Wondering what to do during this time of chaos? I have a proposal.
First, the best thing you can do is what you already know about: keep people safe by washing your hands, refraining from gatherings, etc.
But unless you’re on the front lines (THANK YOU to everyone who is), most of those actions are passive. When you’re sitting at home with clean hands, what can you do besides turn on Netflix?
This is my proposal: the best thing you can do is be safe, but the second best thing is to be productive.
Use this time to work on something big and new. Reinvent yourself. Reframe everything. Change it up.
You might have heard about how Shakespeare composed some of his most enduring work, including King Lear, during the plague of 1605 and 1606. Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus under quarantine—and they both did it without Twitter!
Out of this time will come a wealth of changes (big and small), new businesses, entire books that people have written while self-quarantining, inventions, art, music, etc.
Pay attention, watch and see! And do the work so that you can be part of what’s coming next.
The choice is simple: during this global season of fear and uncertainty, you can waste your time or put it to good use. You can check the news every hour and catch up on those two thousand shows you haven’t seen.
Alternatively, you can stop worrying about what you can’t control, and use the available time to the best of your ability. I know which choice is better for me—do you?
Just because you aren’t a first-responder doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer the world right now. Healthcare workers are putting in the hours (and then some)—so what challenge can you take on? All of us have something to give; everyone has the chance to contribute.
Don’t just count the days while we’re in this state of disorder. You want to be able to look back later and say: “I did what I could to stay safe, and I made something that I’m proud of.”
Oh, and one more thing: Don’t feel guilty about working on something that isn’t related to what everyone’s talking about now. This is the work that is available to you, so do it.
Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.
Image courtesy of Zoe Schaeffer.