There are people who have become sick. Some have died, and many have lost a loved one. There are far more dreams that are the casualty of Covid-19. Tonight, Tony Lister mourns the losses that extend beyond the lives of those directed infected by the virus. He gives tribute to the dreams that are disrupted, to the lives that have been poured into the countless businesses and jobs that have been lost, and to the possibilities that have been disrupted.
I’m excited that you're joining me. I'm going to keep my message short. I'm dressed in the traditional Nepali dress, which is funky. It's this cool looking black hat and you get these funny pants that are wide in the waist. I'm in my office. Where this is in terms of timeline, this show is all over the map as far as timelines go. We're right in the middle of the Coronavirus stuff and everybody's on lockdown. California, Ohio and New York shut everything down. Kids are out of school. They're goofing off and pretending to be homeschooling. I'm having this awareness in me lamenting of what was because the world's not going to be the same for any of us. You can't disrupt the marketplace like this and then have it all turned back on. That's a ridiculous idea that maybe a politician might believe, but I've been an entrepreneur for many years and you can't do that. There's this awareness that I'm having of my dear friends who have these businesses that are their lifeblood. It's not just a business, it’s an expression of their being.
These businesses are disrupted and they have to lay off employees and these employees who show up in the space of working for these entrepreneurs, this is their lifeblood. This is their expression of being, particularly those that show up and have this beautiful expression of their work. It's not just a paycheck. It's an expression of who they are as a human being. All of this is disrupted and there's this giant unknown in the marketplace. We don't know where this plane is going to land. For some of us, it's going to be a complete utter disaster reset. It’s going to challenge us to the core of who we are as human beings. Our identity is going to get challenged. It's the marketing side of me. I've studied marketing. We respond as human beings, this knee-jerk response when there's a fear of loss around survival, reproduction and status. All of that is challenged for all of us. We're in this holding pattern ever since the quarantine was going. What the hell is going on? What is this? What's going to happen? Where is it going to go? What's going to be? What about my job? What about my stuff? What about my house? What about my livelihood? What about my ability to provide? Who am I in society if this goes sideways? How do I pay my rent? How do I pay my mortgage? How do I pay my employees?
It's this expansive thing I've never witnessed ever before. I went completely broke in the 2008, 2009 real estate crash. I went from having about $1 million to then being completely broke and not knowing how I was going to heat my house for the winter. With four kids at the time, I was terrified. The worst part about it was my identity was crushed. I thought I was somebody because I had achieved business success. It validated this broken part of my identity that as a teenager people said, "You're never going to amount to anything." Much of my success was trying to prove those old men wrong that I was somebody and I was something. All that fell apart, which was harder than selling my houses, my cars, my motorcycles, my furniture, the dishes, the silverware to so low.
That was hard. That was uncomfortable. That was embarrassing but my identity was crushed. What was I as a human being? What was I in terms of being a valuable person now that I got completely obliterated? I went into hiding. I went into this place of going into hiding. I moved out of my home that had been my dream home and all I could afford. I sold my car and I paid the rent on this house I saw online. It looked nice on the outside and they had redone the siding on it. It was this 50 or 60-year-old house and on the inside, it was completely not updated since the '50s. It’s rundown. You turned on the shower and the pipes would bang in the walls.
You go down into the cellar basement, all the children were terrified to go into. They wouldn't go down to the laundry room. I was down there doing laundry and I looked up on the wall and there was a an 8-foot-long snakeskin. If you can imagine the dowel, the piece of wood in your closet, it was like a snakeskin that long hanging off the rafter of the beams of this awful old cellar of a basement where our laundry room was. I got up there with a stick to knock it down because I didn't want anybody in the family to see it. I was terrified. I was like, "If they see this, they will be freaked out." When I got up there to knock it down with a stick, I looked up into the rafters up underneath the subfloor of the house, and there were 100 of those snake skins hung in there. From this space of hiding, my next-door neighbor was this published author and the CBS News van would come and interview him. I'd see CBS Evening News coming over to interview him because he was an important author and I felt like such a nobody. It was such a difficult reset of my identity.
I'm sitting here and I put on this traditional Nepali dress because I'm in mourning. I had this incredible life-altering experience with this group of people at our spiritual adventure retreat. I made some episodes from there, not knowing what I was coming home to. Barely getting back into the country before everything got shut down. I'm in this place of mourning for my dear friends who took the risk to start a business, who figured out how to make it happen, who created a valuable product or service in the marketplace, who put their blood, sweat and tears into it. It's completely disrupted. My dear friends who pour their lives into other people's businesses, who show up for work every day as these incredible employees. They’re not just there for a paycheck. They're there to move a cause for. They're there to express themselves as a human being and their preferences to work as an employee.
They're not better or worse. Every one of us is needed in this cycle and in this process. Their lives and their games are disrupted. These things are disrupted. I'm sitting here and I was feeling the sadness and the uncertainty in the hearts and the lives of many people that I love. I'm reading about this all across the world. Our entire world is shell-shocked and this place is going, "What do I do?” It's this deep challenge in the core of who we believe we are. Our survival and our livelihood is challenged. Who are we? How do we provide? What are we going to do? This tremendous fear that comes up.
Reproduction, this instinct for sex, this instinct to connect. This instinct to pass on our genes, but it's deeper than that. It's this need to be known, witnessed and touched. It's uncertain because our finances and our situation are uncertain. The third one is the status. Who are we? Each of us is desperately trying hard to be somebody and to be enough. We do this for this outside thing. If I can be enough for these people, if I can get enough people online to validate me, if I can get enough people to buy my product, if I can show that I have these things, if I can be sexy enough, if I can get enough people to want to have sex with me, if I can show that I have this value, this draw, this importance, then maybe deep down inside me, I feel like I'm okay.
All of this is this quest. It's not about the survival on the outside. It's not about the reproduction or having others validate us that we're sexy, attractive or desirable. They want to be with us or we have some value. It's not status that we're somebody. It's this quest on the inside of us to convince ourselves that we're okay, that who we are is valuable, that we're enough. To create a place where we can feel safe. We never really get there, that we're lovable enough. Unless we deeply learn to love ourselves, we never really get there, that we're important enough. Unless we honor who we are as a being, it's never enough. I was sitting here and I'm lamenting the dreams lost. I'm lamenting the lives invested in this quest that we all have. I'm contemplating the journey I went through when I lost all of those things and I went through years of hiding. Years of deep and secretly inside of me thinking there's something wrong with me.
I’m externally putting on a show, putting on a presentation, making money and getting stuff, but deep inside thinking I was messed up. If you knew me, you couldn't love me. I'm watching the whole world get rocked at the same time. The games we've been playing, they're going to change. How are they changing? I don't know. Who knows? No one has a crystal ball. Some people are going to make money. Some people are going to lose money. Some people are going to have it super difficult. Some people are going to create opportunities from this. I don't see the people that make a bunch of money from this as lucky. I don't see the people that completely implode and they go through struggle as unlucky.
Those of us that are truly the lucky ones are those that can step back from this chaos, this global reset, this uncertainty, this survival instinct that we have as a planet. We've never done this at the same time as a planet, as a species of human beings, as the human race. We've never gotten shocked like this before. Those of us that are the luckiest are those that can realize that at this moment, it's okay to be human. It's okay to be scared. It's okay to not know what to do next. It's okay to not know how it's going to play out. It's okay to want to huddle together, to hold each other and to cherish those who we love. It's okay to not know where the next paycheck is going to come from or how are we going to pay rent or how are we going to pay our mortgage? If we're going to have to leave our possessions, what are we going to do? What happens to society?
What about this awful social distancing? We're not allowed to touch each other. We're not allowed to hug each other. We're not allowed to connect with each other. We're forced into this strange isolation because the powers that be tell us this is how you're going to be safe. Our instinct towards safety and survival keeps us from being the very thing that we are. Flesh, living, breathing, wanting, loving and needing human beings. The luckiest among us can see past the collapse of empires, can see past the transition of life circumstances, possessions, living arrangements and job situations, can see past the terror, fear and uncertainty that can grip us. It can see past the changes in who's who and who's not and connect with ourselves as a human being and go, "It's okay to be afraid.” It's okay to cry. It's okay to want to huddle together and hold each other and feel like we're okay in this moment to go back to what we've been doing for eons. Sitting around the fire, not knowing where the next meal is coming from, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, not knowing what lurks in the darkness. Leaning into each other and holding each other in the dark, not knowing when the light's going to come again.
I wanted to dress up a little time. Breathe in a little bit of the magic that I experienced before the whole world changed. Breathe in this outfit I wore at the orphanage when we had the dance party for the orphans and they wanted to dance. All of us adults were done dancing and they wanted to dance. They want to hold each other and celebrate this moment of being alive. Whoever you are, whatever you're facing, whatever crazy uncertainties are going on inside of you, it's okay to be human. It's okay to be afraid. It's okay to not know. It's okay to want to feel safe. It's okay to want to be known, to be witnessed by another human being, to not have to show up other than our flawed, scared, beautiful, open-hearted and loving selves. To not know where we fit in this whole game of society. The game of musical chairs is reshuffling. The lights are out. We don't know if the chairs are going to be there when the lights are flipped back on? If you can have this experience in you and let you be okay at this moment to be human, to be scared, to want to be loved. Maybe if you're lucky to be able to be courageous enough to say so and find another human and screw all this ridiculous social distancing, give somebody a hug and let yourself be hugged, then you're the lucky ones. We can do this. We need to remember to hug each other. Thank you for giving me a reason to share. In the meantime, create yourself a fantastic day.