3/31/2020

How do we know?

What kind of leadership does your company need to move through these times?

How do we adapt to living in a post-COVID-19 world?

What are the kinds of things that your customers are going to want from you as we navigate the impacts of coronavirus on our lives, and our economy?

Does anyone know the answers to any of these questions?

I suspect not. Charles Eisenstein goes directly at this in his wonderful new essay, The Coronation:

…[N]o one knows what is really happening, including me. Let us be aware of two contradictory tendencies in human affairs. The first is the tendency for hysteria to feed on itself, to exclude data points that don’t play into the fear, and to create the world in its image. The second is denial, the irrational rejection of information that might disrupt normalcy and comfort. As Daniel Schmactenberger asks, How do you know what you believe is true?

In the face of the uncertainty, I’d like to make a prediction: The crisis will play out so that we never will know.

It’s in our nature to want to know. Especially in times such as these. Knowing can bring comfort. It brings with it a sense of control. And in that may be one of the most profound learnings we can bring into our lives right now — the recognition of just how much is beyond our control. Beyond our knowing. Beyond our ability to do anything.

Of course we are looking for comfort right now. For many of us, this may be the most uncomfortable time in our lives1, so seeking comfort is normal. At the same time, I wonder about these questions, and the speed with which we try to answer them. I see article after article passing by on my LinkedIn feed trying to get to some of this. I hear colleagues seeking marketing strategies in these times. It makes sense. And might we wonder, what if we have no idea? We certainly don’t now. Heck, we don’t know if our economy is going to survive. It might not. If it doesn’t, we are going to have a whole host of other questions to reckon with.

Perhaps one of the great invitations right now is to do more unlearning than learning. To notice the stories we are holding and question them. How do we know what we believe is true? Perhaps now is a time to be in that inquiry.


  1. At the same time, for many what we are experiencing that makes us uncomfortable — money fears, housing and food insecurity, not knowing when we will see our loved ones again, not knowing if we or our family will die in the near future — is simply life as usual. There are many populations out there that don’t have the privilege of those of us who are feeling the sting of the inconveiences that we are experiencing. And to be clear: this isn’t to discount the challenges many are facing, such as unemployment. It’s just to highlight this truth.


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