Pandemic offers resilient Mississippi a chance to embrace a brighter future

By HU MEENA,

My favorite streaming video program during the COVID-19 virus stay-at-home lockdown has not been about tigers and their crazy trainer, Joe Exotic, from the wildly popular Netflix docuseries. Nor has it been about Scottie Pippin and the other guy who played professional basketball with him on the Chicago Bulls.

The one I’ve enjoyed the most is a series entitled The Chosen about the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry which has brought that profound era to life for me in new and compelling ways. The last few years of His life here on earth literally changed the world forever.

In a scene from one of the early episodes, disciple Simon Peter states how different an activity or task prescribed by Jesus is compared to the way it had always been done. The character playing Jesus replies, “Get used to different.”

While that phrase is not mentioned in the Bible, it resonated with me because everything is so different now compared to two months ago and, I believe, will remain different for a long time. If so, fine. Let’s not pine away for the past.  Let’s learn from this change, embrace different and move Mississippi forward.

 

How do we as a people and a state move forward?  First, we need to acknowledge and mourn the loss of life, the vast negative impacts on our economy and the necessary loss of personal freedoms of movement as most of us continue to practice “social distancing” to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

Second, I believe we need to consciously decide not to participate in the looming recession. Let’s decline the invitation. Instead of accepting a recession, let’s embrace a reset. A reset to see change as an enabler and not an impediment. A reset to move aggressively instead of deliberately. A reset that leverages toughness, technology and a transformative mindset.

It all boils down to whether we are willing to proactively use this change to our advantage. Some change, like that caused by this global pandemic, can be very challenging, dramatic and uncomfortable. So, how do we use it? 

We reset and move forward, fast, like a runner looking to win a race at the finish line. If we hesitate, turn back and look behind, we will lose a step. We can’t look back! We need to embrace different and move forward. 

At C Spire, for over three decades, our company has found success in one of the most competitive industries in the world because we have fully embraced continuous change and perpetual innovation. We learned early on that resisting change is an exercise in futility.  There’s no question we are structured and operate differently today than we did back then, but that’s the essence of change.

Let’s transition with conviction and speed to the economic mountain top we have never seen. It can be done by incorporating the positives of work-from-anywhere applications, by viewing on-line education as a sharp new tool in our educational tool kit and expanding the use of telehealth in our great health care ecosystem in Mississippi. Further, our businesses should leverage the highly connected world we have discovered while trapped in our homes. In the last few weeks we have seen how the entire worldwide marketplace might literally be at our fingertips. It’s time to go after it!

Our very existence as human beings is proof that change is at work in all aspects of our being. Change forces us as individuals and organizations to grow and to constantly evaluate our decisions and priorities. 

Let’s get used to different, Mississippi. It’s time for a reset. Let’s work to make it work.

Hu Meena is President and CEO of C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.

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