Life is fragile.
I recently completed a painting that had been in process for about 15 years, a delayed wedding present. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, my friends divorced. For reasons primarily economic, they decided to share their jointly owned apartment. So I made a few adjustments to the final work, both as a reflection of their current status, but also to make it easy to share.
Human beings are resilient. When things fall apart, we put them together again, but often they are never the same.
We know that the current crisis will one day be over and we have faith that we will be able to put it all back together again.
However, like a broken teacup, even expertly glued, there is forever a reminder that what was once broken has now been fixed. Repaired, but never fully restored.
The majority of us will survive the current crisis physically, but for many, livelihoods will be threatened. Numerous businesses will close or suffer significant losses. Those that survive face a different and uncertain future.
There is a good chance that the new normal is not going to be our old normal. There are going to be different opportunities and challenges. Some things are going to be less critical than others, while other things that we took for granted we will now realise are essential. Some things are going to be new.
Over the last three months, I have been working on a series of watercolours, committing to doing one a day. The subjects are many and varied, but often the daily offering has been cups and saucers.
As the current situation has been evolving in the last six weeks or so, I have started a side project. A series of paintings of teacups that have been ripped apart and then sewn up again.
The teacup is a great metaphor for both our social interactions and our solitude. In today’s’ society, well at least until very recently, meeting for coffee was the prevailing social norm for a casual catch-up as well as for informal business meetings.
In my parents’ era, coffee shops as we now know them did not exist. The default social interaction, especially for my mother and her friends, was to drop around for a cuppa. More than that, a cuppa was a way to sit and relax, take the weight off the feet and have a bit of a breather. But of course, for now, all we have left is the solitary tea or coffee, or one with the family.
When a favourite cup breaks, it is unsettling. Even if it has little monetary value, there is a sense of loss. But when a broken cup is stuck back together, it tells another story. There is a richness to it, the scars telling the viewer that this was once important to someone, but no less diminished in the eye of the owner.
Throughout history and different cultures, a red thread, often worn around the wrist has signified faith, good luck, strength, and connection. These are the capabilities that we most need now and in the future, as we start to put things back together again.
The red thread in this painting signifies the actions we will need to take to rebuild. The stitches add a level of character, a richness to what before was a simple decorative watercolour, but now has a history. Our lives and our business are no different.
We need faith in ourselves to have the fortitude that we can recover from the economic damage. Faith in our clients, customers, investors, employers and governments that we will help each other to build economic security.
As the most successful business people admit, there is always an element of luck in any success. As Louis Pasteur said, chance favours only the prepared mind. We have the opportunity to weave our own luck into our future story by starting to prepare now. A stitch in time!
We all need to draw on our inner strengths, and the strengths of those around us to pull through.
We need to stay connected. And in these changing times, we will find out which connections are strong, which ones are authentic. It is those connections that stay tight and don’t fray or disintegrate are the ones that are important.
The red thread is also an analogy for bright red arteries, highly oxygenated blood being pumped through our body, literally our lifeblood — so poignant now with the severity of COVID-19 depriving of life-sustaining oxygen those most hard hit by the virus.
If you are healthy, now is the time to start picking up the pieces if your business has been broken, spread them out on the table to have a good look at them. Now is the time to think of the future. Work out what parts of your changed processes and infrastructure will be useful, replacing some and discarding others. What new pieces do you need to rebuild when the time is right.
Now is the time to thread the needle, gather up the fabric of your future and start patching it back together.
Here is a couple of prompts to start developing some insights on how to reshape your future
- What is working with the new reality?
- What is not working?
- How do you think the future will look?
- What and how are your strongest connections?
- What are your strengths?
- And most importantly, what is that you want to recreate?