In the wonderful movie “The Princess Bride”, a loving grandfather reads the story to a sick grandson. We are introduced to characters and their stories. In one part of the movie, the princess escapes her captors by jumping into shrieking eel-infested waters. Just as the princess is about to meet her fate by a charging eel, the story stops – well, the grandfather stops reading. He pressed pause on the story to alleviate any concerns the grandson might have been having. Once he has checked that the grandson is okay, he continues the story.
It seems to me that we were living our busy lives and suddenly the narrator pressed the pause button. The trajectory of our lives, our stories, has been paused. We have kept living and breathing but our lives as we knew them have been placed on hold. We are in the great pause. Now is the chance to ask ourselves if we are okay, really okay and if not, plan to make changes to be okay before the story continues. We may never have this opportunity, of a great pause again. Someday, hopefully soon, the narrator will continue our story.
Today is Tax Day, April 15th. In a normal year, I would be finalizing extensions for clients who were not ready to file and making sure extension payments and quarterly estimated tax payments were sent. At the close of the day, I would take a deep breath and take my foot off of the gas pedal. This is not a normal year. My normal year has been put on pause.
To be honest, I have been very busy but not with what I would normally be busy with at this time of year. Instead of tax returns, I have been voraciously reading poorly written loan guidance and congressional acts. I have been collaborating with colleagues to make sure we all understood the various stimulus packages and how they impact clients. I have been working with clients to help them determine which stimulus would be best for them and helping them apply, There were days of back to back phone calls – inbound ones. There were very late nights helping clients gather information and documents needed for a loan. The past two weeks have been exhausting.
In a call yesterday with fellow CPAs in a CPA network I belong to, the consensus was that the best description of the feeling we have been having is “surreal.” This is real life but it is so different from the normal life we are used to. One of the questions asked of the group is what lessons have you learned or taken away from all of this? I shared a few things but as I have pondered that question, the more I realize that during this great pause, we have the opportunity to reshape what we want normal to be when the “play button” is pressed again.
We have the opportunity to look at what we have learned and make changes to our lives going forward.
We may have taken family and friends for granted and can take the opportunity to improve those relationships. We may have been unprepared for an emergency and can take the opportunity to set aside stores of food, money and skills for the next one (yes, there will be a next one). We may have lost a job and can take the opportunity to develop new skills and find a better job. We may have lost a loved one and can take the memories of their lives into our hearts. What are you going to do differently because of what you have learned during the great pause?
We can look at our businesses and how we have been impacted and can take the opportunity to develop business continuity plans. The doors may have been shut but we can make a plan for what we are going to do when they open again. We may change our service offerings. We may change our level of customer service. We may setup budgets and cash flow forecasts. We may establish emergency funds for our businesses. We may change our business model. What are we as business owners going to do differently because of what we have learned during the great pause?
While we are still on pause, I invite all of you to think about what lessons you have learned over the past few weeks. Write them down. Then make plans to change and adjust based on those lessons learned. The flash flood of normal life will come and the lessons we have learned will be washed away if we don’t take advantage of the great pause.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.