This 1.5 months have been an interesting adventure of going online and digital. Due to the COVID-19 situation, many things have changed, and many things remain the same.
What remained the same (just a few to mention)
Working from home
Before COVID-19, I was already working from home. My office is within myhome, and I somewhat had a calendar/schedule of work to be done. Some days, I will be out and about, meeting with clients, partners, collaborators, to speak, share, brainstorm on how we might work together. Other days, I will be out and about, conducting workshops, training, facilitation and coaching work. And a few days will be set aside for administrative and consolidation work. I felt that there was quite a fair share of what I loved to do, what I liked to do, and what I need to do. Working from home also allowed for me to spend time with my elderly parents, when they are not out and about with their own meeting of friends and/or volunteer work.
When COVID-19 first hit, and the number of activities outdoors started to reduce, it just felt like that the number of days in the calendar increased for more administrative and consolidation work, and potentially more time and space for allowing my conceptual mind to wander, and take time for my structural and analytical mind to put the concepts in place.
Video Calls and Video Conferencing
Before COVID-19, I was already involved in some video calls and video conferences with colleague and associates from Centre for Mindfulness — Singapore and Reactor School. That was how we have used platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts to meet, discuss and brief each other of the work. We have also been actively using Google Drive and Dropbox to share files and folders. I have also had calls to friends and family overseas via Skype and WhatsApp calls.
When COVID-19 first hit, we just saw an increase of the usage of such platforms, and gratefully, it was something that we were used to, and therefore the change curve was not steep.
Motivations through Social Interactions and Support
With my preference for Social Thinking (based on my Emergenetics® Profile), the opportunities for me to work with people and through people, seemed to have significantly reduced. Even though I could still connect with them through social media, phone calls, video calls, etc, something seemed to be missing. It just didn’t feel the same. And there was a huge part of me, that could not pinpoint what it was for the longest time, and basically that emotional tension built up, slowly and surely.
When the first official advisory came out at the end of March, where the 1 metre social distancing and not more than 10 people can gather, that was one of my triggers. The day that announcement was made, I found myself absolutely restless and perhaps a tinge of frustration/irritation and almost a sense of helplessness. How do I now continue to do the work I love : facilitation and training? I can’t just sit here and let things be. And that afternoon/evening, that’s just what I did; I let things be, and just allowed myself to feel the restlessness, frustration, irritation and helplessness. Was it uncomfortable? Absolutely!
What came out from that moment of negative emotions, was a surge of courage to do something, that I had planned to do, but have been holding off / procrastinating on, because I was afraid : let me start taking videos of myself, in the work that I do. It wasn’t like a snap of the fingers moment, where I came out roaring and showing myself, because I had still no idea, what was it that I wanted to demonstrate through the videos.
And then I had the idea : my first few videos need not be directly related to the work I do; it can be something that I have done before, and was easier for me to try and experiment with : morning stretch exercises. The thoughts was also :
These thoughts supported me to give it a try, and in one morning (and a little into the afternoon), I videoed 7 “episodes” of “WFH Exercises”, each episode lasting between 5 to 16 minutes. An example of the episodes is here : https://youtu.be/jDRXLns9ZyI. I shot the videos directly on my phone, downloaded the app “InShot” to make some simple edits. They are not professional in any way, as there was no intention to, so please hold your judgements :)
This series was also a way to prepare myself in conducting a Facebook Live session in a newly set up group : SilverGood, which was set up to support the elderly community to keep and remain active and connected through simple activities. I volunteered for the first week’s activities, and one of it, was under the category “Exercises”. I conducted another session that same morning on “Art”. These 2 Live sessions helped me to gain confidence with taking videos, and conducting Live on Facebook.
Motivations through Ideas and Concepts
The Facebook Live session with SilverGood was on 3 April 2020, and after that Live session, I was intrigued with the concept and had an intention to potentially explore more of it. And all it took was the next announcement by PM Lee Hsien Loong that late afternoon at 4pm, where it was announced that, work from home will go full force on 7 April 2020, and home-based learning will also go full on on 8 April 2020. This announcement was made at 4pm on a Friday, and it hit me hard, because : most teachers would have packed up, and prepared to leave work, looking forward to a restful weekend (hopefully), and I empathised the most with teachers, because I have worked closely with them for 15–20 years, and I have many friends and relatives who are currently teachers and school staff. I know how hard they have been working the past few weeks to continue to support the students in their learning and managing the feedback of home-based learning, from students and parents. It has been challenging for them, and when news comes in so late in the week, with the timeline so short to achieve execution, I instinctively knew that their weekend was burnt, and there goes their rest.
And because of this one announcement, I cared enough to act. The next Monday onwards, on 6 April 2020, I did my first official Facebook Live on my company Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/chrysalists/videos/146647760114106/.
Again, keeping it simple, and easy to do, without too much preparation and planning, I decided, that something within 5–15mins would suffice, and to just experiment with the Facebook Live platform. And because my initial target audience to support was the educators, I scheduled the Facebook Live sessions early in the morning (6.45am) and at night (9pm) : https://www.facebook.com/chrysalists/videos/309737050002356/.
And it hit me on that first night that, it was not just the teachers that was going through this change of patterns, but the parents as well, and on Tuesday, 7 April 2020, onwards, the morning centering and grounding exercises and night compassion and gratitude exercises then focused and hoped to reach out to these two large groups of people.
By the end of the week, I was tired : physically, mentally and emotionally. And I learnt through this experience conducting Live sessions, that regardless of the duration, was not necessarily less demanding than a physical face-to-face training session. And it needs getting used to, and I will need time and space to build that muscle.
I took the weekend to recuperate and found myself still tired on Monday to do another Live session. And that was when I thought, perhaps it is not in the doing; it is in the intention of the doing. And I took the next few days to just be ok with resting and consolidating my thoughts and ideas. And I leveraged on the confidence and courage built over these last few trials and experiments, to attempt something a bit more : 4 x 30mins Facebook Lives, with not just simple practices, but some content too. And that gave birth to a mini-series : Curating the Home-based Learning Environment (Week 2), and a slightly longer series : Ramadhan x Circuit Breaker 2020 (which started with the idea of running for one week, purely based on my previous experience of how tired I felt after one week, but organically became a two-week series, which just ended yesterday).
And to increase the challenge of my own learning (my Gallup strengths of Connectedness, Learner and Input have been triggered), the 30-min sessions on Curating a Home-based Learning Environment was conducted via a third party web app called Streamyard (I chanced upon a few Lives over that weekend, where each of the Live streams used different apps — Streamyard, Be.Live and ecamm Live, and decided to try Streamyard amongst all, for its ease of use and affordability):
To further challenge myself, for the Ramadhan x Circuit Breaker 2020 series, the episodes were an hour long FB Live each, and this time having guests on board, and done in an interview style.
And Canva.com became a good friend throughout these experiments.
I am also experimenting with monetising the Live sessions. This time round, through the Ramadhan x Circuit Breaker 2020 series, I am asking for donations to RAHMATAN LIL ALAMIN FOUNDATION, for their fundraising efforts of the Buka Puasa SG initiative. I am heartened to see some responses, through the clicking of the QR code that I attached in the Live sessions. That is an indication to me, that the possibility is there for such an approach to be implemented. The details of the process will definitely require finetuning.
What have I Learnt?
1. Going Live takes Courage and Motivation
There must be a compelling enough reason, whether for self or others, to encourage me to go Live. And the reason must appeal to both my social and conceptual thinking preferences. I have learnt to embrace these aspects of me through this process of going Live, and it allowed me to flex my preferences in behaviours in expressiveness, assertiveness and flexibility.
I was clear of my motivations : to support others and to fulfil my sense of curiosity and keenness to learn something new and relatively novel. What sustained my motivation was also these two reasons. Affirmation from friends and my guests on the Ramadhan x Circuit Breaker 2020 series was a bonus.
This journey also allowed me to experience the value of courage :
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Supporting the community at large to tide through this period of time was the motivation I received to take this journey. In all honesty, I have no idea if these videos ever reached the audience I hoped to reach out to. I just held the intention of the service I wanted to provide, and took that leap of faith. Some might call me foolish and/or naive. I choose to trust the intention of doing good.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela.
2. Going Live has a greater outreach
I was pleasantly surprised when my first night Live session hit a reach of 300+ people, when I know I have not been actively marketing my company and my business. That excited me, but also caused me to lose focus. For the next few days, I was almost obsessed with how many people the videos reached and how many people viewed. I had to consciously take a pause from that mini-obsession, relook at the purpose of why I was doing these Lives and anchored myself back to my intention of starting these Lives.
Through the Ramadhan x Circuit Breaker 2020 series, my Malay Muslim guests super encouraging and supportive, and did their best to share the Live sessions. They felt it was meaningful and beneficial as lessons to the community at large, and even to their own community, and the largest reach was about 1000+, as of now. I know this is not a lot, compared to celebrities, etc. However, I am already very happy, as I learnt to differentiate, reach, views and the different segments within the views, and to be able to analyse this data a little bit more, for me to better execute digital and social marketing in future.
3. Going Live is playing the long game
One of my Live guests, Imran Tahir, who also invited me for a Live session as his guests on his Facebook page, Paperbackpackers, shared that the lesson in conducting such Live sessions is not immediate returns. It is about curating content and knowledge, and then perhaps looking at how to repurpose them, for other platforms and uses. It is also about leveraging on the outreach and marketing capability, and converting them later, into potential sales. Through him, I will be conducting a sharing with friends in Brunei and Singapore next Friday.
I am already preparing on repurposing some of the content I have developed into podcasts, as well as generating more in-depth content, to conduct some of these topics as workshops, trainings, sharing sessions.
These Live sessions have also transpired into other Live sessions and collaborations with others from different industries : https://www.facebook.com/SingingTechniques/videos/2602261906717701/ and it might just open doors to other possibilities.
This COVID-19 pandemic is challenging in many ways, and I am as affected by it, financially and emotionally.
There are days when I feel so overwhelmed by emotion, that I just do not feel like doing anything. Selffulness : heartfulness and mindfulness, has supported me to manage that. There are days when I just needed to head outdoors for a walk, to take a deeper breath, to not be around people.
I look at my bank account and see it depleting, month by month. The consolation is that the depletion is slower, as the spending is generally lesser too. It is nevertheless, still depleting.
However, I still see hope, in the form of doing good with the talents I have, that I can still continue to serve. There is hope, as I continue to learn and challenge myself, and look further into the future. There is hope, as long as I choose to ask for help and receive support, and pivot. I am not going to reassure anyone that the journey will be easy. However, we do not have to journey alone.
I am grateful for learners in action such as Syukri, Aifa, Yati, amongst many others, who are keen to learn and journey with me.
If you do start trying out something new, I appreciate that you can share with me too! I would love to learn together with you!
About the Author
Michelle Ow is the founder and Human Experience Facilitator of Chrysalists Pte Ltd.