In my 48 years, I’ve been through a lot. My doctor told me that I had a chronic health condition but then I completely healed myself naturally. I’d started on a $300/month salary but now lead one of the largest longevity-focused funds in the world. I worked hard for over 20 years but only now discovered my life’s mission. It’s been a wild ride! And one of the skills that enabled me to stay afloat in the most challenging times was asking myself one simple question—”what can I learn from this?”
We are currently going through very challenging times due to the COVID-19 epidemic. We are worried about our well-being, our jobs, our family, the economy in general. And rightly so! But instead of going through this turbulence with eyes wide shut, we can try to see what good we can extract from this difficult situation. And, again, it can all start with one simple question—“what can I learn”? Here are the top five insights you may uncover for yourself.
1. Our Civilization is More Fragile Than we Think
Amongst rapid technological breakthroughs, global economies with centuries in the making, and even just the comfort of our daily routines, it’s surprising to see just how fragile our civilization really is. The service industry came to a halt. Travel plans got cancelled. Major events including the Olympics and the Premier League were suspended until further notice. Even one of basic human rights—freedom of movement—became subject to severe monitoring and even prosecution. And it all happened practically overnight.
But don’t let the magnitude of uncertainty scare you. Learn to embrace it. Treat the current crisis as an opportunity to help you build your tolerance to it. After all, “the bigger the wave – the better the ride”, so learning to surf rather than sink can serve you well. Some of life’s best moments—such as going after a dream job or choosing to become a parent—often start with going through doubt and indecision and coming out on the other side.
2. Prepare for the Unknowns
With the Internet at our fingertips, it is hard to imagine there could be something that we don’t know or—at the very least—can’t Google. Yet, on March 16th nobody could have predicted that we would wake up to Dow Jones’ biggest single-day drop in history (at least in the history of the Internet!) when it fell nearly 3,000 points due to coronavirus fears. And just a couple of days later, S&P Global announced that the coronavirus outbreak “has plunged the world’s economy into a global recession”. With past recessions typically caused by stock market crashes, high interest rates, and falling house prices, it was completely unexpected that a novel viral threat would hit the global economy as hard (if not harder) as the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.
Times of financial crisis are especially challenging for businesses and entrepreneurs. At the same time, they are a fantastic opportunity to build a company that is resilient and versatile enough to overcome even the most violent turbulence. In fact, companies such as Microsoft, General Electric, and IBM are high profile examples of businesses that were born in, or close to, an economic crash. So create a practical risk map for your business or your personal finances that would survive not only risks that are foreseeable—but also the ‘known unknowns’— such as the coronavirus crisis. And who knows—you might just build the next unicorn.
3. We are Learning What Matters the Most
Some people scoff at the saying that “money doesn’t make you happy”. They are sure it will. However, in the light of the devastating deaths due to COVID-19 we are being reminded that health—not money—is our true wealth, and that we’d give anything for the well-being of our family and loved ones.
As the virus threatens layoffs and bankruptcies, we may also gain renewed appreciation for our jobs. But it’s not just the financial aspect of paying our rents and mortgages and putting food on our table. We may realize that our jobs may also be a source of non-monetary rewards such as happiness and fulfillment.
So practice gratitude for being alive and well enough to read this article. Give thanks to the people you are lucky enough to still have around you. And appreciate the little things you may be taking for granted such as travel, food—and even toilet paper rolls!
4. We Are Rediscovering Ourselves
Now that we understand that money can’t buy us happiness, we must realize that there is another thing it cannot buy us—time. We are all born with 24 hours in the day available to us—but how many of those hours do you spend doing what you truly want to? Time is the ultimate luxury, and with the self-isolation measures in place, it is a precious gift that we might all finally be able to enjoy.
But how do we deal with this gift graciously when we are limited by our 8-second attention spans (less than a goldfish)? How do we treat our relationships with more free time but less ways to interact socially? And what will you learn about yourself in the process? In a sense, this is the first global experiment of its kind, which will make us reinvent the way we work, socialize, and spend our free time in this new paradigm.
So use this once-in-a-life time opportunity for personal growth. Discover your interests, priorities and maybe even your life purpose in the process. Do the work, and when quarantine measures are lifted you might just emerge into the real world with a clearer understanding of who you are and where you want to go.
5. Mother Nature is Speaking to us
For decades, we have abused the environment. Plastic pollution, resource depletion, air and water contamination are all embarrassing examples of how we treat Mother Nature. So it’s about time she fought back and shut us down. As concerning as it is to see certain manufacturing and travel industries coming to a halt, it is nice to see Mother Nature beginning to heal her wounds.
For example, due to the lockdown the average number of “good quality air days” in China increased by more than 20% in February, compared to the same period last year. An Assistant Professor at Stanford estimated that the improved air quality could have saved between up to 75,000 people from dying prematurely. The ozone layer began to heal due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which could help relieve many climate issues around the world.
If Greta Thunberg wasn’t enough of a wake-up call—this global epidemic certainly is. The environment can be not only a source of nourishment, but a source of threat if mishandled. So if we treat Mother Nature with kindness – and it will do the same for us.
Final Thoughts: We are Climbing Our Personal Everest
Did you know that chances of dying while climbing Mount Everest and from coronavirus in Wuhan are about the same? Lessons learnt are remarkably similar, too. Safety should be your top priority—and your responsibility. Preparation is the key to survival. But how well we learn these lessons and what we do with them thereafter – is completely up to us
So don’t give up and use these challenging times to become stronger, better, tougher. In the meantime—stay safe!