Like many people, I have had a lot of time over the past few weeks to speculate about what the future holds and how I can prepare myself, my family, and my clients for such an uncertain future.
Clyde Tinnen, Columbia 2006, is a partner with Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee. He focuses his practice on corporate law matters, including finance and securities law, banking, private equity, and mergers and acquisitions.
Despite all of the fear and uncertainty, we will all be required to make significant decisions over the next few months. Our decisions today will determine our outcomes tomorrow. Unfortunately, our decisions will necessarily be based on incomplete and imperfect information. I believe that everyone should keep a few things in mind.
First, remain tethered to your core values and priorities. As Stephen Covey once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all inalienable rights, however, even inalienable rights have a natural order of priority (the order in which they were written).
Second, see the world as it is, not as you wish it would be. Our experiences, fears, biases, and assumptions can shape and dramatically alter the way that we see the world and how we respond to it. Take an inventory of your prejudices and consciously acknowledge how those prejudices may tip the scales in one direction or another. Doggedly pursue information instead of affirmation, and reserve judgment until you have obtained all of the unvarnished information that you can. When you seek and obtain information, be skeptical of yourself, just as much as you might be of others.
Third, keep an open mind when deciding your next move. After you have collected the best unadulterated information that is available, then you owe it to yourself to evaluate the information with a clear mind. People are built to resist change. Routine and familiarity can be comforting in ordinary times; however, routine can be disabling in times of great change. Your inventory of prejudices will be helpful in knowing which levers you need to pull to keep an open mind. For example, if you have worked in customer service for 20 years, it may be difficult to think of yourself as anything other than a customer service representative; however, your skills in customer service may be transferable to many different careers. You may be very successful in a particular industry, but there may be aspects of that industry that are not sustainable. Responding to these opportunities for change requires an open mind and a courageous spirit.
Doggedly pursue information instead of affirmation, and reserve judgment until you have obtained all of the unvarnished information that you can.
Last, understand that a thoughtful decision-making process is valuable. It is valuable even if it is hard and even if some of your decisions end up being bad decisions (with the benefit of hindsight). As taxing as it may be, enjoy your life and be grateful for the opportunity to self-reflect and strategize for the future. As Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” No one knows how long the changes to our daily lives will persist through and after this epidemic. The best-laid plans will always require refinement and some plans will require a full overhaul, but be encouraged by your will and ability to decide.
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What celebrity would you most like to meet?
The celebrity that I would like most to meet is Earvin Magic Johnson. I fell in love with the game of basketball during the early 1980s when Magic came into the NBA and his skills and infectious enthusiasm were undeniable.
As much as I enjoyed and admired his achievements as a basketball player, I have been even more impressed by his ability to reinvent himself as a business icon and his resilience in the face of illness. He has purchased multiple professional sports franchises, raised real estate and private equity funds, developed successful theatres and Starbucks in inner cities, acquired a life insurance company, and made loans to minority-based businesses.
Mr. Johnson has done it all with a high level of integrity, humility, and his trademark beaming smile. What an inspiration!
Clyde Tinnen, Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee
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