Military Wire: How do we not repeat 2020 in 2021?

“How do we not repeat 2020 in 2021?” That was a question posed to me in an online speaking event several weeks ago (think about that for a moment – an “online speaking event”). My response was likely a bit unexpected, as I shared a very creative exchange between God and Gabriel that a friend shared with me explaining 2020…of which I’ll share with you here in a bit.

There are few people that have not been impacted by the events of 2020. Most do not want to repeat 2020. Many of us, during these unparalleled times, have experienced traumatizing, almost paralyzing feelings. Especially in the early months, many people we know felt stuck.  Frozen. It is now common to hear that “routines are no longer routine.”

Our neighbor met us in the street, in tears. She is a strong woman from Texas, her husband from England. Both highly educated, smart, God-fearing, and masters at raising four young children.

In tears, she shared how she “just couldn’t do it anymore.” Trying to get three of the four kids to pay attention to their Zoom classes, manage the little one, while working from home was beginning to break her.

She is not alone. The Washington State Department of Health issued a statement a few months back suggesting that those of us who work on the mental health side of issues be prepared for 2 to 3 million Washingtonians to have acute mental health issues originating from this COVID response.

So, months back I began a journey to discover how to combat this overwhelm, this overload of uncertainty, chaos, confusion, and negativity.

Since I run an organization dedicated to military families, I sought to find the key that could help everyday families not just persevere but prosper – mentally, physically, and financially during crisis.

What was fascinating is my search led me back to the military and to a little-known military term, born in the fog of war, called VUCA.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

For three decades, VUCA has been the key to how the military not only deals with an uncertain, irrational, fast-changing world, but turns challenges and crisis into opportunities and success.

VUCA is a key known to only 1% of the world.

The VUCA acronym is attributed to Army War College Graduate Gen. James D. Thurman and it was based on the ideas of Bennis and Namus, cited in their book: Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge.

VUCA perfectly presaged what is happening in the world today. A world that is become increasingly uncertain and unstable.

But there is an effective strategy for combating VUCA – and that is The VUCA Principle: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Adaptability/Agility.

In my quest for answers, I sat with some of America’s top military strategists like GEN George Casey Jr, former Chief of Staff of the Army who teaches “Living in a VUCA World” at Cornell, and LTG William Boykin, founding member of DELTA Force who speaks on courage, and MG Bob Dees who talks about being God-centered and how to develop resilience. My friend and fellow sailor CDR Mark Divine, founder of SEALFit and Unbeatable Mind, shared the importance of Mindset and vertical learning, while Futures Strategists Joe DuFresne and Peter Kennedy shared how agencies and successful companies develop effective future planning despite an unpredictable future.

When I sat with Dr. Robin Fenn, a cognitive behavioral health clinician, she assured me that my feelings of uncertainty were normal and neuroscience expert Reut Schwartz Hebron gave me confidence that I didn’t have to “stay stuck.” That we can in fact “rewire our brain” to more positive thinking.

And then there was Shellie Willis. Talk about a woman committed to helping people “redefine” themselves. A former Master Sergeant and now CEO of an organization, she drove right to the point – people need to stop waiting for someone else to take responsibility. The responsibility starts with the one looking back in the mirror.

Needless to say, the experience changed my life. And it can truly help you not repeat all the negative stuff you may have experienced this year.

On Nov. 13-14, I am personally inviting you to this life-changing virtual summit, It runs from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 13 and 8 a.m.-11 a.m. Nov. 14 and includes world leaders who will share how you, your friends, family, and your businesses can go beyond just surviving to thriving in these times of chaos, crisis and confusion. Proceeds help support our military and veteran families.

So my response to the question, “how do we not repeat 2020 in 2021” prompted me to share this creative exchange between God and Gabriel, that went something like this:

God: Gabriel, have you finished setting up future events for the 2020s?

Gabriel: Yes, God, I have – wait…did you say 2020s, plural? As in the decade?

God: Of course, what else?

Gabriel: I thought you meant 2020 the year.

God: You put a decade of history into one year?

Gabriel: …yes.

God: Well…shoot.

Whether or not this year has felt like a decade of experiences packed into a year, learning how to navigate a VUCA world will be key as traditional approaches are no longer sufficient to address the volume of rapid-fire changes change we are seeing.

We’ll need foresight in an uncertain environment in flux. And though, we have little idea what to expect tomorrow, I can assure you that The VUCA PRINCIPLE gives us a compass where there are no roads.

— By Mike Schindler

Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares –– a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.


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