Byron's Babbles

Making Abnormal Normal

Posted in COVID-19, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Global Pandemic, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 5, 2022

“Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.” Dr. Ryland Grace in Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I loved that line in this great book as it caused me to pause my reading and reflect on how true this really is and how much this has been tested over the past three years. One thing that sets us humans apart from other mammals is our need to look toward the future to define our lives. This is what enables us to survive and deal with crisis and navigate transitions and changes. It has been interesting to follow Dr. Graces’ travel alone (I’ll let you read this great novel to understand why he is alone) on a suicide mission to save the world. He certainly is still looking toward the future to further define his life.

The global pandemic has certainly put us to the test. It is hard to look toward the future for a definition when it just looks like more of the same. But the best leaders I am witnessing now are able to look toward the future and see the new definition. Let’s face it, the way we work has changed, the way we educate has changed, and the way we do just about everything has changed. It is what many are now referring to as the “new normal.” Again, we have taken the abnormal and made it normal. As I write this post I am on an airplane wearing a mask. It is now normal for me as a person who flies somewhere almost every week to wear a mask for hours at a time and think nothing of it.

“…an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

We’ve now been honing in on crisis management as an essential leadership skill. I’ve even been asked to customize some trainings to include leading in a crisis. As I have reflected on what I have read in Project Hail Mary so far I wonder if part of leading in a crisis is finding the best ways to accept the abnormal and make it normal. You can agree or disagree, and I would actually love to hear your thoughts, but some of the coolest things that have come from the pandemic have been just that – accepting the abnormal and making it normal. If you’re saying, “Give me an example.” Here are a few:

  • Working from anywhere
  • Learning from anywhere
  • Flexibility in the workplace
  • Keeping a better pulse on the context in which employees are living and working
  • Businesses, organizations, and schools have learned how to think differently
  • Technology has been embraced in new ways (eg. virtual doctor and dental visits)

I don’t know about you, but I am really glad some to those abnormal things have become normal. I certainly wish it had not taken the abnormality of the pandemic, but we did not get to make that choice. We need to continue to sharpen and use our ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.


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