Quitting is Not an Option

July 8th, 2020

“If we quit, we will never know what we can achieve together.”

It was great to get away for a week. We headed off on a road trip over the Fourth of July holiday to visit close friends in Chicago and Amarillo, Texas. Aside from the sheer joy of a brief renewing of priceless friendships, there was no joy to witness the visible signs of an economy in distress as we all do our very best to slog through the global pandemic and recession. 

From Indiana to Texas and back it was 2,516 miles of beautiful and diverse scenery punctuated by empty parking lots, shuttered establishments and “open for business” signs with no business inside. We discovered hotel lobbies eerily empty of staff and guests alike, coffee shops silent of anticipated chatter and locked doors despite posted hours of operation. 

It was a delight to visit with the member-owner of a Do it Best hardware store in Texas. Unfortunately, they had plenty of time to spare on an all-too-quiet afternoon. It was not as much fun to find plenty of seating at a national chain restaurant with an extended wait for service due to a single staff member tending bar and waiting all tables. 

Beyond the very serious public health impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic is having equally serious implications on the workforce, customers and suppliers.

At a current national 11% unemployment rate, it is bizarre to think that employers are begging workers to return to work. And unfortunately, the pandemic has created a population of fear-filled consumers yet hesitant to utilize air travel, barely fill restaurants even at reduced capacity or book rooms at hotels. We should not be surprised to discover that the economic balance of a sustainable business requires both productive employees and paying customers. 

For certain, we have a long way to go under very uncertain conditions to fight through a global war on the health, economic and emotional threats of the coronavirus. This will not go away on its own.

Throughout our road trip, it was readily apparent that the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy as Americans have been severely restricted by executive orders and very real health concerns. While this seems so foreign and challenging for our time, I can’t help wonder about the struggles of the past and the previous generations that conquered the great depression and World War II. 

It is hard to even imagine the economic and social trauma of those two single historical events in close succession. In any case, the courage and tenacity of that generation earned them a rightful title of the “greatest generation.”

My Dad was one of them. I am pretty sure I know what he would say if I could ask him today, “How did you all get through it?” I know what he would say because I heard him say it just once. I will never forget that moment.

I was 20 years old, just finished my second year at the Naval Academy, and had decided I was done for good. I was throwing in the towel. I was not going back again. I was done. Between me and freedom from that place was finding sufficient courage to tell my Dad. He was a man who spoke his mind, no matter how blunt or poorly timed. Perhaps rooted in the travails of his depression-era childhood, he lacked no courage in expressing his views, and I was certain he would be none too happy with my decision.

We went for a walk, and I was within seconds of my fateful declaration. Mercifully, he beat me to the draw.  Without prompting he called me out and said very plainly, “I think I know what you are getting ready to tell me. Whether you decide to stay or leave the Academy, son, that is your decision.” For only a few seconds, I felt as if I had escaped the guilty verdict. 

But, my Dad was not finished. Hardly pausing, he continued with the sentencing, “I believe you have subconsciously quit already.”

Hearing those words really stung knowing I was disappointing him and myself. For impact, he let those words sink in for a moment so I could brace myself for the punch line.

“If you quit, you will never know what you can achieve,” he said.

He was right, and it applies to all of us today as much as it did to those in the last century.

My Dad took no pleasure in saying what needed to be said. And yet, I have been the beneficiary of his courage to call it for what it was⁠—I was not giving my best. He saw more in me than I saw in myself. And that has made all the difference at so many crucial moments in my life.

How many of us have benefitted from similar moments when a mentor, spouse, friend, parent or pastor called us out at a critical moment and wouldn’t let us quit?

What can we all do individually and together to struggle through these unprecedented and difficult times? I can’t speak for others, but here is my personal list, having witnessed the symptoms across four states in the last few days.

  • Double down on healthy protocols – I get it. We are all tired of being reminded to sanitize everything, wash hands, wear masks and social distance. I am reminding me that this must be a consistent routine to protect me, my family and others. Protection from COVID-19 is about safety protocols and practices, not about place. Read more about the Regional Partnership's Back to Office plan in a blog recently written by Vice President Vanessa Hurtig.
  • Live vibrantly – I do everything I can to go about living a full and complete life in every respect possible. It’s just simple things like recreation, eating out, spending time together with family and friends, going to our place of worship and attending as many in-person meetings as possible. I am going to get as safe and comfortable as I can while interacting with other people to enjoy relationships and buy all the goods and services that I can afford.
  • Support Economic Development Professionals – I encourage leaders to be an outspoken advocate for the efforts of local economic development professionals in Northeast Indiana. Theirs can be a lonely and thankless job. Every day, they awake on the front lines and in the trenches helping local companies to survive, recover and sustain their business activity and employees. In the final analysis, the economic development of communities and businesses is a very local battle with significant benefits and downside risks. Our dedicated ED professionals deserve our full support on the frontlines of this global pandemic and recession.
  • Experience Make It Your Own Mural Fest – Finally, I am looking forward to Northeast Indiana’s Make It Your Own Mural Fest September 8-18. This is a year marred by canceled public events and gatherings. Frankly, we all need to get together safely and enjoy public art outdoors to advance the very unique and special place that Northeast Indiana has become. I cannot think of a better way than hanging out with fellow residents to observe regional and national artists “paint the town” to attract and retain visitors and residents alike. This is going to be awesome and I can’t wait to watch it unfold! Read the recent news release announcing two Mural Fest artists.

Now, it is up to us. We have suffered the Great Recession and now a global pandemic is upon us, each with their unique hardships and great uncertainties. 

Quitting is not an option.

You’ve read my list above. Make your own list. Commit to lead, and do all that you can and all that we can do together to win the fight against COVID-19 and the global recession.

If we quit, we will never know what we can achieve together. Onward!

Categories & Tags covid19