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McLellan: There’s a reason you feel stuck


We’re living through what feels like a surreal moment in time. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I have to stop and think, “Is this real? Am I really on house arrest, wearing a mask to the grocery store and feeling offended when someone stands within 3 feet of me?”  

It happened to me this past week. The weather has finally warmed up and I was in the backyard, trying to exhaust the puppy so I could get some work done. I took in a deep breath of fresh air, laughed at the puppy pouncing on the ball I’d thrown, and thought, “Today is a good day.” It felt perfectly normal. 

And then I remembered. It’s like my mind knew I needed the break and so, for a moment or two, it gave it to me.  

This week was the first moment since COVID-19 really hit the U.S. that I had not been on the run. Like all of you, I’ve been busy. I haven’t had time to react to the crisis and what it’s doing to our world, our businesses and our families. Many of you had to scramble to get your team set up to work from home and then you were dealing with the client cancellations, and from there you went right into applying for financial aid.

We’ve been so busy trying to keep our head above water, we haven’t had a moment to step back and process what’s going on. But I expect that for many of you, that pause will come this week or next. And in that pause you may experience a flood of emotions that you’ve successfully kept at bay.
Over the last few days, my communications with clients have shifted. The clients have gone from being shell-shocked and very focused on their next task to being angry, frustrated or sad as they face potential layoffs, financial goals that aren’t going to happen, and all of the unknowns ahead of us. 

As I thought about my column this week, my first instinct was to dive right into what we need to do next. More tasks and action. That’s partially my Type A personality, and it’s what I know you expect from me. But, as I stood in my backyard and had to ask myself if this was truly happening, I decided that we all need to just stop for a minute and acknowledge what we’ve lost. We have to make room for the grief. 

Grief is a funny thing. We can run from it for a time, but sooner or later it catches up to us. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. You don’t have to wallow in it, but you do need to acknowledge it. Otherwise, it just keeps getting in the way and you can’t get past it.

It feels we’re all about to start the next chapter of this crisis. The initial burst of panic and activity has passed. We’re functional and we’re serving customers. Even though none of it is normal, we’re settling into it and now we need to figure out how to endure the virus as it runs its course through our country and our businesses. Our job is to survive it.  

There’s a moment before that next chapter starts when we can stop and just feel. Just vent. Just grieve. And then we can get back to it. I’d like to suggest that you watch for a momentary calm in between strikes of lightning where you can simply stop and mourn what you’ve lost so that you can keep fighting for everything else. 

I promise next week we’ll talk about what we need to do next. 


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