By David Galullo, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Rapt Studio
We have been forced — as family, as community, as a nation and world — to shield ourselves from each other.
It has been a quick and decisive shift from our “normal” and has been colored with the very best (and worst) of what people are made of. The social and economic implications were felt immediately, and with continued uncertainty we are all wondering what recovery may look like and how long it will take to get there (wherever “there” is).
What is the new normal, or is this the new normal? What will interactions look like now? Should we change our thinking around our interactions with others? Should we assume that this is the first of many more global pandemics?
At a time when coming together and caring for each other is paramount, we are being ordered to keep our distance. It has put interactions into two camps — “digitally sanitized” from the safety of our homes through a computer screen, and cautious interaction from a distance while donning masks and crossing the street to avoid real connection. I’m still uncomfortable wearing a mask, broadcasting the assumption that the person who I might come into contact with is “infected” or them assuming the same of me. It feels judgmental. It feels bad.
At a time when we are sequestered and being asked to find our inspiration, our strength, our selves within silent, individual moments, we try to build arbitrary boundaries around the parts of our lives that used to be separate and distinct.
We are forced to acknowledge that it is the same person who shows up to work, to the dinner table, to home-schooling sessions, to the garden. When boundaries blur (or disintegrate), so do the partitions that we had built between our personal and professional personas.
I have made a successful career of working with people that I like and that seemingly like me — never drawing too much of a distinction between my home and work selves. I work with brands that I admire, with companies that I believe in and with people whom I trust. Now, more than ever, we have the luxury of looking inside to understand who we are, what we believe in, and what we need to thrive. To ignore this gift of time and focus — this opportunity to learn about ourselves and the world that we want to inhabit — would be wrong. To assume that no good would come out of this global crisis would be a shame.
On March 10, I stepped off of a plane for the last time in what will be a while. Prior to that, I had spent the last several years logging 300,000+ miles a year traveling throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, living out of a suitcase more often than not. I enjoyed working face-to-face with some of the world’s most relevant brands and organizations, doing what I love, across the globe.
At home, almost eight weeks in, I have found myself at times less driven, less able to carry something to completion. I look for meetings and milestones in my day as markers of passing time, and I reach out regularly to colleagues. I search for connections and inspiration from outside of my home office. I am building a new profile for my key drivers.
I have come to realize that slowing down, working from a consistent place (and knowing where my socks are), has brought about balance and calm that I have not felt in years.
I am working to understand what a new balance in my own life may look like — working to re-learn how to dive deeper for longer, to allow myself the luxury of time, thought and rumination.
Another four weeks (at least) of shelter-in-place will set some of these new norms, and I am left wondering what I will do with these learnings, behaviors and reactions when I can leave my home for the workplace again. Will I use these learnings to create a new normal, or will the many years of learned behavior snap me back into something that looks much like it did prior to COVID-19? I am anxious to test my theory that history repeats itself.
I am also mourning the loss of personal and meaningful interactions with people around me; the ability to look into someone’s eyes without the deadening effect of the computer screen; the energy derived from impromptu discussions with someone I would have not otherwise engaged. I know now, more than ever, that I am energized and revitalized by these IRL interactions. I also know that right now I need to orchestrate and schedule the interactions in order for them to happen.
I look forward to a time when I can gather, feeling the synergy of a group and the power of building on others’ energy and excitement, in real time, in the same room. While I have always believed in the power of a group and understood that I thrive on meaningful personal interactions, I may have taken those relationships for granted. It has occurred to me that while I may have seen people more often, I didn’t always take the opportunities to really communicate or connect.
It is also of note that here at home, physically disconnected with those whom I typically interact with professionally, I have offered up much more of myself and my personal life. They have done the same. As if in direct response to the loss of physical closeness, we are learning to share and understand more of our real selves, without the sanitizing lens of the workplace. We have eliminated the ritual of our commute — the shedding of our home persona in lieu of our professional persona.
I am becoming acutely aware of how important it is to be present, not to simply just show up. I am learning how to focus on what (and who) is right in front of me.
As CEO, my role is to be thinking five years out — to see the future and drive opportunities for our studio to bring that future to life. The key to carrying out this task successfully is to toggle between aspiration and inspiration — between the present and the potential of the future.
This, in a way, is now the task for all of us — to be able to make the right decisions for the short term, believing in their ability to build the future that we aspire to create and inhabit. It’s not easy in times like these, but as we navigate the next 12–18 months of reemergence we will need to understand and appreciate what stands before us and how it builds our future.
The future, for me, relies on people coming together to build a better world.
The future, for me, connects people in conversation, in mission and meaning.
The future, for me, is built on respect for individual wellbeing — both physical and emotional — which relies on healthy human interaction.
The future, for me, is built on the best of what we are, what we have learned about ourselves during this crisis, and how we show up to a better future.
Photos are the author’s own.
Rapt Studio is a strategic design consultancy. Our sweet spot is at the intersection of place, experience, and emotion. www.raptstudio.com