“Test your mettle”: Are you familiar with this old phrase? You might be if you’re a fan of Shakespeare--he used it a lot. I’ve been thinking about this idea since the COVID-19 shutdowns.
The definition of the word mettle according to Webster’s Dictionary is “vigor and strength of spirit or temperament; staying quality; stamina; quality of temperament or disposition.” The phrase “testing your mettle” usually refers to someone showing how resilient they are when faced with adversity.
Anyone feeling their mettle is being tested right about now? There have been hundreds of webinars and zoom meetings and blogs about everything right now. You can find a wide range of opinions about how we should move forward, how we should reflect, how we should behave now, who has the answers, who does not have the answers, how the world will change, when business will resume, how we should face the future … it can be overwhelming.
Just my observations … In the first week of the shutdown, it seemed everyone was socially connecting online--happy hours, karaoke, funny social media anecdotes and videos. Many were shopping online, binge-watching Netflix and baking, eating, baking and repeat.
Week Two started bombarding us with webinars and home schooling and exercise regimes and, of course, more baking and eating.
Week Three kicked all the political and media commentary into hyper-gear, and more fear set in as the economic implications starting setting in deeper. Many folks created “to do” lists, and lots of household tasks were started while “YouTubing” how to cut one’s own hair, groom one’s own dog, etc.
Week Four: Many are looking for jobs, applying for all the assistance programs and unemployment options while looking for ways to help others--grocery shopping for friends, cooking and delivering meals, making masks and many other good deeds.
Week Five and many are still trying to figure out what’s next for them while some hope glimmers as many cities start to open more businesses.
I think it’s safe to say that no one knows exactly what will happen next.
It’s just me, myself and I: With all this going on, I’ve spent time trying to learn more about myself, since the only thing I can actually control right now is my behavior, my reactions, my schedule and my plans. It’s hard for a control freak like me to have such little control, so working on me is my current project. What a nightmare.
I don’t think I’m alone in the fact that most of us are really good at avoiding ourselves by being busy working or running a business or planning an event or traveling to conferences or running a family or training dogs or catering events or coaching others or hosting family holidays or running marathons … you get the picture.
Now that I’ve been stripped of most of my daily duties for work and others, all I’m left with is me. Do I have what it takes to make it through this, and not just survive, but be successful? Do I want to continue doing what I was doing before the shutdown? Can I hold out financially to stay in the industry? Do I have the leadership skills needed to keep a team encouraged and engaged to want to come back? Will I kill my husband before he is allowed to travel again? Do I want the same things for my future that I wanted a few months or a year ago? Am I doing enough now to prepare me for what’s next? Have I taken the right webinars? Should I shift things online? And on and on and on … please pass more coffee and me a pastry … Have any of you had these thoughts?
The reality for me is I need improvement internally in many areas, and now I have no excuse not spend the time to figure it out and make changes. I don’t want to sound corny, but this is literally a gift--one I didn’t ask for, one I didn’t want, one that’s not pretty or easy but a gift nonetheless. I’m going to take advantage of it--are you?
Who you wit? I’m learning to surround myself with quality people who are positive--not those just spewing false, meaningless platitudes, but people who have some wisdom to offer they have gained by going through and overcoming difficult things.
I’m seeking out creative people who are not afraid to try new things … throw some ideas against the wall and see what might stick … what might be a new invention or way of doing things.
I’m also enjoying sharing with those who are struggling. I don’t have all the answers, but I need to be in a position to give. If I can give time, advice, a listening ear, encouragement, fun, food, ideas—anything. It fills me up and reminds me that I am a contributor. I need to be a giver as well as a receiver to thrive under the current circumstances.
Back to the mettle bit: I was speaking with a friend this week who, like me, is self-employed and has lost all income for many months. We spoke generally at first but eventually, as quality people do, we got deep … maybe a little philosophical.
Here’s what we shared: This whole situation is a chance to test our mettle. Who are we at our core and do we have what it takes to survive whatever comes? If not, how do we get to that point? Despite the fear, the lack of control, the unknown--how do we obliterate all the reasons and excuses and create a new or altered vision to carry us into the future? Into success in our own eyes? Do we have the “vigor and strength of spirit?” Do we possess the stamina to overcome these obstacles like our forefathers, who fought wars, survived the Great Depression, who defeated all manner of evil to ensure that we would live?
Human nature is human nature: Everybody wants to be healthy and fit without having the discipline required to eat healthy and exercise. Everybody wants to be a diamond, but few can withstand the pressure it takes to turn a rock into a priceless stone. Everybody wants to be gold, but who can take the immense heat required to purify the raw material into a costly metal?
Most people can only become extraordinary or achieve greatness after overcoming adversity or fighting to survive something catastrophic. The result is always some form of change. Our choices can determine if the change is positive or negative, if it’s growth and greatness or fear and defeat.
It’s hard and can be painful and scary but what’s the alternative? I’m grateful to be part of an industry that is so creative and knows how to fix things on the fly and problem solve at a moment’s notice for clients. Let’s use those same skills to apply to our lives and our jobs or businesses. Let’s continue to share with each other and show the world who we always say we are. Now is our chance to shine.
It’s my prerogative: Ultimately, I think the shutdown will continue to show us ourselves. What’s in us will come out of us. We have immense opportunity both personally and professionally to create new ideas, businesses, models, income streams, behaviors and skills. We were forced into a cocoon, but we can emerge as something different.
Test your mettle. Do you have what it takes? Can you shore up any deficiencies you have to make a positive change? I think you can--do you?
Need anything? I’m happy to help: [email protected]
Tami Forero is a strategic event planner and CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company Forté Events. With more than 20 years of event planning experience, she helps clients meet goals using experiential events and is a sought-after speaker across the U.S. on the subjects of sales, work-life balance, and profitability.