Good night, Irene: Adapt and overcome

While I was in Sacramento, California, doing a No-Compromise Leadership workshop, Hurricane Irene was barreling toward the East Coast on a track that would take it right through my hometown in Connecticut and the rest of New England. I had about 24 hours to make it home. I kept checking the status of my red-eye flight as thousands of flights were already being cancelled.

I live in the shoreline town of Old Saybrook, which is bordered by Long Island Sound to the south and the Connecticut River to the east. Known for its scenic beauty, this tree-laden area doesn’t respond well to high winds, torrential rain and tidal surges. I remember all too well the devastation when the eye of Hurricane Gloria ripped right up the Connecticut River in 1985, tearing apart trees and cutting off power for more than a week. I had to get home.

My flight landed in Hartford just before noon on Saturday, right before the airport closed and as the outer bands of Irene reached Connecticut. I made it home, made final preparations — and waited.

Irene hit before dawn, knocking out power and toppling trees. The eye of the storm passed a few miles to the west, putting us on the most destructive side of the storm. Beach homes were flooded by the tidal surge and torn apart by the wind. Now a tropical storm, the wind blew most of the day on Sunday. That night, the skies cleared to reveal the brightest stars I’ve seen in years. Monday and the days following the storm were simply beautiful for cleanup and for the utility crews begin the daunting task of restoring power. Old Saybrook and the surrounding towns were almost 100% without power. I was grateful that power to my home was restored in only three days.

I’m writing this on Thursday morning and power still hasn’t been restored to the Strategies offices in Centerbrook – just five miles north of my home. Without power at the office, my team worked from their homes. Eric Ducoff’s home never lost power making it the perfect place to hold a “what to do next” meeting and to charge up our computers, phones, iPads, battery chargers, Garmins and other techno gizmos we seem overly dependent on. Just got word that power is being restored to our building and Strategies will be up and running soon. Woo hoo!

So, here are some no-compromise thoughts on how to adapt and overcome:

  • Inconvenience is an opportunity: What if my flights were cancelled and I couldn’t get home before the storm? I was prepared to go to Plan B and either stay in Sacramento or at a hotel near the airport in Atlanta and wait for the next connecting flight home. Without power at home, we got to use a propane camping stove and a grill to cook. We read by candles and oil lamps. Talked to neighbors we don’t see very often. And we got to appreciate all the conveniences like hot water, electricity, air conditioning and electrical outlets everywhere to keep our gizmos all charged up. (Using a car to charge a phone is not very efficient.)
  • Be prepared for the worst: That propane camping stove has been sitting in an unopened box in my basement since right after Hurricane Gloria in 1985. It was awesome. Boiled water for coffee in minutes. Made omelets for breakfast. That’s the easy stuff. The real key is to be mentally prepared to deal with the drastically unexpected. It’s time to figure things out and remain calm, to live in the moment and stay in control of those things you can control. Everything else will take care of itself. As long as your heart is beating and your brain is functioning, you’re going to make it through. All the material things can be replaced or become a cherished memory. Life goes on. Go with it.
  • Welcome the new normal: The weather immediately following Irene was spectacular with comfortable days and cool nights. My property looks different with fewer trees. It’s like a new normal that’s everywhere. Periods of stress and chaos always give way to a new normal. A forest will grow again after a fire. Floodwaters will recede to reveal a newly shaped shoreline. For me, too much normal can be boring, so I welcome the new normal whenever it comes my way. I just start figuring it out because that’s how I learn, grow and adapt.
  • This was my vacation week: I was really looking forward to taking a week off. I’ve traveled more the first eight months of this year than I ever have. The plan was to hang out at home, ride my bike every day and just relax. A hurricane, widespread power outages, cleaning up tree limbs and my company shut down for a week was not in the plan. It’s all working out fine.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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