A few days ago, as I was in lockdown in my home (as with many other across the world who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic), I received a forwarded WhatsApp message from a friend. I was getting close to a few hundred of these messages a day and was about to delete it, but then saw it was apparently written by Bill Gates, the co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, and a great philanthropist who has given and still gives away billions to combat poverty and to help make this world a better place.
Naturally, this piqued my interest and I started reading it and I am glad I did. I believe many of us learn very important lessons in times of crisis. Now, being curious about everything I read, I started to see if Mr. Gates really authored this letter, and true enough (as I suspected), it was not penned by him at all.
I sighed and was about to delete the WhatsApp message, when I re-read it and realised it had unearthed some profound insights and wisdom about this pandemic. So, instead of deleting it, I extracted the entire open letter titled ‘What is the Corona/ COVID-19 Virus Really Teaching us’ and am sharing it with you. Bill Gates didn’t write it – but nevertheless it has much to offer. Have a read below:
A Letter NOT written by Bill Gates:
I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ COVID-19 virus is really doing to us.
1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should too.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another.
It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals.
If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.
4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick.
Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.
5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.
6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this.
It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.
7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do.
Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.
8) It is reminding us to keep our egos in check.
It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
9) It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands.
We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self.
Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colours.
10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic.
We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.
11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning.
This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick.
It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.
13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease.
Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.
14) Whereas many see the Corona/ COVID-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a ‘great corrector’.
It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.
– by Bill Gates
Whoever wrote this note truly believed that despite the chaos and the uncertainty, there is ‘a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens’. I concur with the author that in the madness and pain that surrounds us, this ‘great corrector’ may have a larger purpose that may yet bind us together and unite us.
As we all battle together against this virus that is not only destroying our health, but also the economy and causing so much fear and panic, we are all rallying behind a united cause.
Much of change happens in crisis. Einstein once said that “It’s in the middle of difficulty that we find opportunity.” I agree fully with him. At Leaderonomics, we are learning, right in the middle of this crisis, and are finding new ways to do the work we do. We are finding out so many new ways to help add value to organisations and people and quickly making obsolete our old ways of getting work done. This would never have happened before the crisis or after (in better times). This was forced on to us and it is making us better.
I was just sharing with my own Leaderonomics team about a podcast by John Maxwell, which I heard recently. Maxwell quotes Forbes who says:
Crisis changes the balance of risk and reward. In normal times we don’t make changes as we should because we fear the risk associated with change. During a crisis the risk tolerance increases because the alternatives are unacceptable.
A crisis forces us to focus like nothing else will. Everything, no matter how much loved, how beautiful, how nice, is being discarded if it is not essential, if it does not help us to survive. This reinforces our need to discard our old ways of work and even maybe even the way we think/believe.
We need to discard statements like ‘this is how things are done’ or ‘this is what the client expects’ as a crisis truly forces us to focus on survival and the essentials.
John Maxwell adds that we can’t manage out of crisis, we must lead out of crisis. And leadership is critical now. There is so much bad leadership in the world today. From Presidents in the United States, to incompetent Prime Ministers in Malaysia and many other countries during this crisis period, we see the vacuum of leadership in the world. We need to lead others and not wait to be led.
Maxwell goes on to add that ‘no incremental change will suffice’. Incremental change cannot work in a crisis. He uses education as an example. Online learning has been around for about 15 years and it has shown steady growth. Now it’s the only alternative for many, and many who were opposed to using it now have to use it and are beginning to see that there are benefits to it. They now use it and they will never go back to what was once normal. Crisis pushes us out of our comfort zone and into our creative zone.
Editor’s note: Silhouette also looks like Roshan but is not. Oh the irony.
And I think we can feel similarly at Leaderonomics. This crisis will bring out the most creative in all of us and enable us to truly transform people and organisations in a way that will ultimately transform our country. And we may have to do it very differently from how we may have originally envisioned the process.
So, regardless if this article was written by Bill Gates or not (well, it was not!), it still inspired me to view this pandemic as an opportunity. An opportunity to reinvent ourselves and my organisation, Leaderonomics. I do hope you too will look at it as a great opportunity to view life and the world differently. Thank you to whoever wrote this article and I am going to use it to inspire myself and my team at Leaderonomics to make a difference in this world!
Stay safe, stay well and let’s fight this together!