Reflections on COVID-19: Humanity, not Politics

I sit here tonight, after watching some of the the One World: Together At Home broadcast (which was an awesome representation of good people), and after reading a few Facebook posts (which makes me sad), and I feel perplexed.  I want to be able to stand on the top of a mountain and yell to everyone that this is a crisis about humanity, not politics.

11707DA2-29C7-4D7E-991C-54AFD86D3D4APhoto by Nagesh Badu on Unsplash

This COVID-19 crisis is a struggle to do what is right around the world.  It is about making the best choices possible to help the most people knowing that every choice made will hurt someone.  It isn’t, and shouldn’t be about political positioning, or making a name for yourself.

In these times we see the best and the worst of people.  And, unfortunately social media is an amplifier of those characteristics.  I even found myself commenting back today on someone’s Facebook post that wasn’t worth it.  This is a humanitarian crisis.  Every decision has a downside, but we all have to do the best we can to help our country and the world get through this.

A few stats that will make you cringe:

  • As of today over 150,000 people have died in the world from COVID-19.  In the United States this number is nearing 39,000. The first US death occurred on 2/29, a mere seven weeks ago.
  • To help put this in perspective, let’s compare to three tragedies that most all of us can all agree were horrible events in the world:
    • Over 400,000 American lives were lost in WW2 over a long six year, world changing tragedy.  The US lives lost were dwarfed by the 75 million estimated dead around the world.
    • Almost 60,000 American lives were lost in Vietnam.  The global death count was again much more severe, but losing almost 60,000 American lives remains one of the largest tragedies in our history.
    • 9/11/2001 had over 3,500 lives lost in the day.  We also put brave soldiers in harm’s way as follow up to this terrorist attack.  We all remember where we were the day of this horrific tragedy.
  • Currently, estimates of American deaths by the end of August 2020 (just six months after the first death) range from 60 – 100K.  This will make the COVID-19 crisis surpass Vietnam in its impact on our people.  Not to mention all of those around the world.

Everyone is sacrificing right now in order to help to minimize the global impact of this crisis.  There are people out of work, without food, with “elective” healthcare procedures that they can’t get completed even though tumor removal doesn’t sound elective when the tumor is growing in your body.  There are situations where families are housebound with an abusive adult in the home, there are mental health challenges developing.  And, it sucks.  It is bullshit.  But, so is 60,000+ projected American lives lost from a Coronavirus.

My call to action for all of us is to do is to do our best every day, to be human, to not politicize this crisis, and to support each other however we can by offering help to those in need.  And to STAY HOME and socially distanced as long as the CDC recommends.  Trust scientists and help the crisis be as short as possible for humanity.

Building Your Personal Brand

I had the opportunity to speak on the Women in Science and Technology (#WiST) panel this week hosted by Recursion Pharmaceuticals along with some bad a$$ other female leaders.  Thanks to the Recursion team for putting on these networking events to help connect women and men around Salt Lake City on important topics.

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This topic is an interesting one for me.  I have to admit that I am skeptical of the topic as described, but sincerely appreciate the discussion, and will try to reframe the topic for you in a way that hopefully helps.

Let’s start with why I am skeptical of this concept.  Throughout my years in the marketing industry, I have seen many companies and brands define their “brand promise” as something that was a stretch – too aspirational – and sometimes even inauthentic.  Then, they have continued forward spending a lot of time, energy and money marketing this brand when instead the company could have worked to actually achieve the service excellence or product performance or company culture that would have made the brand aspiration real.

Sometimes, I have been a part of or watched marketing professionals develop brands or marketing campaigns for the sake of creative marketing alone versus for the sake of business growth.  Don’t get me wrong, there are great brands, authentic marketing and excellent marketing professionals out there who work to do it right – but the variability I have seen makes me skeptical about most “branding” not to mention “personal branding” headlines.

I shared in the panel that over the last 10-15 years I have reframed my own thinking about personal branding instead to focus on a broader question:  What is my purpose?  I believe that answering this question starts by reflecting on what you want to be known for – what you want to leave as your legacy.  The more clear and authentic your thought on this question, the more effective the answer can be in determining your personal brand or purpose.

Through this reflection, I have decided that my purpose is to build great things that leave a lasting positive impact on the world.  I choose to do this by…

  • Truly CARING about those in my life
  • ASKING questions to LEARN
  • Taking a STEP FORWARD every single day
  • DREAMING BIG and not being afraid to TRY and FAIL
  • Assuming POSITIVE intent in all of my relationships

I try hard to let this be my guide in my behavior and my decisions.  And, I work hard to have it show up most importantly in my daily behavior.  I also allow it to show up as a part of my marketing (e.g. this blog, linkedin, other social media, etc.).  I am not always on point, but the more I work on it, the happier I am.

So why do this personal development?  To me, the more clear you are on your purpose, the more effective you can be at making decisions you are proud of, deciding how to prioritize your time and ultimately choosing the tactics you will take in your personal marketing (if any!).

Lots of more great thoughts from the group of panelists at the event – Kat McDavitt, Chief Marketing Officer, Collective Medical; Brooke Clark, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Recursion; and Heather Kirkby, Chief People Officer, Recursion.   These ladies rock!  Follow them up on twitter if you want to hear their point-of-view.

Get Off The Sidelines

I haven’t been posting for quite some time with the excuse that life (work and family) has gotten in my way. What I realized after some reflection this week is that I miss writing about things that matter to me. This blog has been an outlet to make that happen, so here we go again. No promises of my frequency, but you will know, if I am writing here I am probably a bit more balanced than if I am not as it means I am creating the time to reflect (and write). So, I am getting off the sidelines and back in the game.

Over the last week, I have had the fortunate opportunity to attend two separate events that are motivating me to get off the sidelines in a number of ways. The first event was the first ever Utah Wonder Women Summit. The Utah Wonder Women is a group of influential women leaders in Utah working to help each other succeed. The day long summit was an opportunity to convene with a focus on building the visibility of female leadership in Utah. This event was followed by SUREFIRE girls, an event for teenage girls in Utah to help them see the magnitude of opportunities available to them. A big shout out to Jacki Zehner, the original Utah Wonder Women, for her relentless dedication, drive and initiative to make these two events happen.

So much inspiration at these events. This photo is a picture of the SUREFIRE ambassadors, ranging from junior high through seniors in high school, on stage talking about what they are hoping to learn from the SUREFIRE event. I was struck how powerful it was for these teenagers to see a room of 100+ female leaders in the audience focused on helping each other, developing our skills, aspiring to help Utah be a better place for female leadership tomorrow than it is today. But, what made me even more amazed was the energy that I took from these ladies reminding me of my role to get of the sidelines and dedicate even more time and energy to making the community, the state, our business environment and the country a better place for these ladies than it is today.

In case I wasn’t inspired enough leaving the UWW Summit, I headed this week to FORTUNE magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation conference. It was an honor to be able to attend this. I guess you can call it part two of a reinforcement to get off the sidelines. With all of the stories recently about sexual harassment and assault, much of the event had a theme of being vocal. Stories of both a pursuit for gender and race equality as well as the recent #MeToo social movement came from all sides of the room. Business leaders, athletes and entertainers spoke of their own experiences with a call to action to be vocal and through our voices ensure that equality and respect are what we expect. Hope Solo, former goalie of the US Women’s National Soccer team, spoke candidly of her pursuit for pay equality in US Soccer, and her own personal experience with harassment. She also shared her clear belief that she was fired for being vocal.

One of my favorite speakers across these two events was Pat Mitchell. Pat is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. She has used her position of influence and leadership as a force for social change. Among other great accomplishments, she is the host and curator of the global TEDWomen conference. Her talk was on power, and how we need to own it and use it to lead and drive change. Her eloquent speech was calm, reassuring and enabled me to center myself. We often perceive power to be masculine, but it isn’t. The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Nothing masculine about that. One of the quotes she shared was from Bella Abzug, a lawyer, member of the US House of Representatives, and social activist and leader of the Women’s movement.

“Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women.” – Bella Abzug

Both of these events came at a great time for me. I have been working very hard lately and am probably off balance with how I am spending my time. I am still home for my family in the evenings at a reasonable time, working out a few times a week and trying my best to be a great spouse. So, it isn’t about work-life balance. That said, I am relentlessly moving when I am gone, pushing myself to always keep taking a step forward on the issues that matter every day in my work. There is a lot of good in this (especially for our business).

What I recognized after this week is that by dedicating so much energy here, I may be missing some of the things that I need to be doing to fulfill my purpose. I need to get off the sidelines, but not in a way that drives more “movement” at the office, or more stress. Instead, getting off the sidelines is about choosing to channel my “movement” to more effectively influence positive change for women in business, media and policy. So, thanks Pat for the advice. I am planning on owning my power and using it to drive change.

The Busy and The Quiet


There are very few times in my life that I am alone any more.  Especially, times where I am alone and not connected to someone or something via my phone.  This is one of those times (don’t be bothered by the being connected to my blog….that is a part of the relief).  The kids are off to a movie with Jon and I am due to a friends house in about an hour.  But, for these 45 minutes, I am alone.  No sounds around me in the house other than my fingers typing, and the hum of our house as the dishwasher runs and the laundry is in action.  

I realize in this moment how I have almost forgotten how to sit silently.  The things I should be doing race through my mind:  should I prep the food for dinner; is the laundry ready to fold; maybe I should squeeze a quick workout in; I haven’t called my best friends from high school/college in a long time and should take this minute to make that happen; I have been meaning to get back to the book I got half way through on vacation and now is the time; what could I start on to make this week go more smoothly.  So, I force myself to keep writing as a way to not relinquish this time to the constant to do list in my mind.  

When did this happen?  Was it the onset of kids that took all my quiet moments and turned them into times filled with things?  Was it my job progressing to the point where I don’t have time during the day to take a deep breath?  Did this set the precedent for “no deep breaths, ever”?  Maybe it is because our world is on at all times (email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.).  Maybe it is because Jon and I are productive people….and don’t want to let a minute not help us to progress something forward.  

In reflection, it is a choice.  I like to squeeze a lot into my life.  I enjoy the things with my family, and my job, and socializing as a part of our community.  I enjoy my friends, and the outdoors where we live and staying connected to friends from prior times in my life via phone, text, email.  I enjoy the busy.  

But, I also like the quiet.  The slight dripping I hear from the kitchen sink, the idea of a nap, being bored.  A weekend with no plans, the time to take a spur of the moment road trip.  The ability to answer my phone when my mom calls versus texting her I am in the middle of something.  The free brain space to dream about things that make me happy, without making a plan about them….simply imagining what could be.  

To live my life to the fullest, it takes the ability to do both of these things.  Not letting either the busy or the quiet dominate my time.  Being comfortable telling myself to redirect if I get too heavy on one side of the scale.  This is one of those moments.  I have been running too hard the last few months.  Not enough quiet, not enough writing, not enough open space.  It shows up in my health (sitting here with a cold), my kids (they show me my stress as if they are a mirror) and my temperament.  Time to redirect.