Justin Ricklefs


10 Ways To Put Fear In Its Place During A Pandemic

I was scrambling to finish a presentation before a big meeting. A virtual one, you know, since in person meetings are things of the past, at least for now.

A colleague came rolling in, streaming a COVID-19 economic impact conversation among some big hitters.

“Am I bothering you?”

“Nah, just trying to wrap up this deck.”

“Cool, tell me if I’m in your way.”

I do my best work under extreme last-minute, procrastination type situations. Or at least that’s the way I justify my dysfunction.

So I tuned in to the forum instead. I had 30 minutes after all.

Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, wasn’t mincing his words or his opinion on how critical this pandemic is, how much potential devastation it may wreak on our economy and our communities.

His words, sober. His outlook, less than optimistic.

But his tone?

Not pessimistic. Not Chicken Little. Not Debbie Downer.

Instead of shrinking back in fear, isolation and panic, he called for the brave human response to be marked with that of initiative, care and an injection of hard work and hope.

His charge was to “put our shoulders to the wheel.”

So here we are, in our homes, wondering how exactly to do that.

Here is a simple list of 10 ways, would love for you to share your own as well, so collectively we can put our shoulders to the wheel and begin impacting some positive change, in a news-cycle of negativity and shock.

  1. Write A Real Letter – there’s something amazing about receiving an old-fashioned letter. And my guess is, if you’re anything like me, it’s been awhile since you’ve written one. We have time now.
  2. Help Spread Kindness – A friend of ours started a movement to help out freelancers, gig workers and small businesses who have been decimated in these early weeks. His own projects are on hold too, so he’s using this time to help others. Check out his efforts here – Kindness Is Viral.
  3. Buy Something Local – My own business has some uncertainty as many of our clients are local, and they are wrestling through tough times like all of us. So yes, we should all be watching every penny we spend, but if you can, support someone who needs the help. And if you’re really into it, leave a $9,400 tip on a $90 bill like these folks did.
  4. Never Quit Telling Healthcare Workers They’re Brave As Hell – text, social media, phone calls, supporting their partners and kids, whatever it looks like for you. We all have these first responders on the front lines of this stuff who are walking in each day putting someone else’s needs first. Your kind words and encouragement can physically help them get through.
  5. Control Your Inputs – Refreshing news feeds every 7 minutes does major damage to my brain. It lights up all the fear sensors, and I can literally feel my body change. The world feels small, collapsed and hopeless. We all need information, we all need to know what’s going on, but control the information flow, instead of letting it control you. As Seth Godin says, calm is a coefficient too, and from a news perspective, “five minutes a day is all you need.”
  6. Be Reminded of Who You Are – it’s incredibly tempting to let these outside influences dictate our circumstances. But instead of asking over and over, “how will this impact me?”, ask yourself instead, “who am I?” Bob Goff shared this tremendous perspective on his Dream Big podcast.
  7. Go To Bed – I’m embarrassed to admit that I woke up past 12pm on Saturday afternoon. Granted, we went to bed at 2am, but still. It felt like college summer vacation. I woke up to lots of texts, endless news notifications, and all sorts of other stuff that in the moment would have felt super urgent. But it wasn’t. And I was rested.  
  8. Expand Yourself – fear shrinks and contracts. Love expands and opens up. Even in the midst of heart-wrenching circumstances, especially in these circumstances, we need expansion and growth and abundance to get through it. Opening yourself to God, to others, to yourself, that’s where the solutions and hope will come from. Not from checking Twitter or CNN for the 342nd time this hour.
  9. Create Something – even if it sucks. Write something. Plant a seed in the ground. Spray paint an old piece of furniture. Pick up the guitar. Cut a vegetable. Mix up some ingredients. Write a song. We are all consuming plenty, we need more creations.
  10. Be Present – everyone is afraid. This is abnormal for all of us. We’re out of our rhythms. So when you get a chance to be in front of someone, really listen to them. Empathize with their experience. Show up for them in ways that are real, present and connected. In the slowness, be mindful and be here. Because we need to be heard, validated and understood. Otherwise, we may go crazy.
  11. Breathe – it’s a bonus. But when we get amped up, our breathing shortens, our chests tighten, our logic goes bye-bye. Look at a tree, take some deep breaths, meditate, whatever you want to call it. But do it. As many times as you need.

Put your shoulders to the wheel. Let’s push this thing in a hopeful direction.  

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