Pay attention to the news for any length of time and it’s easy to fall into a negative state. The extremes reported on with such zeal and drama (regardless of outlet) has from time to time left me wondering if we’ll ever make it out. Memes are emerging to reflect our collective mood swings. My favorite thus far, “coronacoaster,” is defined as the swing between the bliss that comes from isolation and being in control of your time, to the fear from fretting over the future including this confusing curiosity: “why am I missing people I don’t even like?”

Thankfully, there is the one non-moving item that I suggest we all focus on when we’re able—a reason to carry hope into this massive, scary chapter of transformation that lies before us. While we have plenty of negative to overcome collectively—socially, economically, politically—the individuals I encounter all have one thing in common, one thing at their very core.

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The desire to do and to be better.

Granted the media doesn’t always tell these stories. I suspect it sounds too simple and wouldn’t resonate as much as the fear driven stories we’ve all grown accustomed to. But look at it another way—can you imagine the alternative? Can you imagine living in world where no one had any drive to improve?

Granted, we’re all struggling with the how. Our cities, industries, schools and the function of economic development itself will never be the same. Cities are working to hastily protect their citizens, school districts and colleges from financial ruin while they have to overcome significant lost tax revenue and increased expenses affiliated with COVID-19. Industries are hastily adopting technology and automation in months, not years, and bracing for a whole new category of challenges around skilled talent. Employers are moving fast to accommodate, and leverage, the permanent impact of work-from-home.

Amidst the fear and panic, we are all taking tiny and in some cases, giant steps forward. Students are making prudent financial choices about their future, choosing community college over going into deep debt with four-year institutions. Colleges are putting curriculum (and teachers) online. Even the most prominent technology laggards, our cities, are integrating new systems in an effort to better serve citizens. 

Individually and socially, I see big steps, too. We are reading books and watching movies that otherwise might have been put on the backburner, if ever read at all. We’re having difficult and awkward conversations. We’re talking to neighbors for the first time, reconnecting with family, and reflecting, reflecting, reflecting…

While we are still susceptible to being overtaken by the negative and by the daunting change that lies ahead, I encourage each of us to focus on the internal, and individual drive that lives in us all. The drive to be better, the strive to do better. This individual strength and drive has been some of what has defined us as a country—even as imperfect and ripe for change as it is.

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