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All change is difficult at the start – messy in the middle and beautiful in the end! 

Robin Sharma

Today April 11, 2020, as I write this, we are four weeks into a “nightmare” – which no one anticipated, and no one wanted, but it is here, and we are living it every day. There is a whole new language in our system. Pandemic, Corona Virus, Social Isolation, Social Distancing, Flattening the Curve, Lockdowns, Algorithmic Graphs, Rates of increase, Modelling, et al.– it’s called cultural change. There are new classes of people – those who have the virus, those who are working from home, the over 70s -the at-risk class, and health care workers who are the new heroes.

There is now no sport to entertain the masses.

At the same time, as this overwhelming intervention is happening, we are seeing a continuation of our institutions being stripped naked before us. Now –

  • The legal system – with the High Court Decision on Pell highlighting the complete failure of the Victorian legal system in upholding the basic legal principles. (Decision 7-0)


  • The Churches – specifically the Catholic Church (but the others as well) – the less said, the better. 
  • The Banks – what can be said?
  • The Unions – a meagre % of the workforce are disproportionately powerful but irrelevant in the life of ordinary Australians, and now
  • The Media – who lack credibility in all this (and who holds them to account?)

The effective functioning of these Institutions is fundamental to the Australian way of life. They are cultural symbols. 

In addition to the above, there is a global movement positing that for the planet to survive it is imperative that we engage with and fund radical changes to the way we do business and how we live.

C19 has introduced a level of uncertainty I have never experienced. There are businesses closed down (in hibernation) there are others sadly which will fade away—casualties of a global event over which there is little control. People are out of work – some have too much work. Government agencies are at their limit. Politicians are running from meetings to TV interviews to planning sessions trying to manage the unmanageable, incrementally. As all of this happens, we are in a form of lockdown – staying at home, social distancing, watching the graphs and waiting! The Easter there is emerging evidence that curve is flattening  – the ratio needs to be below 1? It is now .83, which is positive – only discovered this over the Easter weekend.

These are the early days.

 Ultimately decisions are made based on the rate at which the virus progresses. 

Australia is in hibernation – closed down for reasons of Public health, we wait for the daily briefings, and we are all struggling and hoping.

It has never happened before. So, this is a pandemic! When will it end?

With time on my hands, I reread a paper. 

I wrote in 1990 and rediscovered this quote by Yankelovitch talking about global change at that time. 

– How does the Australian culture impact on your business?

“Indeed, so far-ranging are these changes that each time I encounter them, a recurring image comes to mind, the image of the earth moving deep beneath the surface and so transforming the landscape that it loses its comfortable familiarity.  According to the geological theory of plate tectonics, giant “plates” inter-grid the earth’s surface and keep it stable and rigid.  Sometimes these immense geologic formations, grinding against one another beneath the surface, shift their positions. These movements may be slight, but the plates are so massive that along their fault lines, even the small shifts cause volcanoes and earthquakes on the surface.

Increasingly in recent years, our studies of the public show “the giant plates” of American (our) culture-shifting

 relentlessly beneath us.  The shifts create massive dislocation in our lives.  Those living closest to societies fault lines

 are the first to be thrown into new predicaments.  But even those living at a remote distance feel the tremors.”          

           Yankelovitch D. New Rules – Searching for Self-Fulfilment in a World Turned Upside Down, Bantam Books, 1981

At least with a volcanic eruption – it is time-bounded. 

Now 30 years later, it is still a graphic metaphor for our living experience. C19 is a global dog race one with an invisible

hare and no finishing line.

The Australian government, in response to this pandemic, has made decisions which in any other time would have been unthinkable.

Billions of dollars on offer to businesses and people confronting massive challenges – survival! It is breathtaking and courageous in its scale and its scope – survival is the first step on the journey to the future.

Step 1 -March 12- $17.6 billion

Step 2- March 22 -$66 Billion

Step 3-March 30 – $130Billion

Total – $213.6 Billion – Just the start? It is a massive investment to hold Australia at a “new” starting line. 

A stimulus at this scale in Australia’s history is a first – and the consequences are unknown – Public Debt for decades is a certainty. (Some trivial information -Great Britain only paid off its debt to USA and Canada for WW2 in 2006 (61 years)

 Governments across the world are managing in this new order with difficulty. Some doing better than others. Australia it appears is showing hopeful signs. No one knows the outcome, but we do foresee the world is different – it will never be the same again. A paradigm shift is a profoundly new way of thinking about old problems. I suspect we have that opportunity now.

 Our new reality is that we are on the edge of a paradigm shift? It is emerging as I write this.

We are moving from the old order to a new order (FROM – TO).

The ambiguity now is whether this pandemic will rule our lives for six weeks, six months, six years or at some level, forever. Vaccines for the common cold, influenza are nowhere in sight. Why are we going to have a vaccine for this quickly? The R&D response is extraordinary – many options are in the early phase of exploration.  Existing drugs to manage the virus, new therapies and the possibility of a vaccine – in the space of fewer than three months the world is galvanised. Researchers from many countries, including Australia, are working on multiple projects. A Vaccine is 12 -18 months away. The stages are deliberate and methodical. First: Safety.  Then: Efficacy. Then: Immunity.  It is for our protection.

 FEAR is a great motivator (as is greed). The consequence for our children and us is massive.

In my journey, I have experienced fear for myself and Sally, my wife (we are both over 65), for my family, our community.  There is a gnawing sense of unease with me all the time – I wake in the night, sometimes fearful, just thinking about the scale and the devasting effects of it all. In some moments, the feeling is panic! What is happening? –I don’t understand it?  A virus- it is invisible it has no boundaries or constraints – as one media commentator who has the virus said – the beast comes in the night. Sure as hell it does for me?  Some appear unworried – it’s a fake war! Such a low risk? We need to get on with it.

As it happens, I live in a country which seems to be managing it – well? Time will tell. Our geographic position is a positive and our leadership has responded with courage and focus.

I fear for my four children and their husbands/wives and our grandchildren (13) who have their lives to lead. They don’t deserve this or need this as a cataclysmic intervention in their lives. (The depression and the WW2 left a scar on the psyche of my parents’ generation.) They deserve better but…. their generation will pay for it.

The debate about lives v livelihoods may well become the defining issue of our future. There are at least two huge questions.

  • How much money are we willing to spend/save to protect lives?
  • How many lives are we willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of economic growth?

Somewhere some individuals (or groups) are being confronted with life/death decisions – daily – in time, the decision/s will be more significant. In Australia, our situation is better than some other countries for now? 

Today is EASTER Sunday (April 12)– in the Christian tradition it is the celebration – It is called the Pascal Mystery. 

Christ Lived – Christ Died – Christ rose from the dead (the resurrection). 

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the RESURRECTION.

This story is the essence of the Christian tradition. It helped a whole tribe of people understand and explain death as a natural part of life (there was nothing to fear). It is the basis of multiple Christian religions – ultimately a powerful belief system in many societies for 2000 years. Whether you believe in it or not, it is a dominant world view from which there is much to learn.

In my early training as a management consultant, one of the first light bulb moments in my personal development was the discovery of “group process/dynamics”. In essence, I discovered that people in groups (working groups) behaved in specific ways depending on a range of different factors. There were stages of group development with different outcomes dependant on how they were managed or lead.

The first model I discovered outlined the three stages of:

  • Inclusion – Control – openness 
  • It was a great insight on which I have based much of my consulting work.

The stages outlined that in any task related process, participants need:

 1.   to be (feel)included. 

2.    to understand the rules and who has the power (control) and 

3.    to reach a level of comfort and focus where work achievement is possible.

As I progressed, I learnt many more process models to help my understanding of how groups worked – and that included multiple models of teambuilding. (All address the same issues using different language.)

In that same period, I discovered in another learning experience that in marriage there is a cycle – 

  • Romance –  Disillusionment – Joy

This cycle was a complete revelation to me as a young man in my mid-20s.  It has been a platform learning for my 44 years with Sally – ultimately, a majority of issues in marriage emerge from two questions which address the same problem!

Who is feeling valued or not valued?

Who has the power?

As I pondered these learnings in the same time window – it became apparent to me that the natural world is in process and has been forever: 

  • Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter.  I must say I was a slow learner!

When I look back on my early learnings which were real discoveries for me, I reflected that the Paschal mystery (Life – Death – Resurrection) existed in work done by the human potential movement of the mid 20th Century. These multiple theories of group process and marriage and much of the work done in the human potential movement, (See: The Age of heretics Art Kleiner) are an extension of Christian teaching (and probably other traditions) which have been the basis of Christianity for 2000 years. 

The language now is humanist and secular and therefore more acceptable in this world. The messages are the same.

This learning extended into the work I was doing in the area of Strategy and Change Management which I mentioned in my last article.

It outlined three stages of change 

  • Stage 1:  Letting go                
  • Stage 2: The Neutral stage or the wilderness.                 
  • Stage 3: New Beginnings

The “wilderness” seems like the right word to describe my current experience. I know there is no going back, and I have no sense of what the future holds for me, my family, my friends or the world. Watching the media coverage while informative, is not helpful in answering the questions about the future, and I am waiting? 

It is a discipline!

Writing about this C19 experience is helping me make sense of what is happening, and it gives me something to do. In previous articles, I have raised the topic of storytelling as a vehicle which helps us all make sense of changes, and it is a community-building process – this is my story!  

A story I find helpful when stuff happens, which is outside of my control is the one about the Chinese farmer.


There is a Chinese story of an old farmer who had an old horse for tilling his fields.  One day the horse escaped into the hills, and when all the farmer’s neighbours sympathised with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck?  Good luck?  Who knows?”  A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck.  His reply was, “Good luck?  Bad Luck?  Who knows?”  Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg.  Everyone thought this very bad luck.  Not the farmer, whose reaction was, “Bad luck?  Good Luck?  Who knows? “Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there.  When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off.  Now was that good luck?

 “Good luck?  Bad Luck?  Who knows?”

Everything that seems on the surface to be an evil may be a good in disguise. And everything that seems good on the surface may be evil.

So, we are wise when we leave God to decide what is good luck and what is bad and thank him/her for all things that turn out for good with those who love him. Then we shall see something of that marvellous mystical vision of Juliana of Norwich who uttered what for me is the loveliest most consoling sentence I have ever read:

And all things shall be well, and all things shall be well; all manner of thing shall be well

From SADHANA by Anthony de Mello S.J.

Over the next days and weeks and months, we are on this journey together. While the story is helpful in my pursuit of understanding it is the prayer of Juliana of Norwich a 16th Century mystic which nurtures my faith. 

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. 

It sounds like a mantra from a 21st Century life motivation guru!  Just think about that!

So today, I also hope you keep telling stories because they help you learn and make sense of what is happening, and a shared narrative (story) is a community-building block. It’s how we discover who we are?


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