Better Than Nothing

“We’ll do a virtual conference. It’s better than nothing.”

“Let’s just grab curbside. It will be better than nothing.”

“What about gift cards instead of a Christmas Party? That’s better than nothing.”

This year has brought so many changes, and with those changes we are developing a different mindset. Where we used to strive for innovation and creative thinking— “Let’s do something no one has done before,” now our default position is often “What can we do to replace what we did before? We need to come up with something because that’s better than nothing.”

This way of thinking can work short term, but there are serious pitfalls if this mindset becomes more permanent. It limits us. Although we may believe that this is “outside the box” thinking, it really is rearranging the furnishings within the box. We are using the former way of doing things as our ghost outline, and we are trying to recolor the ghost. Again, not a bad thing temporarily, but we must be careful not to adopt this stopgap measure as our pattern and let it become an enduring mindset.

When our plans are restricted by what is not allowed, we limit our options. But more seriously, when our thoughts are confined by what we cannot do, we limit our thinking. Limited thinking is both paralyzing and contagious. How many times have we defaulted to “We’ll just skip that event” or “We’ll just delay that project,” and our lives are diminished? Once this mindset begins, it spreads, especially if it is communicated by leadership.

What are we modeling for new hires and emerging leaders if the tone in our office is “Well, it’s better than nothing”? We have a significant number of young people entering the workforce in this “get by” year. This time is foundational. There is no substitute for the excitement of a new job, a fresh start, and the first time to put their multiple years of education into actual hands-on work. But if their introductory experience is to rework, revise, and revisit with restrictions, what kind of underlying mindset will they carry into next year? Or the next?

What if we change our thinking? What if we accept the current challenges just like all other challenges? We have always had restrictions. We have never been able to do everything we dreamed up. At the very least we are restricted by time, space, and the big one—budget. So, let’s stop going into meetings with disappointment that we can’t do what we did before. Let’s quit doing something—anything—just to get through this year. What if your next event looked completely different than it has in the past? What if this time becomes the catalyst for a plan so outstanding and effective that five years down the road you could not imagine being back in the pre-2020 rut?

What if we carried this same mindset home? Are we planning family outings just to substitute what we did last time because it is better than nothing? Maybe this year your vacation has to become a staycation, or your holiday travel is restricted?  What if you make that staycation or “home for the holidays” such an interesting, engaging time that it becomes the highlight of family gatherings and sets the new standard for fun?

In 1910, Colonel Jacob Schick’s world was not what he had expected. He had become wounded while searching for gold and found himself in the bitter cold of Alaska trying to shave each morning in frigid temperatures with an injury. Rather than just doing the best he could to get by, Schick looked at his situation with fresh eyes and invented the electric razor. His circumstances were challenging, but he chose to innovate rather than stagnate.

Today, we too, find ourselves in challenging circumstances. Let’s take our creative and innovative minds and solve this current riddle with ingenuity and positivity. Instead of doing something just because it’s “better than nothing,” let’s do something we’ve never done in a way we have never done it so that we have a new benchmark. Let’s start fresh. There is never a better time to be creative and effective than right now.

Instead of better than nothing, let’s make it the best of everything.