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Four Crucial Lessons I Learned While Quarantined With Covid-19

Bruce Weinstein
· Sep 2, 2022
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Despite my best efforts at self-protection, I was unable to dodge the Covid-19 bullet. Here are four lessons I learned while being quarantined. Even if you’re not wrestling with this illness yourself, each lesson may be useful to you.

It feels great to turn down work.

Like you, I work too much. (I feel safe in making this assumption about you.) It’s great to have a job you love and to look forward to getting to work each morning. But to quote the theme song from Alfie, what’s it all about? And as both the Bible and the Byrds suggest, there is a time to work and a time to rest.

The legally and ethically required quarantine I’m on now has forced me to do something I’ve needed to do for a long time. Stop working. Not slow down. Stop.

Imagine that. A day without a Zoom meeting with a client. Hours going by without checking email. Not posting on LinkedIn. Just—nothing.

I’ll admit to feeling a little guilty for asking clients and colleagues to postpone deadlines until I’m over this illness, but once I explained why I was asking this, each person was kind and understanding.

Of course, I’m working now as I write this column for Forbes, but I’m doing so out of inclination, not obligation. The down time has helped to create mental space for more article ideas.

When I was a boy, my mom’s friend Jerry Ray took her son Rawlin and me out to the Dairy Queen in Wharton, Texas and allowed us to have banana splits for dinner. A few years ago I reminded her of this taboo experience. “And the world didn’t stop turning, did it?” she replied.

What can you say “no” to right now? How might doing so help you in the long run?

It’s good to accept acts of grace.

When you’re sick, your friends and family want to help you. It may feel noble to turn down their offers, but I learned that it can be unintentionally hurtful.

When a friend asked if she could get me items at the grocery store, I politely turned her down. I had already ordered supplies and felt I had enough on hand. Mainly, though, I didn’t want her to go to any trouble on my account.

“For one thing, I have nothing to do at the moment,” she texted. Then she reminded me that I had helped her when her husband was ill years ago. She added that when she was going through that ordeal, someone told her, “When folks offer to do stuff, say ‘yes.’”

Just as there is power in saying “no” to work, there is a lot to be said for saying “yes” to gracious friends and family members.

It’s never too late to learn an instrument.

“I’m too old to learn how to play a musical instrument” a friend recently told me. Nonsense! I may not have the strength to put in a full day’s work at my desk, but I do have enough to begin harmonica lessons. I ordered a Hohner Blues Harp®, a copy of Winslow Yerxa’s excellent Harmonica for Dummies and Ben Hewlett’s Udemy online course for beginners, and I’ve been enjoying every puckering minute.

I began studying drums as a boy, and I forgot how frustrating it is to be unable to perform a simple exercise on a new instrument and then how thrilling it is to finally be able to do it. When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn a new skill? This is the perfect time to start.

There’s no point in getting angry at nonconformists.

A few people have asked me, “How do you think you got infected?” I have no idea. The few times I’ve gone outside since the lockdown began in New York, I’ve worn a protective face covering and gloves. My wife and I have been vigilant in keeping the apartment clean, and we’ve observed the social distancing guidelines consistently.

It has been deeply upsetting to see people flagrantly disregarding the requirement to be masked in public. The purpose of the rule, after all, is to minimize the chances of passing along the virus to others. The unmasked were essentially telling the world, “I don’t care about you.” Isn’t anger a reasonable response to that?

What I discovered, however, was that muttering about my annoyance or even confronting a few unmasked people didn’t change the situation. They weren’t troubled in the least by my protests, and all it did was upset me. To what end?

Many years ago I met a former workaholic who changed his ways by studying martial arts with a Zen master. One thing that helped him find peace was reminding himself, over and over, “What is, is.” Isn’t that stating the obvious? Of course that statement is true. It’s a tautology. It’s like saying, “A bachelor is an unmarried man.”

But there’s a wealth of power in keeping “What is, is” in mind from time to time. In many troubling situations, all we can do is change our behavior and our reactions to the world.

Perhaps a respectful, friendly response to the unmasked would work, such as “Hey, I realize these things are uncomfortable. But you seem like a decent person. Why not give it a try?” Still, there’s a lot to be said for observing without judging. That’s a lesson I knew about before, but so much quiet time for reflection has driven that lesson home.

What’s something you’ve been angry about that hasn’t served you well? Would this be a good time to let go of it?

For Further Study

If you too would like to learn the harmonica, here are some resources I’ve found that I really like.

Online

BluesHarmonica.com. Founded by David Barrett, this is a one-stop shop for everything related to blues harmonica. Barrett offers a detailed, step-by-step program he calls the Levels of Achievement. If you buy a Hohner harmonica, you’ll get a free month to explore the website and begin the course.

ModernBluesHarmonica.com. Created by Adam Gussow (featured in the documentary Satan and Adam—see below), this is another outstanding website for learning how to play.

Tomlin’s Harmonica Podcast. Launched in March 2020, Tomlin Leckie has relaxed, extended conversations with harmonica masters. Leckie has a relaxed, easy-going style, and his humble, respectful attitude toward his guests is refreshing.

Books

Harmonica for Dummies, 2nd Edition by Winslow Yerxa. Don’t let the title fool you. This is a deep-dive into the tin sandwich, as it’s sometimes called, by a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the instrument. Includes video and audio instruction.

Masters of the Harmonica : 30 Master Harmonica Players Share Their Craft by Margie Goldsmith. A fascinating history and profiles of Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Sonny Terry, and sixty more harp maestros.

Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers: The Evolution of the People's Instrument by Kim Field. A delightful collection of interviews, mostly for Harmonica Happenings, the magazine of the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica.

Recordings

Harmonica for Dummies includes an extensive list of recordings in blues, jazz, rock, bluegrass, gospel and more.

Documentaries

Satan and Adam, directed by V. Scott Balcarek. Wow. You must see this film, even if you have no interest in the harmonica. It shows how this instrument transformed two virtuosos, Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow, in two powerful but different ways. Available on Netflix.

Pocketful of Soul by Marc Lempert (Producer and Director) Todd Slobin (Producer), narrated by Huey Lewis. What Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” is to the guitar, Magic Dick’s “Whammer Jammer” is to the harmonica. The documentary begins with that smokin’ solo and doesn’t let up from there. Rent or purchase it on Vimeo.

Instruments

Which brand and model of harmonica should you get first? There are a range of responses to that question, I’ve discovered. I’ve also seen a consensus emerge: instruments from Hohner, Seydel, and Lee Oskar are at the top of most lists I’ve seen. You’ll eventually need several to cover different keys you’ll play in. Just pick an instructor you like, follow their advice, and get crackin’!

Thank you for dropping by. I hope you're having a good day.

At your service,

Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., The Ethics Guy
Forbes Contributor
Ethics Trainer and Speaker

P.S. Take my free ethics test here and find out how ethical you are. You can also sign up for my free weekly emails on ethics and ethical leadership that will enrich your work in accounting, human resources, engineering, and other essential professions. 

P.P.S. Here's my contributor page on LearnFormula / CPD Formula with a description of the courses I offer for CPAs and HR professionals, all of which will earn you one or two continuing education credits in ethics.

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