Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Updated: Thursday, July 2, 2020
You know, there are so many things we can’t control right now, and for most of us, that makes us anxious. But I want to encourage you with this: In each moment of your life, you have the ability to change yourself and those around you in profound ways.
No matter the time.
No matter the day.
No matter the circumstance.
Even amid moments of uncertainty, like the one we find ourselves in right now.
In moments that seem out of our control, there’s always something that’s within it: our perspective. I like to say that I’m a Spiritual Pragmatist, which means that while I appreciate believing in a higher power and it’s guidance and influence in our lives, I also believe in action and doing, to bring about success and happiness. It’s about having balance, and part of having that balance means that we have to be conscious and mindful of how we’re showing up and how that influences any given situation, including the one we’re amid right now.
I spent 20 years as a funeral director and embalmer; I like to say that everything I’ve ever learned, I learned from dying. One would think that a career surrounded by death would have taught me a lot about dying, but in fact it taught me so much about life, and gifted to me the most beautiful lessons. Ones that, in moments like this, come through with crystal clarity and enable me to put into action the behaviours that can ground me, even amid all of the uncertainty.
Efficient Vs Effective
My British, tea-totting grandmother used to say, “Good tea steeps.” My grandmother knew the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. For her, there was no such thing as an efficient way to make tea; there was only an effective way. Can you make tea by dropping a tea bag into a mug of water and putting it in the microwave for ninety seconds? You can, sure. But, according to her, that’s not going to make a delicious cup of tea.
A drive-through car wash is efficient, but you might enjoy the therapeutic process of washing your car by hand. Ordering takeout is an adequate way to put dinner on the table, but a great satisfaction comes with preparing a meal from scratch yourself. Sending a friend a text message to see how they’re doing is an economic use of time, but it’s not quite the same as picking up the phone and talking.
As a society, we are consumed by efficiency, collectively racing from one thing to the other and from one person to the next. Being able to make the rush seem effortless is perceived as honorable. Those who work the most are revered, as though the most stressed-out person will be awarded a trophy. Sometimes you have to choose the efficient way; there’s no denying that. But we could all try a little harder to choose the effective way more often, especially when it comes to our relationships. How do we do that when we are in the throes of the hustle or in the midst of chaos? We pause.
Most of life’s magic happens in moments of pause. We need to stop and re-centre in order to reach a state of conscious awareness. Pausing helps us to slow down and plan our time more effectively, so that we create more meaning in our lives. The way my grandmother did with her tea. Normally I would profess the importance of creating the space to do this, and so often, and I’m including myself, we struggle to find the time to do it.
Now, we’re at a place in time where the world has quite literally slowed down. So many of us are sequestered away in our homes, adjusting to a world where physical distancing is common place, and life outside of our homes has come to a grinding halt. Is there time in your day to create the space to reinvest in something that brings you joy? It wasn’t that long ago that many of us likely caught ourselves complaining that we didn’t have enough time in a day, or that we were missing out on things in life: missing quality time with our children, missing time for the gym, missing time to just sit and read. There are likely many more things you could add to this list.
While we adjust to this new normal we find ourselves in, try to negotiate some time for you to invest in ‘the pause’, even if that time is spent on an activity like reading a book, or moving your body, meditating or sitting in prayer. Whatever it is that fills your cup, it’s important to realize that in order to be of service to others, we have to spend time investing in ourselves.
The late, great Jim Rohn once said that we’re each a reflection of those with whom we spend the most time, so the key to being your best self is to be surrounded by those who support and inspire you. I like to call these my “finger snap people.” They’re the ones with whom you feel an instant attraction, as quickly as you can snap your fingers. More often than not, you can’t quite distinguish exactly what it is that draws you to them, but their energy is like a magnet. There’s something about their character that causes you to be perfectly content with who you are, while also inspiring you to seek ways to be a better version of yourself. And when you find these like-minded individuals, hold on to them tightly, because you are much more powerful together than alone.
We might be physically distant from one another right now, but that doesn’t stop us from taking advantage of the incredible technology that helps us stay connected. I would encourage you to reach out to one of your ‘finger snap people’. Make that phone call, send that email, heck, you can even watch a movie together over video chat. Will it be perfect? Maybe not, but you’re connecting to people that matter, at a time when connection matters. I promise that you’ll feel a little better afterwards, because people need people and we’re all in this together. We don’t have to make grand gestures. The most meaningful moments can happen in the simplest of ways.
Sometimes, allowing someone the space to be seen and heard is the one thing they need the most, as they navigate their new normal right now. If that person is you, your community, your go-to people, are the ones you can rely on, no matter what. Just ask. I suspect they’ll be there, in the snap of a finger. There’s no question that the world we find ourselves in today, isn’t the world we were in not that long ago. There’s also no question that through it all – the up’s, downs and all-arounds – if we just remember that our perspective can shift everything, we suddenly find ourselves with more control than we might have believed we ever had.
If there’s one thing I believe, it’s that everything we’ve ever been taught about legacy – either consciously or unconsciously, is that it’s something that there once we’re gone – once we’re dead. I also know that when we shift the narrative around legacy, from something we leave to something we live, every single day, we can realize the power of understanding the impact we’re making - while we’re still here. I’ve seen first hand how that shift can help us realize the depth and breadth of that impact, help define our purpose and help us live our everyday legacy. When we realize that the way we show up in the world today, is the way we’ll be remembered tomorrow, we transform not only our relationship with the world around us, but also with ourselves in that world.
For all the chaos that COVID-19 has caused in the world, it’s powerful to see humanity band together for the greater-good – living with purpose, on purpose and showing how marrying that with compassion can be so incredibly powerful.
Codi Shewan will Keynote CANA’s Virtual Cremation Convention and Trade Show this August. The first 100 registered attendees will receive a free copy of his new book, Living Your Everyday Legacy, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Kyber Columbarium. But that’s not all – our sponsors are making sure that this virtual event has swag bags to make this a fun experience. Register soon!
This post first appeared in the EverLearn Associates blog, available here. Watch a video of this message here:
Codi Shewan, CFSP, CCP is the President & Founder of EverLearn Associates, a full service, comprehensive management consulting firm, for the funeral and cemetery profession – aimed at engaging and building dynamic teams and successful businesses. Operating across North America, EverLearn Associates is known for aligning closely with clients to provide tailored solutions, which overcome their operational challenges and align their business goals with success. Working with some of the professions finest operators, EverLearn Associates focuses on the tenet of ‘People first; always.’ and has enveloped that philosophy in all of our consulting lines of business; HR, marketing, business strategy, and digital solutions.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Updated: Monday, June 1, 2020
I am a funeral director. If you had told my 25-year-old self who was beginning a career as a determined and dedicated special education teacher that 40 years later I would be typing that sentence, I would have laughed in your face. And, yes, I’m that old.
But life has an interesting way of taking turns and detours and branching off the map to the point where today I am proud to be part of this very special and unique band of professionals.
In the twenty-five years that I have been part of working with funeral directors, I’ve become known as one who trains, speaks and writes in the arena of imploring our profession to do better. To grow into the needs of our new consumers. To widen our practices beyond the safe and traditional. To think outside the proverbial box. Some people have appreciated the message and embraced the opportunities to try new things. Some people think I’m kind of a shock jock and loudmouth. All are accurate.
But, today, all I can say is wow! These past months have presented such overwhelming challenges and unprecedented practices as my sisters and brothers have faced the daunting task of caring for the dead and supporting the grieving families. This virus that has the world by its grasp has forced us to turn on a dime, to think differently, to adapt and adjust while being on the front lines of unknown potential dangers and a nationwide fear. And just when you think you have it under control, situations change once again, and a new plan has to be developed on the fly. We often talk about thinking outside the box. Well, for all of us, the box has been destroyed. All that we knew to be usual and predictable no longer exists for this moment in time.
In those states where the death toll has been crushing and constant, just the physical toll on staff to keep up with the demand, to deal with shortages of protective equipment, running out of space to care for the deceased in a safe and honorable method, to answer the phone again and again and again, knowing that capacity is a faint memory, has been nothing short of amazing. Every person involved-- the removal personnel, the embalmers, the arrangers, the office staff, the crematory operators, the managers and owners have all answered the call to stand in the chaos and provide the final farewell for every family. In those states where COVID-19 has not been the overlying problem, the issue of quarantine and social distancing has complicated the opportunities to say goodbye.
Removals have taken on a whole new level of caution and care. Those of us who attended mortuary school were all trained to deal with infectious diseases, but did we every think that we would be facing this? How do we honor a sacred moment of taking a loved one into our care while being vigilant for the staff and the family? How do we help those families whose loved one had to die alone in quarantine? How do we offer comfort without a handshake or a hug?
Funeral professionals live their lives to say yes. To be accommodating. To move heaven and earth to meet the needs of every family. So, the difficulty of having to look at a family and tell them that they cannot have the service that they planned and want is devastating. To be the bearer of the bad news that a grieving family cannot invite friends and family to join together as we always have, to hug, to hold hands, to cry together, to remember as a collective and see their reactions. Broken hearts that are further crushed by the restrictions of our current realities. It’s hard.
Everyone has had to stretch, to learn new skills, to think creatively and fiercely as we try to provide a healing moment of gathering in a world that changes with each sunrise. Technology that had never been used. Exactly what is a Zoom? Arranging by phone, online or by Facetime, streaming services live, posting complete services on the website, gathering safely at graveside, resurrecting drive-in movie theaters for an entirely new audience. Funeral directors, Celebrants, clergy, chaplains, officiants are all searching for meaningful and healing ways to offer remembrances, benedictions and blessings. Our hearts ache for those families who say “we’ll just wait and have a service when things are back to normal” because we know grief does not wait for normal. And we understand that for many it will be too difficult to capture that moment again and gather months later.
So, this is my moment to say thank you. As the hospital and health workers are applauded each day for the difficult and dangerous work they are called upon to do trying to heal the sick, I applaud our funeral professionals who are the ones called upon to care for our dead and their survivors in difficult and dangerous situations. People may not stand on street corners and sing to you, but please know that your efforts and diligent work are noticed and celebrated.
I am in awe and appreciation for each one of you who are waking up each morning determined to do the job you were called to do. There will plenty of time for me to get back on my soap box about things we could do better or differently. But today, I offer my deep gratitude. You are heroes. And I’m proud to say that I’m a funeral director.
Sustained, stressful situations require extra care for yourself and your colleagues. Jason Troyer, PhD., specializes in helping death care professionals serve their families better. He wrote a post for us about taking care of yourself in these ever-changing times. Additional resources unique to death care are available in his Finding Resilience program.
Glenda Stansbury is the Marketing and Development Director, InSight Books, and Dean and Training Coordinator for In-Sight Institute. She holds a BS in Special Education from Central State University, as well as a BS in Funeral Service and a MA in Administrative Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. Before joining In-Sight Books, Glenda worked for 12 years for the Oklahoma Education Association as a trainer/facilitator. She has worked as Marketing and Development Director for In-Sight Books for 24 years and has been Dean of the In-Sight Institute for 20 years, co-training over 4000 Funeral Celebrants across North America with Doug Manning. She is a Certified Funeral Celebrant; Licensed Funeral Director/ Embalmer, Oklahoma; Certified Funeral Service Professional; Thanexus, New Jersey Board of Director; and Full Time Instructor- Department of Funeral Service, University of Central Oklahoma..
Depending on a variety of factors—where you live, the number of local cases and deaths, the availability of testing, and more—your deathcare firm could be anywhere along the path of the COVID-19 crisis right now.
Your area still might be dealing with an almost-total lockdown. Or your state and local authorities might be letting most businesses go about their services as normal, albeit with certain restrictions and limitations. What you're allowed to do now might be very different from what it was a month ago, and it might be very different again a month from now.
In other words, at the risk of stating the obvious, the coronavirus pandemic (and its resultant restrictions) have created a perfect storm of challenges for cremation service providers and related deathcare businesses.
As tragic as a natural disaster can be, whether a hurricane or earthquake or something else, at least there's (most often) a straightforward process of recovery. It's not something that just lingers on for the foreseeable future.
But that's what it's like dealing with COVID-19. There's no closure on the horizon anytime soon. Experts say it could be 18 months before a vaccine is created and widely available, and most say that's the most optimistic projection.
And no matter how you feel about the severity of restrictions at the moment—whether you feel it's an overreaction or an underreaction, or anywhere in between—the fact remains that we'll all be dealing with a "new normal" for most likely the remainder of 2020 and probably well into 2021.
Nothing's simply going to "snap back" into place. Everything will have changed.
The New Normal
So the question is this: What does all of this change have to do with your deathcare firm? Does it mean you have to start making some extensive changes, if you haven't done so already? Or do you still think you can wait for all of this to just blow over?
As we've dealt with all of this over the past several months, I've come to a few conclusions:
A shocking number of funeral industry business owners still think this is a temporary inconvenience, and everything will revert back to normal soon. They're wrong, and their loss can be your gain.
Many of the evolutions demanded by this crisis, especially videoconferencing and remote project management, are critical initiatives deathcare firms should have long before now.
Those same initiatives will be incredibly important for cremation providers long after COVID-19 is under control and virtually all restrictions are lifted.
Many people in this industry think making their processes more digital will require lots of time and money. It won't. These tools are incredibly cheap and easy to learn—even for technophobes.
Tools You Can Use
Now, I've spent much of the last six weeks telling anyone who will listen about some of the specific tools they can use. Some depend on what you need to achieve in your particular business.
If your setup is such that you regularly consult with families or individuals, it's obviously a good idea to leverage videoconferencing. You can use it to meet with clientele, staff, or vendors.
If you typically handle life celebrations and are still restricted from doing them (or remain limited in the number of attendees), you can look into livestreaming services or recording them for family and friends to later watch online.
There are lots of options for videoconferencing. You're likely aware that Zoom is the most popular right now. You're also likely aware that Zoom also got hammered with heavily critical news reports due to security lapses and a scary (but actually very rare) type of treacherous trolling known as "Zoombombing."
Here's the bottom line: I use Zoom all the time at my company. It works wonderfully for us. It's also incredibly inexpensive for the basic professional version, and the free version's pretty useful for most companies too.
Zoom is also so easy to learn that I could teach the most technophobic person in your family how to install and use it in less than 10 minutes, guaranteed. So that's why I use it (for about six meetings every workday, on average) and encourage others to do the same.
(This is where I like to note that I have no promotional agreements whatsoever with any tech product or tool I mention here or anywhere else. If I recommend something, it's because it works well—not because anyone's being paid for it. I'm certainly not!)
The learning curve is getting used to communicating empathetically with people through the internet instead of face to face. It's mostly the same, but there are some subtle differences, and you'll want to practice at least a little before jumping into a consultation with a grieving family.
My other strong recommendation is that you look for ways to do more project management and coordination online. Even when there's no pandemic, it's much more convenient and efficient to handle the disposition of cases through cloud-based software than on a physical whiteboard in the office.
Yes, of course I know that all change can be challenging and stressful. And yes, I've spoken to many a funeral professional who explained to me that the whiteboard he's using is the same one his father did, which is the same one his father's father did, and it's worked just fine all this time and yadda yadda yadda.
I certainly respect these traditions, but when the traditional way has been long eclipsed by much more efficient processes, it's usually best to bite the bullet and evolve.
I can run my entire business, with more than 50 full-time employees from home. Our home office in Las Vegas has been empty for going on two months now, due to the pandemic, and we haven't missed a beat. I haven't laid off or furloughed a single worker. And we actually have more clients now than when the lockdowns started!
There are lots of reasons for that, but one of the biggest ones is that we had all the necessary remote tools and techniques already in place long before the COVID lockdowns began. They were just our standard way of doing business! I could run projects and coordinate with my teams anywhere in the country or in the world—from a laptop or even just from my smartphone.
Now, I don't expect cremation service providers to become as technologically advanced as a marketing firms that specializes in digital tools, but there's no reason you can't use some.
Try out Trello for project management: We've found it indispensable. We also use the Microsoft suite of tools for various creative projects, along with MS Teams for basic messaging and chat. (Slack is also an excellent choice for those who prefer that interface or simply don't use Microsoft computers or devices.)
How many forms do you use that could be both filled out and legally signed digitally, but you're still using paper for everything? If you're like most deathcare businesses, the answer is somewhere between "most" and "all." While I realize that some paperwork remains restricted to literal paper in some places and for certain purposes, those situations are ever fewer and further between.
Find a Degree of Certainty
And honestly, that's just the tip of the iceberg. But you don't even need to concern yourself with the iceberg yet. Just start looking at how these cloud-based remote work tools benefit your business during the lockdown time—and picture how beneficial they'll remain long after.
The more you've evolved your business technologically, the more prepared you'll be for anything that comes along. The work you do right now to better handle COVID-related restrictions will pay dividends in the future.
At the very least, you need to keep up with competitors making these changes. And if they're not, you can be the one to take advantage. It's the best way to take control and find some degree of certainty in these uncertain times.
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