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A devastating automobile accident saved this entrepreneur from speaking or strolling for months. So she rebuilt her life and her enterprise.

22, 2020

7 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

We are experiencing a seismic psychological shift from the sensory normality of the days before COVID. We're a tactile society, but now hugs and handshakes are banned and almost everything is virtual. Our senses experience a form of hunger and the effects throw many of us off balance. Study after study repeats the conclusions of one of the earliest studies on sensory deprivation conducted at McGill University in the early 1950s, which came to a dramatic early conclusion when subjects reported severely impaired thought processes, uncontrolled visions, and distressing hallucinations.

Related: How a personal mess turned into a passionate message for this entrepreneur

Due to Covid-19, many of us have also seen our cultural norms evaporate, leaving a seemingly empty space in their place – a state of culture shock that sets off a turbulent emotional cycle. We are all now going through some version of that process. The longer we resist the need for change, the more difficult the path to acceptance becomes.

But there is an advantage. The way we deal with these dual attacks of culture shock and sensory deprivation can also have profoundly positive effects on our personal and business lives.

In my own experience, as the CEO of a growing virtual company and as a survivor of traumatic injury, I have faced multiple isolation and culture shock. When the only choice was "adapt or fail," my goal is to rebuild and improve rather than let events overwhelm me. The lessons I had to learn are a useful example as we try to revolve our business and personal lives around the aftermath of the pandemic.

Just a few years after starting my virtual PR agency, I was seriously injured in a car accident. For a period of about eight months I could not speak properly or walk without assistance. I was isolated physically and mentally overnight, and was shaken to the core by the sudden changes in my life and the impact on my business. To some extent, what I went through then reflects the experiences we all have today.

Related: Is Covid-19 A Mental Health Tipping Point?

My first step in recovery was to acknowledge that life had changed. This acceptance gave me permission to embrace the way I would have to adapt.

To keep the business going, I've delegated a lot of my work, a task that I would have thought impossible before. Since I had to write down my ideas and instructions because I couldn't speak, collective discussion and teamwork became key strategies.

My colleagues became closer allies than ever before. Rather than just setting myself goals for the clients and the team that supports me, as a collaborative team we set clearly defined goals to get the results our clients paid us for. Project management and accountability systems became far more important and also allowed flexibility in relation to the different circumstances of the individual. We have prioritized creativity while maintaining the core disciplines of timeliness, accountability and courtesy. And it paid off. The clients saw excellent results and the agency flourished.

What I discovered in the process was the immense value of having a large number of people who commit to high standards and work with self-discipline and creativity to achieve a common goal.

As a CEO and former attorney, I have an analytical mindset and am task-oriented, which is more suited to logic than creativity. My accident forced me to let go of the old ways of working within the confines of my innate human makeup – mistakes and everything – and re-awakening the senses that allowed me to think differently about my company.

As the company evolved into a new type of environment that was more intuitive and collaborative, it required a new way of thinking. To create and access this creativity in this time of change, we as a company had to choose to fundamentally change the way we think about work. I realized that we can unlock greater reserves of creativity by working with our natural instincts – not in contradiction to them.

In addition to adjusting, prioritizing, teamwork, and collaboration on my way to rehabilitation, I looked inward. I've used a number of techniques to recharge the creative spark and use my own inner resources to realign myself to a more intuitive, creative style of work:


Panasonic, Toyota, IKEA, Beiersdorf, Bosch, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Google, Intel, Royal Dutch Shell, SAP, Target, the UK Parliament and the US House of Representatives are some of the organizations that have turned to mindfulness. Meditation and exercise programs to increase the curiosity, openness and enthusiasm of the employees for continuous improvement. The amortization is economical. Annual productivity improvements are estimated at $ 3,000 per employee. A study conducted at a Dow Chemical company calculated potential savings for the company of up to $ 22,000 per employee, based on average wages at the time due to less stress and burnout, and increased workforce productivity.

Related: How to Strengthen Your Personal Resilience


Sports psychologists have long understood the value of the imaginative exercise we call "visualization". Visualization is widely used by high-performance athletes as well as business people, artists, and academics to envision success and make it familiar and accessible to individuals. Studies such as PMC's 2016 article "Thinking, Walking, Speaking: Integrative Motor and Cognitive Brain Function" show that people who imagine flexing a muscle actually gain physical strength because they activate the same pathways in the brain that the actual ones do Respectively. real movement of the muscle.

Learn by heart

Memorization is often used in conjunction with techniques to help the brain remember and restructure how it works. Memorization, of course, is a classic conditioning technique used in advertising and marketing. Proven success should not be overlooked as a method of adapting to new situations. I used these techniques as I was recovering from my accident to restructure the way I communicated by instilling in myself the innate discipline required to collect my thoughts and normal speech and cognitive skills Restore processes.


In Asia, exercise has long been linked to both the workplace and personal wellbeing. Companies around the world are beginning to understand the health and productive benefits of exercise. One study found that not only does it improve well-being on the work day, but that participants also reported a 72 percent improvement in time management and workload on the days they exercised. Even short bursts of movement increase productivity, which is why many Japanese companies have mandatory training programs for employees. Research also shows that companies that prioritize the health and exercise of their employees see huge cost savings over time. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that weight-related health problems cost Australian jobs $ 477 from absenteeism alone – plus a staggering $ 544 million for less productive “presenterism”.

These techniques can help all business owners reinvent and enrich their corporate cultures and business practices, both now – in this time of collective sensory deprivation and culture shocks – and when we can finally leave Covid-19 behind. They helped me not only achieve physical recovery, but also a new inner balance that enabled me and my company to survive and thrive in the hitherto insurmountable difficulties. I've discovered better wellbeing – and I run a company that is thriving in today's troubles.

Valerie Chan will present “How to thrive beyond a virtual culture” at TedX Farmingdale on October 10th. More information can be found here.

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