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We’re All In Different Boats

When the pandemic hit in early March, everyone had to make changes. In addition to observing my own responses, it was interesting to see how other people reacted, as well. Everybody I’ve talked to this year has been impacted, but nobody has been impacted in quite the same way.

I first heard the metaphor that strikes me best to describe this scenario from Katelin Holloway at Responsive Conference 2019: “We are all in the same storm, but we are weathering it in different boats.”

This was true of parenthood and work, which was the theme of Katelin’s talk last year, but it is even more true now across all of our lives.

For me, as the leader of a company, as well as a colleague, friend, brother, and son, recognizing the reality of this metaphor has been an exercise in humility. We never truly know what someone else is going through. And acknowledging this has never been more true than during the current crisis. 

On a day that I might be feeling hopeful, energetic, and ready to get work done, it’s necessary to remember that another member of my team may be in a completely different state. And whereas they might have been able to communicate that clearly to me in the pre-pandemic era, even the expectation that people are able to describe their experience or ask for help, needs to be adjusted in the current times.

The global recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement has increased many people’s awareness that the daily experience of a black person is fundamentally different than that of a white person. So, too, the day-to-day experience of someone who has children at home is completely different than another person without kids. This is true of a wide variety of situations and circumstances: mental health, living situations, physical wellbeing, and more.

There is no simple solution to this challenge. Throughout this year, I’ve had to remind myself that I, too, have never lived through a global pandemic and am figuring things out as I go along. The best that any of us can do is recognize that our experiences do not necessarily echo another person’s, and we must continually update our awareness.

We are all in different boats. We don’t know what someone else is experiencing. The only recourse is to show up with greater empathy.

By Robin Zander

Robin is the author of this blog. He is a dancer, producer, and entrepreneur, and passionate about learning and behavior change.

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