An Aside: "Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste"

When a quote isn't the whole picture...

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash


One of my favorite podcasts is Freakonomics. The guests are always fascinating and the stories that get told always make me think. One of the reasons that I most appreciate it is that often my preconceived ideas are challenged. It is rare that I don’t walk away from an episode and think, “I need process that some more.”

This past week they interviewed Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago (among other titles). He is well known for saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” when he was President Obama’s chief of staff. This is has given his political opponents loads of red meat to go after and to accuse him of being a cynical deep state operator manufacturing crises to use for political power. The thing is, the quote is misrepresented. It was clipped by a reporter. The second part of the quote is something along the lines of, “because during a crisis you’re able to make real change.”

You see, during a crisis the opportunity to change is on the surface. Systems are tested. The status quo has the light shined on it and it necessarily gets questioned. It is in the moments of crisis that creativity is often at its highest. You begin to identify your most important principles. Crises force us from a place of stagnancy to action. We have no choice. We must engage and do something during a crisis.

Emanuel talked about how, far from being some cynical power grab, his point was that during a crisis you can find hope, optimism, and possibilities that people never before thought possible. So don’t waste it.

As I have been processing this I am realizing that there are so many new ways of doing things that I would have never even considered doing apart from the stay-at-home order. I am getting more creative in connecting with friends. I am learning and embrace new software and technology that I would have turned my nose up at just a few months ago.

I have been thrust into so much alone time that I am forced to come face to face with my ego. This time has allowed me to do a deep dive into my own heart and soul. I continue to realize that I have so much work to do to be a man that I want my kids to emulate. The holes that need to be filled with grace and love and mercy and kindness are gaping. The inner thoughts that I am often able to drown out with busyness are now loud and on the surface.

We are living in a time where we have to ask ourselves, “How are we going to embrace the crisis?” What will we walk out of this time understanding more deeply about ourselves? How will we love more deeply? Have we grown in our empathy, compassion, and care for others and ourselves?

Where are you at? How are you embracing the crisis?