentum Education, providing experiential learning and life coaching with a focus on leadership development for thousands of individual and organizational clients in multiple different US markets and internationally. Momentum currently has a graduate base of 30,000+ and growing with offices in NYC, DC, Seattle and Los Angeles. Momentum Education, under Robinson’s direction, has also focused on providing millions of meals to people domestically experiencing hunger, while supporting its clients and graduates in reuniting relationships, and raising millions for charities and nonprofits.
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?
Momentum Education was founded by my mother, Robin Lynn. Although I was always adjacent to my mother’s business in one way or another, I became actively involved the summer after I graduated from college. My Mom and I had always enjoyed each other’s company, and I saw that summer as an opportunity to spend some time with her while she was doing something she loved. What neither of us knew at the time, though, was that our summer together was preparing me to become interim Executive Director when my mother became ill later that year.
It was as if my career and I were choosing one another at the very same time. I don’t know if it’s like that for most people or not. But it felt special to me. And while I can’t say that I knew my career path at that time, I had conviction that I was headed in the right direction. And that’s still true for me today, 11 years after I was called to lead the company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I believe that would be a transformed and ongoing relationship with my father. Growing up my father lived in another part of the country, and I would say we had a polite but distant relationship. After my mother’s passing, and being new to being a business owner I reached out to my father who had a very successful and diverse business career. He shifted his priorities in a way that I would never have expected, and for years became the vice president of my organization. We went from experiencing long gaps in between communication to speaking to each other on a daily basis. Our work relationship reinvigorated a friendship and mentorship between us, and eventually, he was the best man at my wedding.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I think burnout is the experience of physical and emotional strain that’s usually been brought on by one or more key practices being either deficient or excessive. By that I mean, things like working long hours and getting inadequate rest; demanding perfection at the expense of excellence; and the quality of your relationships. Those are some of the areas I would look at if I was experiencing burnout.
It has been important for me to understand that there are an ebb and flow to life that sometimes is mirrored in my business. One way to successfully navigate tough times is to have awareness and connection. Mix it with a healthy dose of willingness-to-be-supported and experiences of burnout will be fewer and of shorter duration. I also think it is important to intentionally schedule into your calendar things that are rejuvenating to you the same way we schedule meetings or prioritize work and goals.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
In the case of my company, Momentum Education, it started with having a clear vision of the work culture I wanted, followed by putting together a team of competent professionals committed to that vision as well. I always hire the candidate I believe is the best person for the job and for my clients, understanding there are the ebbs and flows that I talked about earlier. I think prioritizing your work culture becomes a benefit and route to your results, products, and services. Investing in your culture leads to short term and long term benefits with a team who can see themselves a part of the vision far into the future.
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?
A particular book that resonates with me would be a recent read ‘Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann. This novel looks at New York City in the 1970’s set against the backdrop of the daring walk between the twin towers on a tightrope by Philippe Petit (with no net). This walk-in August of 1974 has been a consistent inspiration to me, as Philippe Petit dedicated a portion of his life to training for a moment that he would be risking his life, but achieving a moment that he would remember for the rest of his life. Although I can not relate to walking on a tightrope, I always seek to find my balance in chasing my dreams and enjoying the journey to a possible destination. Mr. Petit started planning this event before construction on the towers had even been completed, and to me, that speaks to someone envisioning what they will accomplish even if the means to do so hasn’t been built yet.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
There’s no denying that these are challenging times for everyone. And, it’s understandable, that there’s fear, given such widespread uncertainty across so many things we’ve come to trust in. It’s almost unthinkable that a deadly virus could circle the globe, claiming so many lives, stretching health delivery to its limits, and upending the global economy.
I think the way to navigate uncertainty is to remember that you’ve probably been through uncertainty before and that you managed through it. And that’s why you’re here today. Then implement a few simple practices that will create an experience of stability and direction. Here’s how my team and I are addressing the challenges brought on by the spread of COVID-19.
• Facts can be a good antidote to fear. My team and I base our decision-making on facts from reputable trusted mainstream sources such as public health officials, scientists, industry leaders, and the banking and finance professionals we do business with.
• Become willing to change. I think the tendency for many of us when faced with something as catastrophic as this is to try to preserve what we have. For my team and I, this has meant adapting to high tech when our business has been all about high touch. It has meant creating new product offerings to serve our client base through the uncertainty to whatever is next for them.
• We also have kept our clients informed of a wide range of resources they can avail themselves of as well as what we’re doing. And we encourage them to let us know how they’re doing. It reinforces that we’re all in this together, which can quiet fear and generate strength through solidarity.
• We’re a company known for delivering tools and methods that enable our clients to achieve at an extraordinary level. And we’re also known for doing things that are fun and vibrant. So, we bring our clients together remotely for activities that are filled with fun and fellowship. That way our clients know that they can still count on us for what they love most about us. And given their level of participation, we know we can count on them, too. What could be more stabilizing than that?
• And the only other thing I would add is giving. The need is great all around us. My team and I look for ways to be supportive not only of the diverse community of clients we serve but wherever we’re wanted or needed. Sometimes it’s ordering dinner and having it delivered to a loved one. Other times it might mean hosting a coaching call for a family in distress. We look for ways to give. And what we have discovered is how much is being given to us.
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?
My experience indicates that unlike fear — which is feeling imminent danger that requires immediate action — anxiety is apprehension regarding a threat perceived in the future. I think fear produces a certain feeling of terror. Anxiety, on the other hand, is like a stew that simmers based on worry. In other words, anxiety is what you feel on the night before the big battle. Fear is what you feel in the midst of raging battle.
Everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in life based on any number of perceived threats. It’s easy to understand how circumstances such as these can lead to anxiety. In my own life, I’ve dealt with feeling anxious in a range of ways.
• I believe that we human beings are social animals and that we’re at our best when we are in well-organized groups or communities. The stay-home order and social distancing have all but eliminated coming together that way, which can produce a new kind of social anxiety. I address that by socializing digitally. My friend, Jake, lives in London and I live in New York. And every Friday we connect online for happy hour in much the same way we did when we lived a few blocks from one another. When it’s practical and easy, you can lessen the chances of social anxiety creeping into your life by reinventing longstanding or familiar activities like the one I just described.
• Exercise is a mechanism for defusing anxiety in general, and I especially miss working out at the gym. When the public health guidelines were first implemented, I was concerned about not being able to exercise in the manner I love so much. And as you might imagine, that in itself was anxiety-producing… at least until I surrendered to the possibility that my beliefs about the fulfillment that I get through exercise needed to be updated to fit the current situation. So making sure you hold beliefs that work under the current environment is key to avoiding feelings of being anxious.
• I’m also mindful of the food I eat, but not in the way that you might think. I eat foods that make me happy. I’m careful not to eat in any way that would threaten my health, of course, but given the inherent stressors all around us, I think it’s important to do things that make you happy so long as you don’t harm yourself or others.
• This has been a period of accelerated learning for me as a business owner. I’ve been working closely with my banker and accountant in collaborative ways that hadn’t been part of our relationship before. My team and I have had to revamp our traditional responsibilities and take on new roles, learning as we go. This feeds into certainty, which lessens worry and anxiety.
• And, of course, there’s rest. It has been important for me to get the rest I need to stay healthy. And rest can be something other than sleep. For me, sometimes it’s a stroll with my wife along the river across from our apartment. Other times it’s putting on the headphones, turning on the computer, and watching battle rap. For some, it might be meditation or kickboxing or Gregorian chants. The point is that getting the rest you need lessens the chances that anxious feelings will become overpowering.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I am familiar with a saying that says “Your mind can be a dangerous place to walk alone,”. I also recommend reaching out to others if you’re feeling anxious and avoiding trying to go through it alone.
• If you know it’s urgent, contact the nearest urgent care center right away. But if you need specific guidance or a range of resources that are COVID-19 related, start with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) They have a wealth of resources.
Sometimes I wonder where I would be without my friends. I often make a point of seeking feedback from family and friends, people who know me and care about my wellbeing. They can be reassuring during periods of uncertainty.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Results are not evidence that you matter, but they are evidence of what matters to you”. This is a life lesson I try to live my life by so that I am able to make sure my worth and value as a human is not only tied to my ability to produce accomplishments. I have found that I can accomplish a great amount and not feel accomplished if I am doing it to prove something to myself or someone else. Yet, if I look at what I am looking to accomplish as a contribution then I am constantly refilled and rejuvenated. This has supported me in tracking my progress and success but never defined or confined by it. I find that many people are waiting until their eulogies to decide whether or not they get to be proud of themselves, and but with this way of thinking I get to be proud of who I am, separate and apart from what I do.
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 think that successful movements rise from among a community of people who come together for a common cause. True, every movement needs a leader, but I think movement leaders are called forth by the stand they take, not the start they make.
If I have great influence, I think I would use it to ensure that everyone gets that they matter. When everyone understands that they matter, and is treated as such, everyone will matter. I can see no greater good than that.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can learn more about my organization Momentum Education by visiting www.momentumeducation.com Another great way of knowing what what my team and community are up to is checking is out on instagram at (https://www.instagram.com/momentumeducation/), and my social media is a nice place to follow what I am up to individually (https://www.instagram.com/robinsonlynn444)