Life During Lockdown: Peter Abraham
Since the pandemic and its associated lockdown began 10 months ago, a lot has happened in the world. That’s an understatement, and I think many people would say the same sentence applies to their own lives. That includes me. Since April, I’ve been interviewing friends and colleagues to see how they’re coping and posting their answers here on my blog. I called the series Life During Lockdown. To each person, I asked basically the same four questions. The diversity and eloquence in their answers was amazing; everyone has a unique set of challenges, from family tragedy to losing a job to moving one’s home to racial justice. We’re all having to process so many things. And we all have different responses to these challenges. For my 35th and final interview in this series, I’m answering these same four questions myself. I should be able to do the same thing I’ve asked of others. So here goes.
1. Give me some highlights and lowlights from your first two months in lockdown mode
Lowlights: Hundreds of thousands of people dead, in the US alone, from Covid-19. And the death toll is worse now (January, 2021) than ever. While we are lucky that nobody in our immediate family has yet gotten the virus, we do know people who have died. This will go down as one of the worst human tragedies of my lifetime.
Highlights: Getting to help organizations during the crisis. When the pandemic took off in early March of 2020, I immediately recognized that all of us, including myself, had an opportunity to lead during the crisis. I thought back to 2003, when my production company business at the time started taking on water and ultimately crashed. I was in my 30s and had not yet acquired the tools to pull the plane out of the nosedive. My instinct then was to hide under the desk until the storm blew over. I have so much more experience now to go along with a collection of hard lessons learned.
As soon as the lockdown went into effect in March, my wife Kelli and I battened the hatches, cut overhead and kept our eyes open for opportunities to grow personally and professionally. I started advising organizations about how to communicate during the crisis. At the core of my message were these three steps: 1. Be honest, 2. Be empathetic, and 3. Have an action plan. So many businesses, even huge ones with massive communications teams, were stuck in paralysis mode. So I wrote @peterabraham/3-steps-every-brand-needs-to-take-during-the-covid-19-crisis-27759851347e" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">a post about this, and, with my colleague Phat Chiem, gave many webinars for conferences, Shopify sellers, and startups.
When the George Floyd murder put racial justice in front of everyone, I continued to @peterabraham/how-brands-should-communicate-right-now-cb2759cee2fa" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">advise businesses and organizations about communicating and creating action plans in times of change and social unrest. 2020 provided an unparalleled opportunity for businesses to lead with values and deepen the bonds with their communities. The brands that do this will come out of the crisis much stronger than they were before.
2. How have you grown personally and professionally during this disruption?
Personally, our family has experienced tremendous growth over the last year. I would go so far as to say that it’s been transformational for me: I’ve gotten in the best shape of my life, kept consistently busy at work, moved out to the Woodland Hills neighborhood, and picked up consistency as a habit.
This last word is important. Being mostly restricted to our own homes/neighborhoods has allowed me to get into a daily rhythm and build positive habits. I meditate for 10–15 minutes every morning, I’m eating much better because I’m cooking for myself 90% of the time, and I’ve doubled down on my fitness with a training plan and 10–15 hours per week on my bike. My energy is good and I feel productive.
Professionally, I’ve done a variety of different projects for many different interesting clients, including Amazon, Canyon Bikes, the 99 Walks app, USA Cycling, and a number of tech startups. This goes along with my role on the board of the HOKA NAZ Elite professional running team, which is in exceptionally good shape. I’m really proud of the work I did with Canyon to connect them to St Augustine’s University, the first HBCU school with a cycling team. I’m in the middle of creating a video series following the athletes throughout their first season. This team will be widely influential in the cycling community as pioneers who are helping to diversify a traditionally white sport. Here’s the first episode:
3. Has your relationship with your community changed as a result of having no events or meetings on the schedule?
I’m a very social person, whether it’s at work, seeing my friends, or participating in sports events. Community and social contact have been a huge part of my life. I even gave a TED Talk in 2016 about my work in community running. So the lockdown — no eating out, no going to the office, no big group bike rides — was an alien experience for me. Our kids are both in college, and neither came home for summer break. Mostly, it’s just Kelli and me around the house all day every day. I’m happy to report that I’ve survived ok.
While I do miss being out in the real world with people, I’ve picked up some new skills. I’ve learned to work entirely at home, with the exception of a few film shoots while adhering to Covid compliance guidelines. I’ve also learned how to stay in shape without training for an event. Using Strava PRs as motivation, I’ve managed to stay engaged and actually thrive physically while mostly putting in the work solo. Occasionally I’ll ride with one or two friends, but most of the time I’m by myself. I’ll be able to take lots of this self-motivation back to the real world whenever the pandemic ends.
4. Can advisors like yourself create positive change in the world during a crisis like this?
Without question, the answer is yes. We can all help things in our own way, within our family, our community of friends, and our neighborhoods. Professionally, I advise businesses in technology, sports and healthcare on communications and marketing. I only work with clients whose missions align with my own values. To the extent I can help them thrive or even just survive in times like this, then I’ve created positive impact. For instance, if my work allows Canyon Bikes to get more people outside and exercising, then the world is just a little better for all of us. That’s the spirit I’m bringing to my work during the pandemic.