Winter Storm Pax has taken the South by storm (pardon the pun). In Georgia, around 105,000 people were or are still without power. Over half a million people were part of the Southern black-out in Virginia, Albama, and Georgia in total. I am part of the fortunate few that does not have to wait until Saturday (February 15th) or later to have service restored. It’s been quite an experience!
It was scary at first feeling so isolated. Nights were cold and dark. Roads were blocked and there was not much to do. With no Internet access and limited cell phone service (and battery life), it was like a taste of the apocalypse to some. Sure, that may seem extreme but, in our connected culture, never underestimate the effects of isolation and doing things the slow way!
Three whole days of no power has given me plenty of time to reflect on a number of things. Part of me is disappointed power was not restored sooner. I was caught in the midst of scheduling a bunch of posts and preparing some new shows. We had to cancel HorsePLAY! LIVE last night, which sucks, but we’ll bounce back!
Allow me to share some introspective and personal development tidbits…
Gratitude & Perspective
Like many of the folks in Augusta and the CSRA, I am grateful to have my electricity return. It was easy to get bitter about being in the dark (quite literally) but when you think about all the engineers, police officers, fire men, and other emergency personnel away from their families for long stretches of time, a fresh perspective dispeled such angst. Some of these folks worked double or triple shifts to bring people back online quickly.
We all have had our own trials and tribulations to deal with during the aftermath of Winter Storm Pax. Some have had damage to their homes and vehicles, others have had to deal with injuries and death. These realizations are humbling. I am grateful now, more than ever, for what My family has and less worried about what we lack.
Without this perspective, it would be easy to be cynical or jaded. One could say the diligent efforts of Georgia Power and other companies was purely driven by self-interest; after all, getting customers back online ensures billability. On the flip side, we have already established the diligence and sacrificed required to restore electrical grids throughout the South. Let’s not forget the efforts to clear all the trees and roads.
As a whole, I think many of us focus too much on white whine and first-world problems. We forget how much bigger the world is and how fortunate we really are. Be wary not to develop a sense of entitlement, folks. Every day is truly a blessing!
My thanks go out to those facing the bitter cold and dangers while helping restore order!
Preparedness & Hope
There’s no doubt in my mind that the South just isn’t equipped for heavy snowfall or floods. We had an early warning with the state of emergency days before the storm hit here in Georgia but it seemed no one really knew what to expect. We were ill-prepared.
Often, we see that hope and preparedness are polarizing mindsets yet they can and should work in tandem. We all hoped the extent of the pending snowfall was over-stated so we took the risks for granted. The end result was one big cluster fuck.
I see this phenomenom in lives everyday. We see potential risks but comfort, hope, and/or routine get us a bit lax. When adversity hits, we panic and fumble. It’s good to have contingency plans and be proactive for when, not if, the proverbial shit hits the fan.
Georgia has been hit by imclement weather before. Some sources claim it’s been 14 years or so since the last significant snowfall but that is not true. In the last six years or so, the two previous snowfalls I recall actually incapictated us, though to a lesser degree. A more proactive approach would have saved time and money for everyone. To provide some perspective, the August 2003 black-out in NYC and surrounding areas cost our economy around 10 billion dollars and 11 lives. Yikes!
Imagine if power lines in Georgia were reinforced and weak trees were trimmed or cut down. New, weather-proofed electrical transformers in densely-populated areas in Augusta and throughout the CSRA would have saved more money in the long run. Instead, there is over-time pay, lost work hours, missed business, and heavy repair costs far outweighing the investments that could have sped up turn-around and prevented much of the aftermath. To provide
Every day, small business owners, freelancers, and consultants like myself tred on thin ice (again, pun intended) by taking shortcuts or taking today for granted. I’ve learned the hard way to always have a backup plan and schedule things out in advance when possible. Don’t leave for later what you can do now because there may not be a later. Simple truth there, yet we all take it for granted, myself included.
In short, hope for the best but prepare for the worst!
Disconnecting & Simplicity
I am certainly guilty of being very reliant on information technology but I do try to keep some paper processes and records whenever possible. It sucks when you lose Internet access but having no power is even worse. With offline processes in place, it’s easier to keep making progress.
One way to test the balance between low and high-tech is to disconnect every now and then. Read a book, do some personal development, jot ideas down, draft a book or outline by hand, update your business card catalog, catch up with old contacts and friends by phone or mail, etc. There are tons of things we can do to stay productive outside of high-tech information systems.
I’ve found that, by scaling back on tech processes, I am able to take a more minimalist approach to business ventures and projects. Keep it simple.. Brilliant wisdom right there!
As much as I am a huge IT nerd, I realize that it’s so easy for us to overwhelm ourselves by jumping onto every social media and tech platform. In the past couple of years, I certainly have a better grasp on what I enjoy most and where I need to be to satisfy my audience. It’s still a work in progress, of course.
During the power outage, I was able to enjoy some simple pleasures like playing board games with the family, cooking outdoors, spending time with our new puppies, and reading some books. The hustle-and-bustle of daily life usually makes this sort of stuff difficult but the forced disconnection allowed me to step back and see the big picture again. Sometimes, you just need to stop completely to see what your next steps really should be. This is much more difficult with demanding clients so be sure to be more selective with projects and avoiding taking on a heavy workload. Create margin in your life!
Networking & Collaboration
Disasters have a way of reviving and strengthening communities. I remember the great black-out in NYC back in 2003. This was the second-worst power outage at the time yet NYC communities took it in great stride. Businesses gave away free food and practically everyone chipped in somehow to restore order. Communities in Augusta, GA rallied in similar fashion though local businesses were mostly stingy and let resources go to waste, sadly.
As I saw neighbors and strangers helping each other out, I realized that I need to get more involved with my local community and businesses. The convenience and depth of online connections is great, but the warmth will never quite be there. The power outage allowed me to meet people I would not have otherwise. People stopped to smell the proverbial roses and conversations sparked left and right.
This made me visit an old realization: as much as I know that social media is an effective networking tool, trust is more easily forged through simple things like exchanging of smiles, anecdotes, and handshakes. There is a gold mine of life-long relationship building opportunities in every community. Church functions, diners, charity events, community service, live games, chamber of commerce meetings, and much more.
The thing is these take real effort. Online, business and connections can just fall on your lap and you can automate so much. Building trust and converting luke-warm leads to avid fans.. that’s where it gets tough. Offline, it’s harder to stand out in a crowd but trust can be built a tad bit easier once the initial introduction or connection is made.
I find that the secret to networking online and offline is to volunteer and create collaborative opportunities. Just hanging out (hello Google Hangout) works well too. The lower the stakes, the easier it is to build trust. The issue is getting and maintaining attention. Again, this is where disconnecting and breaking our routines is huge for making warm connections.
Bouncing Back From Bad Luck
Some say bouncing back from hard luck is all about hard work. I’d say that is only partly true. As a former workaholic who was lucky to get 10-15 hours of sleep on any given week, I can tell you that hard work alone only guarantees meltdowns from complete exhaustion. Winter Storm Pax is about as random as luck can get short of a meteor destroying your home or being hit by lightning.
Our household got hit pretty hard by the storm but we know others who suffered far worse. It’s going to be hard to bounce back from this disaster. On the bright side, it could have been far worse and I think people will be better prepared for the next emergency. I suppose we could all use a wake-up call when we get too set in our ways.
Is there anything we can’t bounce back from? Of course not! As we established, pausing to get a fresh perspective works wonders. Break the routine, get away from the information traffic jam a bit, and maybe just enjoy the silence for a while. Some people work great with their noses to the grindstones constantly but they are very rare (and probably a little looney). It’s good to come up for some air!
Disasters of any size remind us about what really matters. We’re not meant to be slaves to material things or work, yet that is often what we worry about when disaster or accidents initially strike. Whether you believe in a greater power like I do or not, these life events help us appreciate our real treasures and shift our priorities accordingly. I believe God sends us these challenges to build character, unify us, and keep us humble. How about you?
- How has Winter Storm Pax affected you and your loved ones?
- Do you have any disaster survival or recovery tips?
- What do you do when you are cut off from the rest of the world?