Changing perspectives during COVID and social unrest

Steven Loeb · July 24, 2020 · Short URL:

Entrepreneurs share their journeys via "Becoming Us" a BetterHelp series 

On Thursday, Vator and BetterHelp held their second Becoming Us session, a new program to help professionals build mental resilience through these surreal times filled with an unprecedented lockdown, lost opportunity, soul-searching protests and political unrest. As we transition to a new normal, we wanted to create a judgment-free place where people could share their unique journeys - struggles, hopes, etc. And in so doing, inspire others. 

This session, hosted by Christian Lamb, licensed clinical social worker at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and owner of Inspired Online Counseling, and moderated by Vator CEO Bambi Francisco, was focused on fear and anxiety and it provided a way for to ask questions and share their personal and/or professional journeys during COVID.  

Here's how a few of them shared their journeys.   

Garrett Johnson, Co-Founder of Lincoln Network:

“My emotions over the past few months have really been all over the place. So, when COVID first set it, my sister, who's older by seven years old, in her early 40s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so you've got this pandemic that no one knows what to do with and people were still trying to figure out the large implications. It impacts everyone across the world at the macro level and then, on a very personal level, my sister is diagnosed. And then, on top of that, as research started to become more public, you started to hear about the implications of COVID on people of color, on Black communities and Hispanic communities. Part of me was just trying to make sure that I was taking this certain situation seriously, that my family was taking it seriously. There were some studies coming out saying that it could lead to increased blood clotting, a heightened level of blood clotting, in African Americans. I take blood thinners every day for a preexisting blood thinner coagulation issue, I have a family history in it, so it just really elevated my concern for myself and my family. We're going to Stanford tomorrow to have my children tested to see if there's any link between my medical condition and anything that they might encounter. So, just lots of questions, lots of concerns. 

Then, as Don mentioned, it’s almost a perfect storm of an economic crisis, a health crisis and now you have this social and cultural crisis that we confront. And one fear that I certainly have is the victim narrative that has gotten so much coverage. It almost seems like more and more people are feeling that they are constrained by their circumstances or constrained by history. And, in pushing that narrative and embracing that narrative, you rob people of agency, of the ability to change their circumstances, and believe that there is still opportunity and hope and redemption for themselves personally and for our larger society. I've just been concerned that we, as African Americans, we as Americans in general, can't lose sight of that idea that we are not constrained by history, we are not constrained by our circumstances, we can overcome them. And we can't get stuck and mired down in this notion that everything that happened in our past will continue to shape and dictate our future."

Chris Surdi, former Head of Enterprise Sales, West and APAC at Segment:

“Blocking out the negativity, or having the strength to do that, is also a challenge for people. It's so easy to let the outside world influence you, and, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, my wife tends to tell me that I really don't care what other people think. And, for the most part, it's kind of true. I love people's opinions and I love them to tell me what they think but I'm not gonna internalize it and let it affect me. As an entrepreneur or an angel employee, if I let that happen to myself, I probably never would have started companies or worked for startups. I would have just gone a different path.

The quick anecdote there is that my second company I started, I literally had people telling me, ‘You're just a kid, you can't do it.’ And, lo and behold, I started a company and sold it four years later, and the same people who told me I was a kid and couldn’t do it or just had their mouths shut. So, if you listen to the negativity and you absorb it and you let it affect you, then bad things can happen. There's this piece, or my position on this, anyway, is there's another strength piece that people need to focus on: having the strength to block out that negativity or put that shield on. Personally, in recent times, I’ve been reading the Bible a lot and just being in a lot of prayer, remembering verses like Ephesians 610 through 17. Just to continue to keep that shield on and know that there's bad things that happen, there's bad people, and there's a lot of stress right now but to internally be strong and to know who you are and to just stay confident in that in this time of negativity. It's a real challenge but I personally have found the more I've done that, the more calm and less stress and less anxiety and less fear that I've had."

Dave Quisumbing, Owner of Mr. Q's Food Products:

“How I'm handling this, it's more economical that I'm suffering because I started a bunch of businesses. I started a food truck last year and this year all my festivals got canceled. I opened, a couple years ago, a bunch of acai bowl stores, and a couple of them are open and they’re doing okay but three of them aren't gonna ever open again because our rent’s too high and they were built around primarily schools and gyms, and those are all closed. Last year, I bought into a bar, and we did so well during the winter but right when COVID hit it got closed and we're only open for outside dining now but that's not enough, so we don't know how much longer that's gonna last. The thing you have to do during these times is, I guess, more less appreciate that you know other things in life and be grateful for. I mean, every time I travel to a third world country or even when I used to go back to the Philippines, I always liked to say, ‘Wow, how great, I have it here in the States.’

The things people complain about are just crazy compared to how good we really have it. I just recall this one experience where I was stopped at a traffic light and then I had this four year old knocking on the window begging for food and they can't even afford clothes, they're naked. It's like, ‘Wow, you know, my little complaints compared to people who are living lives like this on a daily basis.’ It's like, 'Wow can I really complain?’

I also own a barbecue sauce company and what actually was really good was this actually gave me a chance to put it online and it's actually doing really, really, really well online. I always procrastinated. I said, ‘I want to get into supermarkets and stuff.’ That was more or less the end game, but all my trade shows got canceled, supermarkets aren’t taking on new products, so online was a small blessing that I pursued and it’s doing really well. I guess you gotta just roll with the punches. I taught myself piano again, I started doing that. During quarantine, I literally worked out 90 days straight indoors without taking a day off. You could go back to school online and study something, there's always a way to better yourself during these times and what we do have a lot more of is time. S,o you just gotta roll the punches and they always say, ‘After the greatest part of the storm is when the sun shines,’ so hopefully the sun is coming because the storm is pretty bad.”

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Joined Vator on

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

Dave Quisumbing

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Owner, Mr. Q's Food Products

Christian Lamb

Joined Vator on

Licensed Clinical Social Worker at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs & Owner of Inspired Online Counseling, LLC

Chris Surdi

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