How Can I Apply a Growth Mindset to a Pandemic?

April 11, 2020

How Can I Apply a Growth Mindset to a Pandemic?

May 29, 2023

One of the core principles of the Modern Elder Academy is that we can apply a growth mindset to midlife and beyond. So often, we focus more on loss than gain during our later years. Or we adopt a fixed mindset in which we’re more focused on proving ourselves and winning than improving ourselves and learning.

And, thus, we find ourselves bored and out of the “flow” of life as outlined in an earlier blog post of mine.


The image above was making the rounds on Twitter this week (I couldn’t find the source to attribute). It suggests that this is a time for emotionally stretching, for learning new habits that focus on adaptability and resilience, for being open to express vulnerability in this liminal time for the world and ourselves.

Like many of you, I have a friend on a ventilator right now and have heard of people in my orbit who’ve passed due to the virus. I worry for my parents, who are 82 years old, with one of them having a health condition that makes them particularly at risk. Add to all that, my doctor just told me I’m also at higher risk due to the fact I have intermediate stage prostate cancer (something I learned a year and a half ago).

From a financial perspective, this has been a debacle like I’ve never experienced. This quarter’s global lodging revenues are projected to be down 90%, so I’ve had to shutter eight of twelve hospitality businesses that I own (with partners) and help a bunch of young, anxious hospitality CEOs that I mentor navigate this new terrain. My income from giving keynote speeches at conferences is gone, and our Modern Elder Academy is closed until the fall, while we’re still paying our employees to assure that their families and our little village in Baja stay stable and strong.

Unlike more milder downturns in my life, this one is epic although I never thought I’d call the Great Recession or the dot-com bust and 9/11 eras “mild downturns.” Of course, I’m grateful that I have a financial cushion to fall back on (didn’t have that in the past) that many others in the world aren’t afforded. Just the same, pain is pain; uncertainty is uncertainty. In one way or another, almost all of us are struggling in some way. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

The question I’m asking myself each day when I get up is, what am I supposed to learn from this experience? How am I supposed to grow? How could this pandemic be a gift in camouflage?

The irony is that my year’s theme at the start of 2020—as many of our MEA alums know because I’ve talked about it in workshops earlier this year—was to welcome more spaciousness and freedom in my life. I originally moved to Baja with those qualities in mind. I even called my home (when I bought it in 2017) Casa Espaciosa y Libre, the Spacious and Free House. And, then, I built a lovely campus with my home in the center. This was never part of my plan when I moved to Baja. It’s been beautiful but not as spacious as I’d originally planned. Today, I’m feeling more spacious and free. Amidst the rubble, I feel weirdly liberated.

Feeling despair and finding meaning are inversely proportional to each other. At a time when many of us are personally worried about making money, how can we make meaning from this unprecedented collective experience? And, how can we grow closer as a result of being distant?

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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