Attitude Counts

Overcoming Crisis By Keeping Steady

By Dale Bierce
April 2020

We all remember the horrible images: Jetliners flying into the World Trade Center. Just like that, life changed.

I was the sole provider for my wife and our three children. The questions came instantly. What does this mean? What will happen to us? How will I provide for my family? Within a week, my daily routine disintegrated into a series of random activities. My income disappeared. I was a mess.

One day, I wandered into the office of one of my coworkers. His name was Mike. I was depressed and complaining. Mike was more than 25 years my senior, so I sought his wisdom. “What do we do in times like this?” I asked.

His answer was simple. “Keep the main thing the main thing,” he said.

I asked what he meant. He said, “If this wasn’t happening, what would your daily life be like? What things do you do every day that are part of your familiar routine?”

I rattled off a list—a morning run, talk with the kids before school, talk with my wife before work and be a good employee and coworker. There was more: Be a good neighbor. Call my dad or brothers once a week. Spend time with the kids every night. Review their schoolwork. Spend alone time with my wife.

Mike told me to retain as many of those routines as possible. Then add things that make sense. Talk to a neighbor every day. Call a distant relative. And do something completely unproductive. Don’t forget something fun or silly or stupid. (Mike called the last category I Ain’t Dead Yet.)

Within a week, not much had materially changed. Yet I felt better. My ability to focus, plan and figure out next steps became easier.

It took a year or more to get anywhere near back to normal, but my family survived. Today my kids are grown. I became a grandfather in October. And in a way, history is now repeating itself. I have my own company, but three fourths of my client companies are frozen solid by the coronavirus. With clients at a standstill, my company is in limbo. My son is in the same situation I was 19 years ago.

But this time, unless I become a death statistic, our crisis won’t be as painful. This time I will help people the same way Mike helped me in 2001. Some people I can to help with words, some with deeds and others with funds. But I will do my best to help.

I made a list of categories including family, health, relationships, home, business, friends and society. Under each I listed small actions to take. Next, I wrote down my daily routine and noted items that have been forcibly removed. I replaced them with items from the first list.

This morning I went for my run, careful to dodge walkers by at least 6 feet, smiling and saying hello. I’m going to take my mountain bike to an empty parking lot and see if grandpa can still ride wheelies.

There isn’t anything I can offer to change what you and your family are experiencing. I hope that you find some measure of peace in striving to maintain your familiar routine to the greatest degree possible. This means keeping your main thing the main thing every day, or at least doing your very best to try.

Dale Bierce is a local sales trainer with Sandler Training in Sacramento. He can be reached at

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