Chances are, you remember exactly where you were when you realized that the COVID-19 pandemic was, well, a pandemic. And that it was about to impact our lives in unimaginable ways.

March 11, 2020, I was headed to Toronto for a business trip. On my flight, I watched the World Health Organization declare an official pandemic. I reflected on a recent family trip, just a month earlier when my wife and I surprised our four kids with a vacation to Disneyland. News of COVID-19 was starting to filter into the headlines—and we even considered delaying the trip. Now, I’m so glad we didn’t. Once my wife and I jumped in as referees and got the kids to stop fighting that first day, we spent three wonderful days together as a family, creating lifelong memories we can all cherish.

But looking back, I’m struck by how little we know regarding all the ways our world was about to transform.

Back in Toronto, I watched the pandemic descend on us in real time. NBA games were postponed and players warming up were called back to their locker rooms—and then the entire season was suspended indefinitely in less than an hour. Travel bans from Europe were put in effect, and plans for small business loans were announced.

I knew we were about to enter a brand new era unlike anything we’d ever witnessed. But personally, I was about to publish my first book and set off on a speaking tour to launch the book in less than a month. But then, the NBA and I had something in common: That got postponed, too.

I felt panic start to creep in—but I hit the pause button on that feeling pretty quickly. It would have been easy to let anxiety take over, but then I asked myself, “What good would that do?” I pored over historical accounts of earlier pandemics to discover how people connected during turbulent times of yesteryear. And what I found? Reason for hope.

The thing is, during all of those previous pandemics—much like those early days of COVID—was constant innovation. During the flu of 1918, for example, society embraced the telephone—an invention with previously lackluster performance—like never before. It was a way to connect and avoid the isolation of being home. The number of daily calls skyrocketed.

And 100+ years later, innovation was happening all over again, similarly focused on empowering connection: The Great Zoom Boom. Video communication gave us all a way to connect with colleagues and loved ones during a really tough time. Again, Zoom, like the telephone in 1918, had been experiencing sluggish beginnings—until the pandemic. Suddenly, we were Zooming into meetings, workout classes, cocktail hours, concerts, dance parties, and even cooking lessons.

08. Zoom Growth (2)

Seven years prior, Zoom launched in 2013, logging 200 million meeting minutes in its first year. At the end of 2019—before the pandemic—Zoom had 10 million meeting participants logging on per day.

But in 2020? These figures went through the roof. 300 million daily meeting participants. And by the time 2022 rolled around—well after the end of the stay-at-home orders—Zoom logged 3.3 trillion total meeting minutes in one year.

After the pandemic of 1918, telephones didn’t go away. And it appears that video conferencing is here to stay as well. It’s a great example of growth in action—a journey from good to great. For your financial brand, digital growth and transformation might feel a lot like you’re in the beginning stages of a new phase of innovation, ready to climb but unsure of what steps to take first.

Or perhaps, you see all the ways AI and automation are poised for a massive spike, but you’re looking for the right strategy to implement these tools within your financial institution.

Or maybe you’re looking for new ways to support your account holders or your larger community with their financial situation.

But regardless of what it is you’re after, your approach makes all the difference in the outcome. It all comes down to how you CARE. 

What Does It Mean to CARE?

Life is full of peaks and valleys, both personally and professionally, where you get to experience great levels of growth and success, then struggle through challenges and roadblocks. But here’s the thing—both the highs and lows are opportunities for real growth. And whether you find yourself enjoying a period of success or navigating obstacle after obstacle, you’ve got an opportunity to make exponential growth happen.

Here’s the thing: The innovations we witnessed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic are just a preview of all the changes we’re going to see during this decade. Some will be great, and others not so much. But all you’ve got to focus on is the next peak you plan to ascend and if you CARE to make the climb.

CARE is about survival. It’s what gets you to the top of the mountain when the route gets rocky and you start to feel yourself sliding backwards. It’s about having the determination and grit to make a bigger, brighter future for yourself and others.

So, I’ve created an acronym—CARE—to guide your ascent.

  • Commit to a cause greater than the present moment
  • Adapt your beliefs to transform your actions
  • Resiliency is the way when things get tough
  • Emotion is energy in motion use it wisely.

Let’s take a look at what this means when put into practice.

Commit to a Cause

Climbing a mountain and achieving exponential growth doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s going to take some doing. Financial brand leaders often struggle with this—because they avoid talking about purpose.

But unless there’s a purpose, why change at all? Why do anything different? The reason is simple. Until you discover your purpose—your reason for being—you aren’t going to have the oomph you need to get up that mountain.

That’s why so many organizations discovered their purpose during COVID and found innovation and growth out of that purpose. We finally had the chance to press pause and think about why we’re here—as people, as teams, and as financial institutions. It was a chance to reflect on causes bigger than just the present moment and commit to the change needed to bring those causes to life.

I’ve got a secret. Well, it’s not really a secret. Committing to a cause beyond the present moment creates financial value. It’s not just a lofty ideology. It creates meaning and dedication. And those who find a larger purpose in their work can be generous with their energy, time, and ideas. In giving freely and dedicating themselves to a cause, we don’t stagnate—we grow. We can do more. And we can do more, better. When you tap into the power of finding your “why,” you can transform your entire organization.

Adapt Your Beliefs to Transform Your Actions

To quote a very wise woman (my mother), “The only people on planet Earth who like change are babies with dirty diapers.” For the rest of us? Change is hard. It’s complicated. And sometimes scary.

So, why are we so averse to change? It’s because we are looking at change through our own lens; our own reality. This is why it’s so helpful to have a larger cause or a greater purpose—like financial stress and the toll it can take on your health, wealth, and well-being. This makes change feel easier—and less scary—because it stops being about you.

When you adapt your beliefs, you shift your perspective, and actions become far easier. How do we do this? By continuing to learn. In my experience, the most dangerous place to be is when we think we have nothing more to learn. Instead, when we commit to being lifelong students, we keep learning, expanding our horizons, and shifting our perspectives.

Historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens recently shared his thoughts on learning and adapting with Tom Bilyeu on the Impact Theory podcast. He said, “The most important quality to survive and flourish in the 21st century is to have mental flexibility. Not to just keep learning and changing again and again but to also keep letting go. Part of what makes it difficult to learn new things is that we hold on. Like I spent so many years learning something and now the world had changed and I just don’t want to let go.”

But when we adapt, we grow. There’s an abundance of opportunities in front of us, waiting to be explored—but we must learn, have an open mind, and be ready to adopt new thoughts, ideas, and insights to embrace them.

Resiliency Is the Way to Tackle Tough Times

Climbing a mountain isn’t for the faint of heart. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. When seeking growth and change, there are bound to be challenges and roadblocks. But there’s something powerful about committing to a cause you believe in. It doesn’t just help you begin your ascent to the top of the mountain, but it also helps you level up—even when times get tough.

And as philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in his book Meditations, “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our own acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Copy of 11. Roadblock and Opportunties

In other words, our biggest challenges become our biggest opportunities. But it takes resiliency to make it happen.

Too often, we think about resilience from a negative perspective—that we have to ascribe to the kind of backbreaking grind that’s encouraged in unhealthy entrepreneurial and executive circles.

We don’t have to muscle our way through challenges with tension and a furrowed brow, efforting every step along the way. Resiliency is not about bouncing back—it’s about bouncing forward; moving with the flow of life and using the difficulties we encounter to our advantage, rather than fighting against them.

Emotion Is Energy in Motion

If you’re climbing a mountain and committed to a cause, you’re bound to have emotions along the way—and these emotions will have a direct impact on the progress you make along your journey. And this is true whether you’re leveling up, descending, or getting stuck in a Cave of Complacency.

Emotion is energy in motion. There’s positive energy and negative energy, and while our positive emotions can propel us forward, negative emotions can deplete our energy, stalling us on our ascent up the mountain. In other words, our emotions have a direct influence on the outcome of our endeavor; on whether we achieve exponential growth or stay stuck in place.

This is why mindset is so important. Do you have an exponential growth mindset?

Or is your mindset keeping you trapped in one spot?

You have the power to set the tone for your entire organization—by focusing on what’s going well.

What Comes Next?

When COVID hit right before my first book was published, putting a roadblock in front of my path, I had a choice to make. And I chose to CARE to climb the mountain ahead of me—to see beyond the pain of the present moment and put the needs of others ahead of my own. Helping others achieve a bigger, better, brighter future became my cause; my purpose. This helped me adapt my beliefs, increase my resilience, and maintain positive, productive energy.

Sure, my book tour was halted. But this obstacle became an opportunity. I had to get creative. I took this unexpected gift of time to launch my podcast, Banking on Digital Growth, which, ultimately, has had an exponentially larger impact than touring around to several conferences ever would. Since unveiling my podcast, I’ve been fortunate enough to reach the ears of marketing, sales, and leadership teams from financial brands and fintechs in over 160 countries. 

Sharing ideas and insights on the podcast—and learning from those I get to interview—has expanded into incredible connections and collaborations and the chance to educate countless individuals, teams, and organizations. 

Copy of 13. Knowing and Growing

What’s next for you?

It starts with identifying a cause that’s greater than this present moment. Allow it to change and transform the way you approach your work—and make room for extraordinary collaboration. Allow the difficulties to become opportunities. And allow your positive emotions to energize you along the way. 

For more about financial transformation, reach out to James Robert Lay at the Digital Growth Institute.