Facing — and pacing — the future
When I first started writing about long-term care back in a previous century, our profession's slow embrace of technology and affection for the status quo was widely cited and frequently mocked. It doesn't feel that way anymore.
Now, change is what's for breakfast, in a sandwich for lunch and warmed up for dinner. I landed a rare interview with The Future yesterday, and can report that even it is feeling a little winded and overwhelmed. “Sometimes I just want to say, ‘Hey people, can we please take it a little slower?'” the Shape of Things to Come told me in a moment of unexpected candor. “I love upsetting the apple cart from time to time, but this is getting ridiculous.”
With the ground beneath us shifting faster than we can say Alternative Payment Models, I tend to notice the anachronistic moments in life that pop up like relics from a lost world. Such as hearing a local classical radio station host say in her syrupy, hypnotic voice, “It's shaping up to be an interesting weather weekend here in Portland. We'll take a look at the forecast in 15 minutes.”
Alone in my car, I almost laughed out loud. How very quaint. What absolutely adorable naivete. Are there still actually humans on earth who would wait an entire quarter hour for that, or any, piece of information? Apparently. But they also enjoy classical music, so it's definitely a vanishing species.
At the other extreme, a millennial co-worker invited me to play Yahtzee, a favorite from my youth. “What fun!” I thought, and eagerly agreed. Until I learned we'd be playing on our phones — because it was faster. “Seriously?” I asked, incredulous. “Isn't the point of playing a game to slow down and relax, not to give ourselves another urgent task to check off the list?” But three syllables into my futile protest, she already had her earbuds back in, had sent three Snapchats and was Google mapping the fastest route to the copy machine.
Over nachos and a splash of Oregon Pinot, an administrator friend was recently telling me about her hectic and very typical day, and it wore me out just hearing it. A facility leadership position in 2017 appears to be a lot like being stuck on Disney's Splash Mountain amusement park ride — forever. But to her and her hyper-competent ilk, it just goes with the territory. And since there are actual people to care for and needs to be met, you won't find her at the next standup saying, “Okay everybody, let's slow down.”
But good leaders I've talked to — the ones like her who intend to not only succeed but also endure — try not to carry that pace into their personal lives. They do everything possible to shift gears in their fleeting time away from the office. They sit still for a change. They breathe. They pause to notice the beauty around them. They look up from their phones, put the future briefly on hold, and step into the moment with friends and family. Little by little, the world slows down again, and their fuel for service is replenished.
Admittedly, for a long-term care administrator, even life outside of work can still be a little like Splash Mountain sometimes — the quiet part, just before tomorrow's 50-foot waterfall.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since near the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.