Category Archives: Current Topics

Repurpose Your Content

Once upon a time, to teach meant that you stood or sat in a classroom in front of people and engaged in activities designed to help those people learn something. You might have lectured or presented concepts, theories, or formulas. You might have demonstrated how to perform an activity or experiment. You might have engaged the people in the classroom in a discussion about a topic or a reading. When the time for the class was up, you left the room and interacted with the people only if they had questions or needs, and they most likely came to you during specific times when you were available for consultation.

The content for these classes was in a notebook or file folder, prepared and maintained by you, the instructor. If you shared anything, it was in the form of paper handouts. Sometimes you prepared manuals for distribution to the participants in your classes. In some cases, you may have added audio cassettes or CDs for participants to use when reviewing the lessons. Each person had their own set of materials for their own use.

Times have changed, haven’t they? We are less likely to be in a classroom these days, and the materials we provide may be documents, videos, or audio files stored on a website that participants in training access on their own, according to their needs. The ability to provide new materials and make changes to previous versions has also made updating course content faster (and easier, in my opinion). We are connected to students in a variety of ways: Email, text message, social media, and learning management systems, to name a few.

I believe that the nature of teaching and learning has also changed. We still conduct formal training sessions to present material and give students the opportunity to ask questions and practice; however, there are also informal, social learning opportunities as well. The content we prepare for formal learning can be repurposed and used for informal learning as well.

I have been creating short “Quick Tip” videos for some time. Each one explains to real estate agents how to do something for their business and in some cases, why it’s important. The content for these videos comes from the material I regularly train on in my classroom sessions. Because these are short “Quick Tips,” I use discrete lessons that can be presented in two to four minutes in a video. I typically use no visual aids, and it’s just me in the frame of the video.

These videos are distributed to my social channels (YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn). They also sit on a page on my website. I invite viewers to comment and subscribe, but most people will see the video through social channels as they view their newsfeeds. Recently I took one of the “tracks” we teach as part of the Floyd Wickman Program, the “Referral Lead Generator,” and created a short “how to” video:

I can use this video as a short reminder lesson for students in the program, to promote my business as a Floyd Wickman trainer, and to simply connect with past students who may have forgotten the technique and want to review it for their use. Eventually this video will be linked to my email signature where I invite people to view my latest “Quick Tip.” It gives a broad audience a taste of what I train on and how I present the content.

When I create videos, I order captions and a transcript from an online service. The transcript of the video can be stand-alone content for a blog post or website page. Many podcasts double as audio and video files, distributed to different channels for different purposes. Webinars can be recorded and offered for on-demand learning on a learning management platform or other website. Repurposing content is taking what you have already prepared and using it in a different way.

People learn in different places, at different times, and by different means than they did 20 or 30 years ago. By repurposing your training content and making it available via different channels, you are more likely to reach more students (and potential students) than you might by confining your teaching to the classroom.

Work Today

Truthfully, I don’t really want to sit at my desk today and work. I would rather be anywhere else, but there’s really no where to go. I am not inclined to sit in a coffee shop even if it were open to customers. There’s no place I would go to shop. So here I am at home – still.

Oh yes, there’s work to be done. I feel ambivalent about doing it right now. I will slog through the tasks because I know I need to. There are deadlines to be met (external and internal). What would I rather be doing? Reading? Listening to music? Working on a non-work-related project? The choices overwhelm me and I end up doing nothing or very little.

So why do I feel so guilty? As an independent contractor, it is my choice what I do with my days. Still, I find it hard to relax into my days because it has been pounded into me that idleness or play is not for adults. We must always be working, doing something constructive, achieving. So I chain myself to my desk in hopes that I will be productive and can earn the ability to goof off.

My mind wanders and I end up going down a rabbit hole of internet fun or staring at my to-do list, trying to figure out what I can skip. I think about all the things I want to do and few of them are income-producing activities, and boom! I’m back on guilt island, worried that I will never earn money again and we’ll lose everything.

Notice how I automatically shift from following my desires and being destitute. It feels like a fine line, but really it’s not. I think it is because not doing all the right things, right now, feels like I’m being a slacker who depends on others and gives nothing in return. As someone who lived in a corporate world with responsibilities and expectations for years, it’s hard to adjust to creating my workday in a different way.

Instead of focussing on all the things I haven’t done, I have decided to celebrate what I do accomplish, like writing this article. I came close to deleting the entire contents of the post thinking it was too personal or not specific enough for an article about training. What does this all have to do with training, anyway? I know that in order to stand in front of a group of people, share knowledge, and help them learn, I need time to learn and grow professionally. I need time to contemplate how current events impact the topics that I teach. I need time to relax and renew my commitment to providing the best professional development courses I can.

I am not alone in my feelings of disruption these days. The pandemic continues to upend the expectations we have for ourselves and our businesses. I have decided to give myself permission to pace myself and not do the next task on my list right away. I am learning to be kind to myself, focus on the process, and not worry so much about the results. It’s o.k. to take time away from my business. I know I will come back to it better equipped to tackle the tasks at hand.

Time Off (And What To Do With It)

I initially thought of calling this post “What to do when you’re not working.” The problem with that is for some of us, we’re spending a lot of time not working. Or at least not doing the work we want to do or we were trained to do. For those of us who are independent trainers, the pandemic has caused us to retool our businesses, pivot to different methods of delivery, and/or  spend time perfecting our online delivery of training classes. What happens when you don’t have classes scheduled though?

Sure, it’s summer. Time for picnics and vacations. (Or maybe not this year.) Here’s one thing I know about this time we’re in now: There’s a difference between the time you set aside for pleasurable activities and the time you have off because you don’t have the work you planned for or were able to book.

So what do you do? I can always find a book to read, a video to watch, a new online class to take, or a webinar to watch. Some of this qualifies as continuing education and I participate in it happily. I think we all need to keep learning and employing what we learn in our training. However, I am, like many of the people I talk to, getting tired of watching webinars. I find myself registering for what looks like an interesting presentation and then not attending because I just don’t want to click on another link.

I have books on my shelf that I’ve wanted to read for some time that are waiting for me to pick them up and start or continue reading. I find references to new titles as I read articles and I quickly reserve them at the library for pick up. As time goes on, I begin to feel bad about not reading these books despite having the time to do so.

Instead of feeling bad about not utilizing my time well, I’ve employed a few tactics to keep me engaged and working toward my goals. Here are my ideas for ways to stay working when you’re not:

  • Make a Schedule: I look at my week overall and determine when I will do what each day. I have my previously scheduled appointments, my “business development” time, and regular calls and video conferences. I also create a “top five” list of things to do most days. These keep me on task and working. I schedule my reading and exercise time to ensure that I do these important activities. I love to read, but I often feel guilty about taking the time to sit and read a book. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks while I exercise or do other tasks and then I feel very productive!
  • Say No: Sometimes you just can’t add anything else to your load. It might seem like you have a lot of time to take on another task, but really, can you? I ask myself this every time I see an announcement for an interesting meeting to attend, webinar to watch, or group to join. Sometimes the best response is to say no and focus on the things you really want to do.
  • Practice: For those of us who earn our living teaching and training others, if you’re not in a classroom teaching or presenting online, it may seem like you have nothing to do. Use the time to practice your delivery. If you update course content regularly, you’ll need to spend some time updating your presentation of the material. Find a room and practice. When I moved classes online, I updated the courses to reflect the difference between presenting online vs. in a classroom. Then I fired up Zoom and practiced a bit. Don’t forget to record yourself so you can review the results and continue to refine your presentation.
  • Commit to Learn: There are always new things to learn, but we might need to be choosy about what we commit to do. Where are the gaps in your knowledge? What would help you do your job better? There are likely online courses out there that can help you learn something new or deepen your understanding of a subject. I belong to the Training Magazine Network, and online, social learning community that sponsors webinars and courses for training professionals. I have found TMN to be a great source of information and assistance over the years.
  • Help Others: Sometimes you need to get out of your own head and help someone else. The shift in focus from your problems to someone else’s issues can bring about a clarity you wouldn’t otherwise have. Helping others can take many forms. I’m spending my summer leading a “squad” of women who are all members of the Ellevate Network. I act as a moderator for the group and coordinate our weekly online meetings. It’s not a lot of work, but it does feel good to help others.

These are just a few ideas that I have used to be more intentional about my time and my work this summer. It’s good to have time off to relax and play. It’s also good to use our time well so that we live well.

Five Tips for a Successful Online Event

You’ve probably seen the Progressive Insurance commercial with the people on a video conference where one person can’t seem to get logged in and others talking over one another. Maybe you’ve experienced this on one of the numerous online meetings you’ve attended over the past several months. We laugh because it’s all too real (there’s always someone who can’t figure out how to mute or unmute themselves) and yet painful at the same time. You shake your head at the sight and think, “it’s been almost three months since ‘work from home’ became a thing. Why can’t they get it together?”

It’s one thing for a work meeting to go online and get messed up. It’s an entirely different thing to move a large-scale event online such as a conference or convention and watch it go belly up for a number of reasons. Conferences are intended to be networking and learning events and an online version doesn’t seem to solve anything but the need to not meet in person. So how can you redeem the event you’ve been planning and give attendees something that approximates the live, in-person experience? Here are some tips:

  • Choose your platform wisely. How many people do you expect to take part in the event? What type of activities are you planning? Will you have multiple speakers and will they be in one place or remote? This is point where you decide whether the event will be a video conference meeting or a webinar. In a meeting, participants can, for example, speak, see each other, and be placed in discussion groups. The webinar is a “one to many” broadcasting tool where participants are limited in what they can do and cannot be seen. There are several meeting/webinar platforms that can accommodate and online event. Many people instantly think of Zoom, but don’t forget GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar, Adobe Connect, and WebEx (and others). Depending on the size of the event and what you want to do, you may need to adjust the plan to accommodate the number of participants, etc. Don’t forget to check out recording capabilities or limits, too.
  • Create an agenda with your participants in mind. Give them a break – or two. People may leave the event if they feel like they have no time to use the bathroom or answer a voicemail. You build in breaks for a live, in-person event, so do it for an online event, too. If you’re using a platform like Zoom meetings where people are visible and can speak to one another, add time in your agenda for small discussion or “breakout” groups. This gives participants the ability to network with each other and breaks up the time they spend just watching. You can also create opportunities for networking before or after the main event on the platform. Give consideration to how long the event will run and what you want to achieve when planning your agenda and activities.
  • Determine if speakers can deliver using the online platform. The best speakers can fumble when presenting online. Verify that your desired speakers can deliver well to an online audience or plan to spend some time working with them to ensure a good experience. It’s best if the speaker can be seen by the participants. All speakers should have access to the proper equipment: good internet connection (hardwire is preferable), webcam, microphone, lighting, and uncluttered background. They should understand how to position the camera so that they are looking into it at the proper height. If they are sharing slides, they need to know how to share and advance the slides. If you are engaging a speaker for an online event, ask to see video of one of their online presentations or get on a video conference with them and verify that they know what they’re doing!
  • Engage a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant who knows the platform can handle all of the “I can’t hear” comments in the chat, troubleshoot technical questions, and assign participants to breakout rooms, if you’re using them. In addition to the technical assistance, have members of your team assigned to monitor chat and questions during sessions. Having people in place to deal with the online logistics frees you, the organizer, to focus on speakers and agenda.
  • Deal with the little stuff. There are a lot of little details that go into an event, whether it’s online or in person. You have decisions to make about the program, its length, the topics, registration, etc. Just because your event is online, don’t treat it any less seriously than you would if you were welcoming people to a ballroom with balloons and tote bags. Start planning well in advance of the event. Be determined to create an experience that participants will enjoy and be satisfied that they attended. The devil is in the details!

Events can be a great opportunity for people to gather, even virtually, to exchange ideas, learn something, and get to know someone new. If you plan well and craft your event for the online space, you will give attendees a great experience, limited only by your imagination (and your people’s internet connection).

Can Online Training Be Better?

I have to admit, I like delivering online training classes. I don’t have to “dress for success” (or at least not in the same way) and my commute is very easy. I get to teach from the convenience of my home where I have everything I need at my fingertips. My “assistant,” aka Calvin the wonderful wiener dog, appreciates being able to hang out with me while I teach, too.

I know that people will debate whether online training classes are better or worse than in-person classes. I would contend that poor content and training delivery is bad for learners, regardless where it originates, in a classroom or online. Nevertheless, online training requires the presenter to adapt content and change delivery for the online platform. In person, the trainer can gauge the reaction of the people in the classroom and change delivery or content accordingly. When online, the trainer relies on beefed up participation to get real time feedback. Sometimes this goes awry.

Online training has its benefits though. Both the trainer and participants can be anywhere. This broadens the scope of the trainer’s reach and delivers content to people who might not usually have access to that trainer or topic. Most online platforms are easy to access, depending on internet connection, of course. As a trainer, becoming familiar with various platforms and managing the content and delivery with them necessitates a learning curve. Once you’re familiar enough with a platform, you’ll waste less time trying to figure out what to do and more time actually delivering content.

With a broad reach comes the opportunity for participants to network with people outside their usual circle. I know some trainers who actively discourage participants from using the chat or questions functions to communicate with others. I’m not so concerned with that. I see the chat or questions boxes as opportunities to get to know other participants and engage with them. Most platforms will let you save the chat to your computer. That way, you can refer back to it and connect with other participants outside the formal training session.

This leads me to one of the biggest issues I see with trainers presenting online classes. It’s true that participants can engage with each other even if they aren’t in the same room; however, we must be intentional in creating communities of learning when online. This doesn’t come as easily as when you’re in person in a classroom. There is no natural inclination to talk to other people or exchange ideas when you’re attending an online class. The trainer and the students must make an effort to foster community and participate. From the trainer’s perspective, this can be something as simple as asking people to contribute their name and location in the chat box or more complex such as using breakout rooms with small group exercises. The trainer holds the key to unlocking the door to creating community online.

As we wander back to classroom training, will learners follow? The convenience of online training will continue to appeal to people who may not be able or are just unwilling to travel to an in-person class. The trainer who wants to broaden his/her reach beyond a local geography will continue to embrace and utilize the online space. I can see a move toward more “blended learning” approaches that use online training for the knowledge base and in-person workshops for the application of what was learned online. This type of online training could be static, on-demand courses or live instruction.

This still begs the question: When there’s a choice, will people continue to attend online classes? I think so. Online training existed prior to the pandemic, and it will continue to thrive. The difference going forward is the commitment trainers have to improving the online class. Its ease of use and the familiarity we’ve gained over time will make online training a viable alternative to traditional, in-person classroom sessions.

Life In The New Normal

Some days are better than others in this “new normal.” I create my daily list of things to accomplish and work through them with little difficulty. I’m inspired, creative, and enthusiastic. The sun shines, cool breezes waft through my window, the dog takes naps during my phone calls and online training sessions, and I’m working as efficiently and effectively as I can. Life is good.

Rewind that blissful video to two weeks ago. It was a day full of activity and positive outcomes. And then I tripped on the sidewalk in front of my house and began a period of lost days and head pain. What I thought was a simple tumble turned out to be a concussion. I can’t remember hitting my head, but I did.

When your daily activity is reduced to lying around and trying not to upset the delicate balance of head and stomach, you spend a lot of time thinking about what matters and how to get back to some semblance of normality. I pushed myself to get on Zoom calls and participate in a team meeting, but my body revolted. Back to bed! it said quite emphatically.

During this time of enforced rest, I had to cancel a class I was supposed to deliver online. I realized that there was no way I could deliver a three-hour continuing education class without incident. It’s one thing to fight through a normal headache to do your job. I’ve done it and managed well enough. It’s an entirely different situation to try to ignore a head injury and give students the kind of training they deserve. I missed the income, for sure, but I’m glad to have recognized that I was in no condition to be an effective speaker or trainer.

As time from the injury has passed, I am recovering my ability to make to-do lists and accomplish the tasks on those lists. I feel a real loss of time, though. Yes, I have days when all I want to do it go on vacation where I can escape the mundane. When inactivity is enforced, it’s a different situation altogether. Now, I want those hours and days back when I could have been working toward my goals. I want the joy of accomplishment. When someone asks about this period I want to be able to say I did more than catch up on listening to podcasts and “read” audiobooks. Those kinds of activities don’t necessarily advance my career or business. I feel very unproductive as a result.

I have come to recognize that this drive to always be doing can be dangerous. We get sucked into the idea that only certain activities count and that everything else is fluff. Although I was in pain, I was able to appreciate this enforced inactivity as a time to consider what I want to do with my business and life. I’ve found that I actually enjoy delivering training online. I love to write and produce content people might find helpful. The “new normal” has allowed me the space to consider how to move forward.

I am still recovering and will probably need more time to feel like I did before the injury. Things will get back to “normal” slowly, but surely. It’s hard to wait for that to happen because I have plans and ideas I want to pursue. I guess that’s a good sign that recovery has begun.

Live! And Online

Please, please stop saying “unprecedented” when referring to this global pandemic! It might be a hot mess or crazy times, highly unusual or extraordinary, but please call it something other than unprecedented. We’ve heard that before. Help me to consider the current situation in a different light and you’ll have my attention.

I’ve had to think of my training business in a different way when it became apparent that the pandemic changed how people need to get training. Online training has existed for some time. There are self-paced, digital courses available in many fields. Anyone visiting the “support” or “help” areas on websites for assistance sees many examples of training tools designed to help an end user navigate the steps necessary to do just about anything. These types of training are necessary to provide, but they don’t make up the majority of the type of training I provide.

So what about synchronous training? You know, live, in person training courses that advance a learner to proficiency in a subject or skill. Is it possible to convert that type of training to an online version? I think so. I believe there is the opportunity to engage students in the online space that is not the same as in a classroom, but can still provide a similar experience.

There is also the need to create online versions of static professional development classes. These are often continuing education courses that professionals need because a state regulatory agency recognizes the need to keep licensees updated in their respective fields. The content may not change often, but it does change over time. With no opportunities to meet in a classroom for the foreseeable future, the professional using existing digital offerings depends on classes that are updated infrequently with no opportunity to interact with the instructor or other students.

Classroom training can be converted to online opportunity. What will attract the person who wants to learn the material? In a word: Interaction. A class offered live, online can have a degree of interaction with the instructor and other participants, depending on the platform used to deliver the class. In addition to interaction, current offerings can also deliver up-to-date material.

Here are five strategies I’ve used to convert my classroom-based classes to the online environment:

  • Change the presentation to fit the online environment: You may need more or less words on the slide, depending on how you normally construct your presentations. Consider using different kinds of graphics to illustrate your points. You might want to use video and animation to break up the monotony of the slide deck.
  • Use breakout rooms: Consider using a platform that gives you the ability to assign participants to breakout rooms where they can discuss topics in small groups. Give them questions or topics to discuss in a handout (either send it to them prior to the class and/or let them download it from the platform). Have one person report out of the group when the participants reconvene.
  • Step up their participation: Use polls to solicit answers to questions or feedback. Use techniques such as “Write this down,” “Raise your hand if . . . ,” “wave if you . . . ,” “Write in the chat box . . . .” Take people off mute if they have questions or comments. If you’re asking them to give feedback in the chat or questions features of the platform, read them and respond. You have to be intentional about involving people online because you won’t be able to judge their reactions to what you’re saying as you would in the classroom.
  • Use your webcam: Yes, it’s disconcerting to think that the participants are seeing you but you are probably not seeing them. Talk to the camera and imagine you’re speaking to one (or more). Use gestures. Be animated. Don’t just read the slides!
  • Give them a break: Depending on the length of the class, consider working in a break. Most people can’t sit and pay attention for more than 90 minutes. If your class is an hour in length, there’s probably no need for a break.

All of these adaptations require work. Reevaluate the content of the class. What is essential? What is fluff? Make a meaningful experience for your participants. Give them a reason to be there with you for a live online class. Make it an extraordinary experience.

What is this feeling?

For those of us who are self-employed, Covid-19 could be a blessing or a curse. I see many entrepreneurs and small business owners pivoting and making changes to bring their businesses to people in other, chiefly online, ways. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I see the announcements popping up on social media. There are webinars and calls, e-books and videos. But what about those of us who are just starting our businesses? It’s time to do a lot of “business development,” right? In other words, work to find future rather than now opportunities.

I can embrace that idea and have been trying to make contacts and set appointments for that future date when I’ll be able to hold in-person training classes. I am well-versed at presenting webinars and have done a few recently. Unfortunately, webinars haven’t been replacing my other offerings. This means a loss of income in the short term.

I surprised myself one morning this week by writing the following in my journal: “I think I am grieving for what might have been if this pandemic had not taken hold. It has caused me to consider if I really made the right choice. I feel like I don’t want to go back to where I was, but I don’t see a way forward from where I am now.” If you’re just starting a business when the pandemic hit, your opportunities probably dried up. You are mourning for what might have been. This grief is real. I realized that when, serendipitously, a Twitter notification popped up on my phone that lead me down a social media rabbit hole.

In the process of surveying my Twitter newsfeed I saw a friend’s post where she shared an article from the Harvard Business Review, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.” In this article, the author interviews David Kessler who co-wrote On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Kessler pinpointed what I and others are feeling right now: “Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” My mind races forward three months, six months. I see my nascent business failing and then extinct before it really had a chance to get off the ground. “Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst.”

What is the antidote to this grief? According to Kessler, it’s staying grounded in the present. What can you do now, today to remind yourself that you’re o.k.? In our communities, it can be practicing social distancing. For ourselves, it can be practicing mindfulness of our breath, our physical space, or just washing our hands and staying as healthy as possible.

This article was enlightening and sobering at the same time. Yes, I can give myself permission to focus on the present. I still need a way to earn a living and keep food in the refrigerator. I try to pitch my online offerings to people in a position to hire me. I feel sales-y and somehow inconsiderate. I find myself talking too much on these calls. I know this is the kiss of death (I teach sales skills after all!), but I can’t seem to stop myself. Focussing on what I can do today to advance my business has turned into frustration.

At the same time, I see announcements of webinar offerings by colleagues and competitors. I watch some of these webinars and marvel at how some trainers ever got someone to agree to let them present. I’m a little jealous and mad at myself at the same time. What am I doing wrong?

As more and more trainers race to put their content online in webinars and videos, the market becomes saturated. The audience for all of these online offerings is getting tapped out. How many webinars can you watch in a day or week before you just start deleting the email announcements or scrolling past the posts in your newsfeed. I call this “webinar fatigue.” It’s fine to watch and listen to people telling us what we should do for a while. Then, it turns into nagging and our attention begins to wane. We long for the connection, the dialogue, after a while, and webinars are not a substitute for human interaction.

The best webinar presenters understand this and work hard to create opportunities for connection while presenting. It helps when the presenter is interacting with the audience via the chat or questions function in the platform. Some platforms, like Zoom, give hosts the ability to put people in “breakout rooms” to interact. Sometimes even participants help each other out and start communicating among themselves in the chat. This aggravates some presenters (it’s disrespectful! they aren’t paying attention!) but I see this as a way to create community, even if it is in the context of an online offering.

I suspect that the number of webinar or online offerings will decrease over time and only those that are truly worthwhile, either because of the topic and/or the presenter, will stick around. I can’t worry about that now, however. I need to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can do now, today. If you’d like to talk to me about presenting some training, great. I’d love to connect with you. If you’re tired of training options, connect with me anyway. I’m here to help in any way I can.

Thoughts On Work And Life

What a strange place we’re in! It is as if we are collectively holding our breath as we wait for something new – or maybe the other shoe to drop. We fear getting sick but seemed resigned to what seems like the inevitable. We take precautions and stay away from others. We live in our restricted and restrictive spaces, connected through our computers and smartphones. How long can we continue to talk to disembodied voices or pictures with sound before we forget what it’s like to be in the presence of others?

We make jokes about dressing from the waist up for video conferencing, and it’s a funny thought to wear sweat pants with a dress shirt and jacket. To me, it’s a physical representation of our disjointed lives. We’re at home and we’re at work. We are searching for a new normal in the midst of “stay at home” and social distancing.”

Many have the ability to work from home and manage the job and family in the same place. Of course, other issues arise when the family competes for space and internet bandwidth. Others do not have this luxury. They work in grocery stores, pharmacies, and warehouses. These workers still need child care and transportation. I worry that the “new normal” for these people has added more stress to what was already a difficult juggling act.

What I think this situation may force us to realize is how much we view ourselves from the perspective of our jobs and professions. “What do you do?” has become “What are you” in the work world. Without a specific place to embody that role, what are we? People who worked remotely prior to the pandemic may have already answered this question. For women, and especially mothers who work outside the home, having a clear line between who we are at home and who we are at work was helpful. What do you do when the workplace is home? I don’t have children at home now and it’s still difficult to get my husband to respect my work space and time.

But is who we are defined by others or the space we inhabit? Our individual identities are our own making. If we allow others to define who we are or identify our roles and the places in which we perform those roles as what we are, then we relinquish our autonomy. Why does this matter now? I see people running to redefine their lives because the pandemic has stripped them of their identity as they defined it.

Fear has taken hold of the world. Yes, we will get through this, but at what cost to our psyches? I realize that we, as humans, have the ability to reinvent ourselves many times over during our lives. If we are forced to reinvent ourselves because of an outside/external situation, why do we do it? Because we feel we can learn something new and grow or because one door was closed to us and we are forced to open another one?

I am just beginning to formulate tentative answers to these questions. I feel compelled to provide opportunities to people if they want to learn something new, but I also find myself in the same situation as someone trying to launch a new business. Should I pivot and do something different? What can I offer people to help them get through this?

I worry that our sense of community has been seriously injured also. I mourn the loss of the in-person training sessions I offer because they provide me with a community of learners. Together we approach the material and discover its meaning and/or application. Those learners may be present on the other end of a webinar, but it’s not quite the same as being face-to-face in a room. I do what I can to create connection and participation in live, online training sessions. Analytics are sometimes my only resource to determine if they felt connected and interested.

I hope that we can learn to live together again when we emerge from this pandemic. I think the scars of this disease on our communities will take a long time to fade. My task seems simple, yet profound: to bring people together in communities of learning. In doing this, I play my part in our collective healing.