We’ll need to turn the pandemic into an opportunity

• A Storyteller and Global Keynote Speaker in Singapore

COVID turned the world upside down quite a bit. The hardships many people suffered during this unprecedented time are worthy of the utmost recognition and empathy. But as the eternal optimist that I am, despite feeling the impact, I’ve gained perspective (and, probably weight…)

Yes, I do choose to see a silver lining in the food for thought it gives us, and I’m the first to say yes to a degustation of something new and strange. However tragic the global unfolding of this pandemic, it offers unique insight into the downsides of our hyper-globalised world and the often-calcified systems upholding it. These issues are more urgent and obvious than ever, which gives us a pristine opportunity to address them – for our future.

It’s an optimistic rallying call for all of us to respond to the neon writing on the wall that is COVID-19. To say it esoterically, Mother Earth may have acutely fallen ill with COVID, but she’d already been chronically disposed to ill-health, plagued by the problems that we as humans have created – for example, climate change and geopolitical mayhem.

The root causes? Bad habits and a fixation on treating symptoms while ignoring their causes. As we’re gradually waking to the downsides of this global condition, profound transformation is making its way to shore. While we ride this global storm, we can only hope it will clear the air for a better world ahead. What’s certain is that a new orientation for our global humanity is increasingly inevitable. We like to overestimate the pace of mega-change arising but underestimate its magnitude. Doing so reflects our human nature to stick to old habits, even when something promising is on the horizon. But humankind frequently surprises itself. My hunch is that much of the change awaiting us is actually a return to things that are inherently human.

Human nature is a potent foundation from which all sorts of things can manifest. Unfortunately, the more we put systems in place that detach us from the people we share our lives with and lead us to distrust our fellow folks, the less likely it is that we will lean toward the good. Once we take a closer look at how we interact and transact with each other globally, we discover a consequential amount of friction getting in the way. To this effect, it shouldn’t be a surprise when many of our attempts at solving problems on a global scale yield little more than hot air. That friction gets in the way of our wellbeing and necessary change. It isn’t us, and it also isn’t them. It’s the systems we encapsulated ourselves in that are now blocking our path ahead. Most of those systems were initially built with good intentions – and for collaboration – but have failed on multiple fronts, outgrowing us and the original needs which were their raison d’être. Many have unfortunately triggered antagonism within us, both against said systems and our fellow people.

Humans know to use their social intelligence to make sure one and one equals three. When we speak about change these days, sentiments tend to focus on what we lose instead of what we stand to gain. Only those looking past legacy see light on the horizon. This, in itself, could be a problem as it elucidates how we’ve gridlocked ourselves into a situation too large to manage for the tools we have in our arsenal today. It might mean we are confined to seeing change as a trade-off and this discernment needs to evolve. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. But what lies beyond the ruins of the unprecedented disaster we’ve all just faced is an opportunity to ask the questions we really need answered. Those questions should make us wonder why a pandemic like this can bring large parts of our human civilisation to a halt. What did, and didn’t we do, that led us here?

I wish more than ever that this new normal we are amidst will bear as a reminder for humanity of our very own nature and the beauty that surrounds us. Even in our fragmented understanding of the whole, we can mobilise and make changes that will transform our world for the better. I really hope and wish the future of humanity sounds like a mixtape of its greatest hits, rather than a cheap cover album of past masters.

I know we will take the hint, and make the change. It’s time to reset towards a new and improved us. I look forward to enacting this exponentially greater future with you, all my clientele, and the many wonderful people I encounter in my path on this beautiful planet. Together, we’ll emerge stronger from this. For our future generations, and the wonderful world we could give them.

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