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Controlling your Mindset to Thrive in the COVID-19 Crisis

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

What do Plato, Stephen Covey, Walter Gretzky, and Carol Dweck have to say about the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak?

Upon performing a quick Google search, the only time these four names appear together is in a list of memorable quotes – and even that is a stretch: Walter Gretzky – Wayne Gretzky’s father – never appears at all, but Wayne does.

However, all four names belong here, as we are discussing the unprecedented situation overcoming our world. I truly believe each of the following perspectives can shed valuable light on how you should be thinking to navigate – and hopefully even thrive – during these very challenging times. It can feel like there isn’t much we have control over right now; however, one thing we can control is our mindset. Hopefully the wise ideas of these four thought leaders can help you begin gaining control over yours:

Stephen Covey:

In Covey’s national bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #4 discusses the idea of “Think Win/Win” and the concept of an Abundance Mentality versus a Scarcity Mentality. The Scarcity Mentality states that there is only one pie; if you do not get your piece, then you will not have any. It is a win/lose situation. The Abundance Mentality states that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everyone. It is a win/win situation.

I equate it to this: we do not have a food shortage in this world. we produce enough food for every man, woman, and child to be fed on the planet. What we have is a food distribution problem. Some of us have food to spare or waste, while others go hungry – even right down the street from us. It is the same with clean water, wealth, and – now – toilet paper! For instance, the shortages of toilet paper nowadays are caused by too many individuals thinking, “I need enough for three months, because who knows how long this will last?” They win, and others then lose. The solution? Think Abundance! There is plenty to go around if we think how can we all win. All of our businesses can exist and all of us can survive if we work together, but some of us will end up in a scarcity mentality, thinking we need someone else to lose so we can win. What if we were to all think Win/Win?

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Dweck explains that there are two types of mindsets that we adopt: a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. The Fixed Mindset believes that intelligence is static. It leads to a desire to look smart, and – therefore – a tendency to avoid challenges, get defensive, give up easily if something is hard or not within our skillset, ignore constructive criticism, and feel threatened by the success of others. The Growth Mindset, conversely, believes that intelligence can be developed. It leads to a desire to learn and grow, and – therefore – a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

I equate it to this: You can think one of two ways. Either you can accept the doom and gloom of the media, you can question how one person could possibly change or help the situation, and you can succumb to the fear that your 401k, job, and health condition may all suffer. Instead, adopt the Growth Mindset! Think along different lines: We can learn from this awful experience. We will adapt. We will accept the current challenges and persist in the fight to eradicate the virus. We will learn each day from what did not work yesterday and not be demoralized by it, but inspired to keep trying and adapting. We will look at the successes and shortcomings that other countries are having right now, and we will learn from them and help them to be successful. Yes, this is a true pandemic and people are tragically dying from it; however, the quicker we learn and adapt from this, the faster we can help save lives and livelihoods.


In Benjamin Jowett’s 1871 translation of Plato’s Republic, he translates the Greek into a flowery English version to say, “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” This has since become a modern proverb. We invent things when we are forced to improvise! In America, it is at the heart of our capitalistic system, and – in fact – our founding principle: after all, we invented a Declaration of Independence because of the necessity to determine our own rights and taxes.

I equate it to this: I was listening to a story yesterday, about a craft whiskey bar that was shut-down due to the current restrictions from the government. The two founders, trying to survive this crisis to their business and livelihood, figured out that they could take the alcohol sitting in their now-idle vats and repurpose it to produce hand sanitizer! With a few new ingredients, they were making their own version of disinfectant. They gave it away for free to the fire department and first responders. They stated that when the basic alcohol was used up, they could start selling “whiskey hand sanitizer” by breaking open the aged barrels of caramel-colored alcohol and providing a new product to help pay their employees and keep the business alive. Necessity became the mother of invention!

Another example: Carnival Cruise Line is in dire straits. After seeing the images of quarantined passengers and knowing how contagious the virus is, who would go on a cruse right now? So, Carnival offered their ships to the Federal Government to be used as floating hospitals for non-virus patients to help take the strain off of a soon-to-be over-taxed healthcare system. They are repurposing their ships to help society and hopefully save lives, as well as keeping their employees working and their business alive.

Now is the time to be inventive! It is a necessity if we are going to survive this outbreak. Break the rules in your own thinking, as there are few rules in times like these. Make new rules for the new reality!

Walter Gretzky

When Walter Gretzky taught his son how to play hockey, he told him, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where the puck has been.” Wayne Gretzky took his father’s advice, and grew up to be one of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game.

I equate it to this: So, how can you get ahead of what is happening to you? For one, don’t just accept this “new normal” or try to weather the storm; fully embrace it and think about how you can thrive with the immense changes taking place. None of us know what “normal” will look like post-coronavirus, but we can be certain that the way we view and interact with the world will be changed forever.

Consider the changes made after 9/11; prior to 9/11, would any of us have tolerated the TSA screening process that we now accept as normal? Would we have allowed the invasion into our privacy that now exists? During the Great Recession of 2008-2009, many companies eliminated whole departments or positions during massive layoffs and shutdowns. When the economy came roaring back to life, many of those jobs were never filled. (In fact, by the end of 2012, three years after, it was estimated that only 62% of positions were regained.) Why? Because companies adjusted to a new normal. What new normal will emerge from this current crisis? Will there be more distance-learning environments for education? Will businesses finally embrace a remote workforce? Will the government be more or less centralized when it comes to national emergencies? Will we dine out or do more take-out in the future? Will social distancing be a new way to avoid direct interpersonal communication, like texting and social media have become? What we invent, what we purpose, and what we embrace during this crisis may be with us for years to come.

So, to leave you with a few final thoughts, please know that your mindset can help you thrive in these uncertain times. Just remember:

  • For almost all things, we can adopt an Abundance Mentality where everybody wins.

  • Have a Growth Mindset! Know and believe that you can and will reinvent yourself and your life if you want or need to.

  • Necessity is the mother of invention – so, create! Offer solutions, not products. Give hope, not despair! Define your outcome, and do not be defined by the situation.

  • Where is the puck going to be? Go there! Go where people are helping others. Go where the business is happening. Change your business and life routines to produce the outcomes that you need.

  • The rules have been suspended. The game of life is not the same right now, and may never come back to the same “normal” again. Create the rules and systems that you need to keep your life and business alive.

  • You cannot do this alone. You never could. But, in times like these, it highlights how interdependent we really are. We have all signed up for this thing called society. Don’t detract; add to it!

Ultimately, there is too much on the line to sit back and wait. There is too much hope that has to be spread and too many relationships that need attention. Be informed, but turn off the constant media blast of news. Do not be a spectator in this outbreak! Get into the action: work, serve, console, offer solutions, and be there to help in any way you can for your community!

If you will look at what history has taught us, you can see over and over again that society will survive, the economy will come back, and how you navigate this current situation may determine the direction and quality of your life. However, history will judge us, as it has all generations, on how we respond to our crisis. Take action and make some good happen!

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