Man, this sucks! Sucks compared to what?

Across most of the nation, and much of the world, people are self-quarantining. In some cases, the quarantine is imposed by government order. In either case, some people are complaining, “Man, this sucks!” I’d like to offer a different viewpoint and ask, “Sucks compared to what?”

Nelson Mandela

The late Nelson Mandela, statesman and leader of South Africa’s movement to abolish apartheid, spent 27 years in prison. That’s a long time to be quarantined! Early on some of his imprisonment was isolation in an 8×7 ft cell where he slept on a straw bed on the floor.

Mandela spent much of his time studying, writing and continuing to advance the cause for freedom and equality for blacks in South Africa. Perhaps we should adopt the same stance regarding our free time right now and do things to actively improve ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly seen many references to, and quotes from, Viktor Frankl. That’s so because his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is one of the most impacting books I’ve ever read.

Frankl spent three years in Nazi concentration camps. How did he survive the horrors? By focusing his mind. He believed one day he’d be a free man and chose to imagine dinners with his wife, giving lectures on what he learned, and to appreciate the beautiful things in life like flowers and sunsets.

Despite his incarceration he came to the realization that everything could be taken away from him except the freedom to choose where he would place his thoughts. And with that core belief he suddenly realized he was freer than the guards who monitored his every move at the concentration camps. We’d all do well to adopt Frankl’s mindset.

John McCain

Senator John McCain was shot down during the Vietnam War and spend five and a half years as a prisoner. At first, he wasn’t even given any medical treatment for the injuries he sustained. Soon thereafter he was subjected to torture.

McCain had an opportunity for release less than a year into captivity but refused unless all the men he was imprisoned with were released too. That meant nearly five more years of imprisonment.

Consider this; we’re told to simply stay apart for our own well-being and the well-being of our fellow citizens. McCain chose to stay with his fellow soldiers at a great personal cost to himself and those who wanted him home. That’s a hero.

Our “Imprisonment”

Frankl, Mandela and McCain are extremes when it comes to imprisonment but they are hardly alone in the course of history. They could not access any of the comforts so many of us enjoy at this very moment.

  • Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and other television apps afford us 24x7x365 entertainment of any kind.
  • We have access to news, books, games, email, work and countless other things to occupy our time, educate ourselves and in some cases, continue working.
  • Zoom, Skype, Google Meets and other technologies allow us to communication face to face with each other.
  • We still have access to goods and food delivered to our doorsteps.


For many reasons the global pandemic sucks. The biggest reason is that people are dying who otherwise may have lived much longer lives. Millions are getting sick which, even when they recover, presents its own hardships. And the economic toll – lost jobs and businesses – across the globe is terrible.

But, considering what many people have endured over time, what we’re going through doesn’t suck so much in comparison.

To Do This Week

Take stock of what you have, not what you’re missing, and be thankful. Use your time wisely. Here are a handful of easy things you can do:

  1. If you have family at home use this is a unique opportunity to spend quality time together. Don’t waste it! Jane and I have made it a point to take walks together every day. What are you doing differently?
  2. Get on LinkedIn Learning, Coursea and other online providers to sharpen your skills. Download a book or start listening to podcasts. You have more time so how will you use it?
  3. Use this time to reconnect with people. I’ve reconnected with my friend Marco Germani who lives outside of Rome. Once a week we jump on Zoom and keep each other up to date about what’s going on in our parts of the world. What person would you like to reconnect with?
  4. Give thanks. Despite the self-isolation you can still order food and other goods as noted earlier. Imagine how much harder this would seem without Amazon and other home delivery! What are you thankful for in the midst of this?
  5. Get creative. People are having virtual cocktail parties using technology. I’ve participated in a few and they’re fun. Jane and I give each other silly gifts every day and post of Facebook so our friends can laugh. What’s one creative thing you can do to pass each day?

Compared to earlier this year, things seem like they suck. Stepping back and looking at what others have had to endure, things don’t seem so bad. Make the right comparison and you’ll feel much better about where you are right now.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

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