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So the original premise of The Phoenix Project was finding a way to navigate the new normal in business (and in life) during and after the COVID-19 crisis, using the rebirth cycle of the phoenix as a model. Well, since I would label my most recent “set-back” as a personal crisis, it was a great opportunity to see if my theories on crisis navigation had any validity. So here’s my own theory in motion, as I worked (and continue to work) through this most recent crisis.

Phase 1: Reconstruction

Just like the Phoenix prepares for the inevitable end of her current existence, we must also brace ourselves for a change.

Key Themes: Calm, Care, Communicate

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN brought a wave of emotion and outrage throughout the country and the world. Everything and everyone was consumed by the events that followed with protests, riots, and messages of all kinds from a variety of sources that “Black Lives Matter.” I literally froze. So many things in a very short time were changing all around me, and I had to take a step back before I moved forward. I ended up not moving at all.

Reconstruction In Motion

The key themes in the reconstruction phase played out as follows for me:

  • Calm Down. During this time, my emotions were all over the place. I was struggling to navigate through the worry, fear and sadness that was being pushed in my face all day long from social media, print, broadcast television, streaming channels, family and friends. The emotional toll really was a big part of my paralysis, so I had to figure out how to calm down and assess what was going on around me. For me, this required getting off of social media for a while and talking to people about my feelings. It helped me feel less alone when I realized other people were struggling with the same thing. 
  • Care. During this time it was important for me to do a quick survey around me. Am I okay? Are my friends and family okay? Are my clients okay? Is my business okay? Interestingly, during my slowdown from working on my own brand, my clients’ needs increased exponentially. This was important for me to prioritize at the moment, because the chaos we were all experiencing was pulling us all in different directions. 
  • Communicate. Many of my internal customers and business owners that were ready to be part of The Phoenix Project were kind of left hanging. Of all of the things I could have done better, effectively communicating was one of them. But as I’ve maintained during this process, there’s always time to come back. My communications, though delayed, were transparent, honest, and had options and actions available.

 Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

JAMES BALDWIN

Phase 2: Rebirth

Just as the birthing process starts inside of a woman’s body, the phoenix’s rebirth begins under the ashes of her previous form

Key Themes: Control, Center, Clarify

Big problems can create uncontrollable, negative emotions. Right now, in the current state of the world and more specifically the nation, you can look at any political social media post and see emotions coming from every side of the scenario. It can be difficult to objectively look at your circumstance, when you are emotionally attached to negative themes. In theory, it’s easy to talk about mindset changes and paradigm shifts. It’s also easy to suggest that all you have to do is change your perspective to battle the negativity. But it’s not easy. It’s a process. It starts with identifying the emotions you have about something, trying to figure out why you’re feeling that way, and then moving toward healing… in whatever way is necessary to get the results you want. It’s a big reason why personal development experts will often tell you to identify the “why” a change is important, to make sure the change lasts.

Rebirth in Motion

The key themes in the rebirth phase played out as follows for me:

Key Themes: Control, Center, Clarify

  • Control. Finding a way to control the negative thoughts and emotions in my mind was one of the hardest challenges to overcome. My negative thoughts were the primary cause of my paralysis. It seemed that no matter where I was, someone was always talking about something that had no clear solution or resolution in sight. For a person that is very results oriented, I was having a hard time functioning when the collective conversations about COVID-19 and racial injustice, seemed to just be a discussion of the problems over and over again. It was really a decision for me to just stop and ask myself was I improving the situation with my current actions and in my current state. My conclusion: a big fat NO! So I made the decision to do something different. 
  • Center. One of the most effective ways for me to overcome the negativity, was to anchor myself to the “why.” An anchor, in this context, is an emotional and defined purpose that drives toward an outcome. During the planning process of anything, it’s important to identify why that goal is important to you.. and knowing what the consequences are if you don’t complete it. For me, I wanted to provide both support and a platform, to small business owners during this time of uncertainty. The issues that were plaguing the world increased, which ultimately made my “why” more important. That realization was an important path back toward my project. This was a way to realign with the original emotions of hope and help that motivated me when the project started.
  • Clarify. My first action plan fell short. So the only thing to do, was to reapproach the plan and this time focus on overcoming possible obstacles that may meet me on my path. I needed to prioritize actual time to create in an already busy schedule and with a mind that seemed stretched to capacity. I have had to look at some of the goals I set at the beginning of 2020 and accept that, though the path to achieve these goals has changed, I can still achieve my desired outcome. Planning is best when it’s flexible, with space to improvise. 

The extent to which we are able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and environments will dictate the conclusion of our own chapter: will setbacks be used to tell the story of our defeat and personal failure, or will they be portrayed as the catalysts for creativity and invention in achieving our goals?

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.”

DUKE ELLINGTON

Phase 3: Renewal

From the ashes the phoenix will rise… again and again.

© Ivan S. Harris Photography

Key themes: Clean Up, Create, Collaborate

Clutter. Information overload. Distractions. Rabbit holes. These are some of the things that got in the way of productivity for me. Not only have I experienced clutter in my physical space, but also, mentally, with tasks, obligations, communications, and thoughts. Scrolling through social media, getting involved with every conversation about every problem in the US, and being part of every conversation started to become a full-time job. It wasn’t until I started to purge things around me, that I was able to get unstuck. That opened up the mental space and capacity I needed to start creating again. Getting rid of things that no longer serve you mentally, physically, and spiritually, also allows people and things to come into your life that will propel you forward.

Renewal in Motion

The key themes in the renewal phase played out as follows for me:

  • Clean Up. Clutter and chaos sometimes seem like best friends who always travel in a pair. I find that when my space is tidy and my calendar is organized, my life flows pretty well. When I’m surrounded by clutter and my calendar is empty, my life is in utter disarray. As a certified Integrative Wellness and Life Coach, one of the first things that I learned in the quest for balance, is that your physical life is an external reflection of what is going on internally. This is where your results show up. In the midst of worrying about everything in the world going on, I didn’t realize the amount of clutter that I was allowing to pile up around me. Some of that had to do with using the time to upgrade things in my life, like my wardrobe or my office supplies, but not taking the time to purge the things I was upgrading. Some of it was also just a lack of motivation to get up and make things happen. I felt like I didn’t have the white space or the time to plan or organize, so I didn’t. And I paid for that dearly. As a practice, I have started to take on very small projects like a shelf of a bookshelf, a corner of a room, my dresser, a small section of the closet… and focus my purge and organization on that. You can’t tell from the outside how much has happened, but slowly relief comes with each bag and box I take out of the house for donations or trash.
  • Create. Fun fact… I do not consider myself as a creative person. I do create within structure or boundaries, but I’m not someone that can see a cloud and come up with a full movie script. Its interestingly focused creativity. For a long time, as a content creator, a marketer, and a producer, that felt like fraud. But over time, I continue to learn to embrace vs fight my nature, and go with the flow. There’s still a lot of opportunity to create great things within a structured environment. It allows me to work with clients on their brand strategy, and product development, because I am very focused on the business outcomes within everything I create. I have learned to stretch myself, work past my limiting beliefs, and push toward things that are outside of my comfort zone. I know that’s where my growth potential really is.
  • Collaborate. One of the things that I have come to appreciate through this entire experience, is the power of a team. My marketing business has grown from a one man show to a team of creatives and strategists, to support clients in a new way. I have been able to expand my offerings and move into focusing on the things that I do best, but working with a team of people that are the best in their respective fields. In the past 3 months, I have added  copywriting, design, web development, brand design, photography and social media to my offerings. This has allowed me time to really focus on strategy and coaching my clients to quick, efficient and impactful results in their businesses. It has also allowed me to revive the Phoenix Project, and reengage with my community of entrepreneurs to bring information and resources to other businesses, as we work toward economic recovery.

In conclusion, give yourself permission to make mistakes, especially in a time when chaos has a way of overshadowing the opportunities that have been laid before all of us as business owners and leaders. Taking a step back has allowed me to reenvision how I want to move forward in the world. Give yourself permission to get back up too!

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.”

PLUTARCH

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