Skip to main content

Never let a crisis go to waste

Executive coach May Busch has 3 steps to emerge from this crisis better and stronger

work from home illustration
June 04, 2020

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the summer 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Written by May Busch, a former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe who is now an executive coach, speaker, adviser, author and executive in residence in ASU’s Office of the President. Find her at

How are you doing these days? Some people are on what one of my clients calls “the struggle bus.” Others are relatively unscathed. But we’re all feeling the effects somehow.

While it may feel like things could drag on indefinitely, and there’s unlikely to be a clearly marked “all clear” signal, the current situation will not go on exactly as is forever.

Whatever way this COVID-19 situation is affecting you and the ones you love, as the saying goes: This too shall pass.

So, what’s the best way to weather the proverbial storm? 

As a junior associate experiencing my first financial crisis, I remember one of our senior managers saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

It was his way of reminding us to get out of our narrow view of the world and look at the bigger picture — to see beyond the immediate panic in order to identify future opportunities and make the changes needed to take advantage of them.

The key is to make the right kind of changes. And that requires some clear thinking on your part.

1. The single most important question to ask yourself

The most important question you can ask yourself right now is this: “How do I want to emerge from this better and stronger?”

This is a powerful question because it instantly pushes you forward to imagine that future point in time when we emerge from the current situation.

While there’s no precise time frame, I recommend you think of this as at least one month from now and preferably longer. You’ll see why in a moment.

2. What does “better” mean for you? 

It might be becoming stronger physically and mentally, developing a new skill that will land you a higher paying job, or finally beginning that personal project that you’ve set aside for years, waiting for when you have more time.

There’s no single right answer. Just what “better” looks, feels and sounds like for you.

3. Let your vision for 'better' drive your actions

Your vision for “better” allows you to approach this period of uncertainty from a position of strength. It gives you some certainties around which to anchor your days, make good decisions and motivate your actions so you are generating forward momentum.

So, think about this as the time to be forming new habits and ways of being that will serve you better and make you more effective (and joyful) in the future.

What enduring habits, qualities and attitudes do you want to emerge with?

Don’t wish this time away. Even in moments of struggle, remember that time is precious. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And your sense of time depends on how you frame it.

Make productive use of this time. Spend some time thinking about how you want to emerge from this crisis better. Then, start taking steps toward creating your better future.

This is your time. How do you want to emerge from this time better and stronger? 

MORE: Get career counseling resources at