When COVID-19 makes everything feel out of control, we can control one thing: helping each other

When Richard Curtis offered his LinkedIn followers 90 minutes of help per day two weeks ago, he never expected so many would take him up on the offer, or that he'd learn so much himself.

Two weeks ago, I sat down for lunch with a couple of my team members to talk about COVID-19 and what it might mean for the business.

Now, it almost feels like a moment from another time. Yes, we kept our distance, mindful of the growing menace, and the conversation was a strange mix of optimistic and ominous. But one throwaway thought, a suggestion by one of my teammates, prompted me to post this message on LinkedIn later that afternoon.

After three days, that post had 30,000 views and I had a diary full of meetings with people looking for some help and advice. By the end of the week, it was suggested to me that I might want to build a website with booking functionality to make it easier to help more people – easier for me and for them.

Over the weekend, Thirty:3 came to life.

Thirty-minute chats: three times a day.

The magic of Squarespace, integrated with Calendly, integrated with Google, integrated with Zoom did the rest.

By the end of this week – still only week two – 25 people will have taken me up on my offer. People young and old, from Sydney to Saskatchewan, talking about their plans to produce climate change documentaries and export vintage clothing brands. It’s been great to be able to help people every day – and so far, it does feel as though I have been able to help – but I have learned a few things too.

Firstly, everyone feels challenged but no one feels defeated. Granted, the people who reach out to me are likely to be more predisposed to a positive outlook, but not one of them has used COVID-19 as an excuse. If anything, it seems only to have steeled their nerve to do the thing that’s on their mind, one way or another. And that thing is typically to do with how they might grow – their experience, their career, or their business.

Secondly, one of the ways I sometimes find myself helping people is to introduce them to someone I know who can also help – whether that’s because they might know more than me, or simply offer another perspective. Every time I’ve suggested an introduction, both parties have said yes without hesitation, and I’d like to think there’s something special in the human connection that we all feel.

Thirdly, I’ve been heartened, perhaps even inspired, by the fact that people are indeed willing to ask for help. In a world that can sometimes feel proud but shallow, dominated by ‘likes’ but little more, I had initially wondered whether anyone would actually engage. Maybe they would simply think that it was a good idea, but not necessarily one worth doing.

But the bookings keep coming, and the more I’ve been asked for help, the more I’ve felt inspired to do the same. The fact that I asked for help with the website is a perfect example. Whereas I might have felt guilt in the past, I now feel only gratitude.

It’s been nearly two weeks and I’ve been asked a lot of questions. That’s not to suggest I know all the answers, far from it, but rather, I’ve been learning too. About growth – sometimes through adversity as much as opportunity – about the need for human connection, and about the true value of asking one another for help.

Who knows what the weeks ahead will hold, but I’ll be holding on for those three things, now more than ever.

Richard Curtis is CEO Asia Pacific of Future Brand


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