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Finding Serenity in Troubled Times

Colorful cargo containers at night.

What times we are in. From COVID and COVID variant resurgences to the effects of climate change being felt all over the earth, earthquakes in Haiti, and recently the deja vu with helicopters in Afghanistan trying to move those desperate for escape from a country they can no longer feel safe in, harkening back to the evacuations from Saigon in Vietnam.

It is hard to not feel that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. To make matters worse, unlike times of possibly even greater upheaval and uncertainty (such as World War II where at least the country was united), we find ourselves very much divided as a country, even amongst our own family and friends, giving everyone even more of an unsettled feeling. I have thought deeply on these things, debated vigorously, and at the end of the day felt just helpless to make any difference.

As I reflect on all these issues, this thought keeps coming to mind: “Do all you can do and then just accept what you cannot change.”

If that phrase sounds familiar to you, I am sure it was echoing The Serenity Prayer, which many of us have heard many times. Written by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, the actual prayer is: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. If you think about it, these are probably some of the wisest words ever spoken, if your goal is to have a happy life with less stress.

Recently, I sent an email to our clients addressing the challenges businesses are currently facing with timeline and supply chain delays, which have gotten worse over the past year. Concerns related to staffing shortages and labor issues have also exacerbated the challenges. Compared with life and death issues of the world, these are not the most pressing issues of our time. However, they are the challenges those in the business world must face, address, and prepare for daily in our current situation.

While they are different sort of stress, these supply chain issues are indeed stressful. Prior to COVID it seemed like a person could make just about anything happen in a relatively short time period with very little getting in their way. Today, due to resources not being available, it can seem like mountains need to be moved to complete what used be the simplest of tasks. From lack of supply to seized up shipping lanes, the entire supply chain across almost every industry you can think of has been affected.

We’ve gone from “Things should settle down by fall” to “…by year-end” and now I am even hearing it could take into the second quarter of 2023 for all these supply and shipping issues to finally work themselves out. In the current environment, orders we used to have come in from overseas on ocean liners used to take 90 days. Then that timeframe was extended to 120 days, and then to 150 days, and now even as long as six months. For a while, air freight was an option that could be used to get items quicker. Now air freight is severely backlogged as well. In the current situation, even if we get products to port, they can sit for weeks on end as there aren’t enough people at the port to move them. In short, the system has broken down. We are here, networked and as reliant on each other as before, yet everything we have come to expect related to product availability and timelines has been turned completely upside down.

What can we do?

Be empathetic
First, I would recommend that we all just try to have a triple helping of empathy with each other. Much like going to a restaurant that is short-staffed but busting their backs trying their best to serve everyone, don’t be that person complaining how “the service sucks”. Most everyone is doing their best and working their hardest to come through for you as best they can under the circumstances. We all face it during these times in business and in our personal lives, so eat some humble pie and do your best to be empathetic and understanding of your fellow human beings. We are all in this together.

Plan ahead
Prepare, prepare, prepare as far in advance as you can. We must work with the cards we have been dealt for now. Anything can still be done as long as the severely extended timelines are accounted for.

Accept what you cannot control
My whole life has been about tackling the difficult and trying to make the impossible possible. Based on that, it goes against every fiber of my being to just accept what I cannot change. However, there are times when the problems are just beyond our control. We can only do so much and must learn to accept what we cannot directly control.

During these times, if we want to be happy, we must work together, be understanding, flexible, and willing to adjust expectations while working hard to maintain healthy partnerships. Partnerships that are built on the trust that everyone is doing their best and everything that can be done is being done.

In the end, we are all in this together.

That line has a direct song title that I already used in prior blog post for the featured song, so this one seems appropriate for our current times: