The American Spirit is Innovative & Resilient

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… this thought has been weaving through my thoughts the past few days like a persistent mantra. But let’s rewind back a couple weeks ago to the seeds that planted it.  

It was a Sunday night and I found myself sitting on the couch much like I had been doing throughout this unprecedented “stay at home order” issued by our Ohio governor. Couch surfing coupled with the gym closures was turning me into a proverbial slug. I could feel my muscles turning into useless lumps. Before the coronavirus pandemic I had been working with a personal trainer at a local gym. Unfortunately I could tell all of my previous progress attained with my personal trainer was slipping fast through my fingers. As I lay there contemplating my current lackadaisical situation my gaze fell upon a set of 10lb dumbbells glaring at me from the ground conveniently laid next to my yoga mat. For a moment I scoffed to myself as I thought about all the great workout equipment my gym, Tremont Athletic Club had and then added the lack of home equipment to my list of excuses as to why I surely could not workout at home. 

Not a moment later a movie clip from Rocky IV entered into my mind. I pictured Rocky’s Russian opponent having the “state of the art” gym equipment and the scrappy and resilient Rocky only relying on the beat up barn as his gym and his workouts taking place in the great outdoors. My need to visualize this scene had me on YouTube in moments. As I watched Rock pulling a sled with his trainer on it I saw him doing stair climbers much like I had done in the gym.  He lifted rocks for weights, chopped down trees to flex his lats, and ran through the deep snow to build endurance,  well you get the idea. I was so encouraged by his tenacity and simplicity that I messaged my personal trainer, Meg Murphy, to share my newfound motivation. We were cracking up as I walked around my home finding items that could substitute for equipment at the gym. I then committed to keep a training schedule with her and participate in FaceTime workouts – so I couldn’t slack. 

In the days that followed I was inundated with news stories about how American small businesses were suffering, even collapsing. This bleak outlook combined with my Rocky  inspiration is when the thought came to me, “The American spirit is innovative & resilient.”  I suggested to Meg she take a picture of me and reach out to more of her clients to get them on-line and back training. I felt more inspiration surge within me as I believed this unprecedented time could be an opportunity to reinvent ways to grow rather than focus on the losses. 

I was led to explore this thing called the American Spirit. Is it more than just a “rah rah” patriotic statement? About a year ago when my dad passed away my sister Melissa and I started the monumental task of clearing out the home my parents had resided in for over four decades. Among the things were some books I brought to my home which now had a new location to collect dust. Most were yearbooks and books that I was given as a child. I had been a “saver” (i.e. a slightly less dramatic version of hoarder) most of my life, but now I was entering a stage where I was clearing out the clutter. My first thought as I skimmed through the pile was to donate most all of these books. As I decided to look at the pile closer, I came across a small paperback book,  “The Spirits of ’76” written by Eric Sloane. I opened the cover and there was a hand written note on the inside jacket from my great aunt, Caroline Hahn, the former head of the history department at John Marshall High School in Lakewood, Ohio. 

This card was still inside after all these years.

This was the second time that a card with a profound message from her surfaced. In this book the author talks about the Ten Founding “Spirits” of early America that have all but disappeared at this point in our history which at that time was prior to the Bicentennial in 1976. They are listed as follows: Respect, Hard Work, Frugality, Thankfulness, Pioneering, Godliness, Agronomy, Time, Independence, Awareness.  When the manuscript was completed and these fading Spirits were said, he added Hope.

It is easy to chalk this up to how times back then were simpler and what does this story really have to do with us today. But really when we look a little past the surface of these “Spirits” we find there is strength within them we can still draw upon during this difficult time. 

What this virus has done has accentuated our weaknesses and exposed our short-comings in both our personal lives and business. In doing so it has really caused us as individuals to look in the mirror. Often when this happens we look away quickly because we don’t like what we see. So many individuals and businesses are being tested. At first it is easy to just make excuses and point the blame at others for the situation we are in. For those that do not embrace change, there may be a grasping of the status quo. When new ideas or ways of doing things present themselves, this self-defeating line will start to creep in, “we have always done it this way”.  When companies or individuals think that way they are doomed to a quick demise. But there is another perspective, a more positive one. We have great opportunity. New opportunities require change and they often do present challenges. We must be open to see these opportunities and when we are, there are many rewards. 

So let’s for a moment circle back to the “Spirits” I talked about from the book. In order to allow and embrace change in our personal lives and our businesses we need to be able to draw on an inner strength. Early Americans found in these “Spirits” the inspiration to work together and build this amazing country we are blessed to live in today. Removing distractions and applying just a few of these traits will create resilience and help you innovate… The American spirit is innovative & resilient.

I chose eight of these you can start to implement today:

Thankfulness and gratitude for all you currently have in your life. Use this time to incorporate a practice into your personal life as well as sharing it with your team or family. Maybe it is as simple as starting your day or a meeting with something that you are thankful for. 

Quiet time allows and creates a sense of Awareness and for some this is very difficult. Embrace this time that has been created for you, use it to read and learn new skills. Another benefit to quiet time is that it creates a space that allows inspiration to flow.

Have a healthy Respect for others, even ones that don’t share the same viewpoint as yours. You may even learn something new that will help you. Remember you don’t get things done alone, especially in business. Use this time to form new partnerships that benefit the highest good. These will pay dividends far beyond this challenging time. 

Cultivate a Pioneering and innovative spirit within yourself and within your team and community. How can you leverage current and emerging technologies? There has never been a more level playing field between large and small companies. 

Independence from other countries when it comes to goods and services. What can you do as both an individual and a business to support the local economy? Maybe you’re not in the position to bring all your manufacturing back home at this time, but why not see if you can source some of your components from companies here in the USA. It is both a win for jobs and the environment at the same time. Look for the Made in the USA label on products you buy.

Frugality, you need far less stuff than you think you do. Use this time to clear the clutter both physically from your home and business as well as things that no longer serve you. As Thoreau said, “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.”

How many times during the week do you hear people say, “I don’t have enough time,” or “I wish I had more time.” There are a couple ways to look at time. The realist would say, “you only have 24 hours in a day.” So in that case, you have to look at what you are doing with that 24 hours you have. As an optimist, I believe there is a way to get more time. Be in the present moment and learn how to return to the moment more often and you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish and how much Time you really have.

Hard Work is generally looked at as pushing yourself until you are exhausted, and being motivated to make things happen. I prefer to look at it a little differently when it comes to getting things done efficiently. It is better to be in the flow and you will accomplish so much more than just working hard and beating your head against the wall. 

So I too will end with Hope as a final thought. My hope is that you look at both personal and business shortcomings and create real change. Allow the American “Spirits” of innovativeness and resiliency to burn within you. This “Spirit” is contagious more so than any virus will ever be.  

When we look to the past throughout the history of this country we find countless times when Americans drew from the strengths within these “Spirits.” Out of challenges and struggles new ways of doing things were born. This is a golden opportunity to come together and allow it to bring out OUR strengths. Take care of your health, your mind, body & soul, help your neighbor, and support your local businesses.

May it bring out the Best in YOU!

Andrew Holland

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