In the past week I have been reflecting on the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and what it means for us going forward as individuals, families, employees, business owners, entire economies and the world. What I have come to know is that I have very little understanding of this impact. I think few do. There is just so much I can’t answer, and I probably don’t even know what the right questions are to be asking.
What I share below is my perception of the immediate effect and some thoughts I have on the situation we’re in.
The term force majeure is often only raised in a business context, but I believe it is relevant across the board right now. Your personal view of the world will determine if you see this as a disaster or as a blessing. It will determine if you see it as an obstacle to what you were going to achieve or as a catalyst to achieve your goals. It will determine if you see this as a threat to how you planned to do things or an opportunity to redefine them.
Whether this came from bats, a laboratory, an act of nature, God stepping in or 5G – none of that matters. It is here now, that is all that matters.
This force majeure is upon us. But what is a force majeure?
- Superior or irresistible force
- An event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled
Force majeure translates literally from French as superior force. In English, the term is often used in line with its literal French meaning, but it has other uses as well, including one that has roots in a principle of French law. In business circles, “force majeure” describes those uncontrollable events (such as war, labour stoppages, or extreme weather) that are not the fault of any party and that make it difficult or impossible to carry out normal business. A company may insert a force majeure clause into a contract to absolve itself from liability in the event it cannot fulfil the terms of a contract (or if attempting to do so will result in loss or damage of goods) for reasons beyond its control. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
I’ve noticed that we have been forced into doing four things during the lockdown period:
- Watch (not tv, but yes, that too)
For the first time in my or my parent’s lifetimes, most of the nation has been forced into resting. Now, this rest may not come with any positive connotation as the rest is accompanied by anxiety, stress, job loss, uncertainty and so on. But put that aside for a second. Think about when last (if ever) a result of a situation was to sit still at home. When last were you forced to drop your distractions and obligations? Work, shopping, kid’s parties, sports events, clubbing, dinner parties, social events, whatever. When last were you forced into your own space with no excuse to leave it? This forced rest leaves us with no option but to sit and re-evaluate what we believed about where we were going (and why), to watch and act on what we learn in this process.
Fight, flight and freeze are the reactions we have to danger. As for the current situation, the fight will happen mostly externally (in pharma for the disease and in the action our governments take economically and through policy).
Flight is not option – you literally cannot escape a bacterium that has spread worldwide right now.
This time we are forced to freeze. When we freeze, we have no choice but to observe while we process our surroundings. And so, we watch:
We watch our leaders, our presidents and those we look to for direction.
We watch those around us in the religious, the business, social and medical arenas.
But I think we need to seriously consider what and who we watch. We need to be particularly selective of who we look to for guidance at this point.
There are those who will be attracted to the negative news and the doomsday prophets because this gives them a sense of relief for the chaos they’re feeling; it justifies their fears and finds them in a familiar group that they can agree with and who understands them. Then there are those who will be in a solutionist mindset, either looking at what they can do or how they can support those who are doing something.
On a less serious note, I find it amusing to think how some parents will get to watch the type of children they have raised, now that they aren’t a teacher’s problem during the day.
As we watch, we are forced to ponder, which in turn gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate many aspects of our lives.
3. Think and Re-evaluate
The reason there is an emphasis on re-evaluation is that you would have already evaluated your situation at some point prior to this. But the time and context have changed, forcing you to re-evaluate it. The second opportunity to refocus and introspect.
Here are the aspects of our lives I believe we will need to re-evaluate. You’ll know what is applicable to you.
How you spend your time: There is a lot of talk about how the world will be different coming out of this. How we will see health and physical distance in social environments will change. This may mean we adopt an entirely new way of spending time in social spaces. But what if this goes away completely or becomes something we can deal with using medicine and we can return to ‘normal’ social interaction? The time many of us have spent in lockdown and quarantine will have shifted our perception of where we want to spend time. With less things to do now, our minds may well change about what we spend our time on in future.
Who you spend your time with: For many, this time away from people will reinforce the importance of relationships with friends and family they haven’t seen in a while. It will reinforce the importance of nurturing those relationships. While for others this will show them their lives will not fall apart if they are not at the club every Friday, that it won’t kill them to spend a Sunday resting from the week that passed, giving themselves a break from the social pressure they feel to ‘keep up’.
The relevance of those we ‘follow’: I think now more than ever we can see that there is absolutely no reason to try keep up with a Kardashian. This situation has made it clearer than ever how little celebrities, supermodels, movie stars and half-naked ‘influencers’ on Instagram mean to the world. More importantly, it highlights how little the message they preach means to the welfare of the people watching them. The Gucci handbag, the Louis Vuitton clothes, the Lamborghini, the weight of the gold around your neck or the size of your waste and where you eat breakfast on a weekend have zero relevance when people are dying from something you cannot see, losing their jobs and going hungry as they run out of money.
Maybe going forward we will see an increase in the numbers that follow the Shay Rowbottom’s, Gary-Vee’s, Russel Brunson’s and Mark Sham’s of the world. People who invest their time in content that teaches people how to grow themselves rather than show themselves.
What you spend your money on: The lockdown will likely have a massive impact on how we choose to spend our money in the future. What do you buy to impress people that honestly do not matter? “Got a new job, so I need to upgrade the car to show I earn more money now”. “Better mention that I took this selfie with the latest iPhone”. “Let’s invite Randy and his wife over who we really can’t stand, but they do need to know we got a bigger place”.
How about these questions:
How is all the clothing debt I have helping me now?
With free apps like Nike Training Club, why am I paying that much for gym?
Why not go online with my personal trainer?
How is that new expensive car helping me?
What if I just bought the low mileage used one?
How is the higher insurance premium helping me out right now?
How is the apartment in this unnecessarily expensive neighbourhood helping me right now?
How are those 17 pairs of shoes working out for me? (Don’t believe this one – go count your shoes!)
How about all the cash I spent on alcohol in the last year? What if we halved that?
Look, most of these are water under the bridge, sunk costs. But the decisions going forward need to (and hopefully will) change.
Many will now experience what it feels like not to receive a payment owed to them for something they sold or rented to someone. Behind the thousands of people experiencing this, there are thousands more not paying them. Not paying because of where they chose to spend their money leading up to this unforeseen day. You do not want to be part of the reason someone’s business closes because you chose to waste your money before all of this. People’s businesses are shutting down due to the lack of financial discipline of people around them. How we spend money, and what we spend it on should matter more in the future from now on.
Personal and Social responsibility: There have been more than enough people discussing the opportunities during lockdown to upskill yourself, especially if you might lose your job. And apparently, it’s easy – just do what you love. I honestly don’t buy into the whole “do what you love and make that a business” philosophy, but I do believe in starting with something you understand so that you recognise where there are problems to solve in places you are familiar with. I am not going to discuss how you should do this, rather WHY.
The most important reason is to look after number one (you). If you don’t have income, you’re likely to experience a loss of self-worth and increased anxiety. If you don’t have income, you cannot look after yourself. If you cannot look after yourself, you probably can’t look after your family. If you can’t provide for your family, you become stressed and panicked. If you are stressed and panicked, you’ll make bad decisions and lose the ability to judge situations for what they are. So, take the time to invest and re-invest in a skill set. This helps you pivot in difficult circumstances. With a solid skill set, you can fail and rebuild because you already know the recipe.
When you are in a position to look after yourself and your family, you will be in a better position to provide for those around you. People seem to hate the rich, but billions have been pumped into economies worldwide recently by the 1%’ers. Without them, this situation would be a lot worse. The reason they (and many other business owners) can do this now is because for years they invested in their businesses and themselves, and without that investment, there would be nothing to share now and even more job losses.
When enough people invest in themselves and their skills, then there are families that are better off and neighbourhoods that are better off and towns and cities and states and countries and economies. But you first have to take responsibility for yourself. Each of us must do this. That is our personal responsibility that later contributes to a greater social picture.
How you make money: Not everyone will start their own businesses and not everyone wants to. There’s a huge drive now for everyone and their dog to become entrepreneurs. These are just people trying to say, “secure the way you make money”. They’re just communicating it in the wrong way. What they’re really trying to say is “have more control”. The message gets distorted by this narrative that everyone must now start an online business. Trust me, there are more ways than that to make your money. The point of this is just to re-evaluate the demand for someone with your skillset in a given market, whether that is by starting a business, or through the demand for an employee with your skills.
We need to look at how this pandemic affected each of us and reassess the stability of what we do for a living in case situations like this come along again in future.
Find yourself a spot in the market where you are needed. Make sure you are so damn good at what you do, that people and companies want you to solve that problem they have. That is the point of upskilling. Not everyone needs to become an online entrepreneur, but we do need to put more thought into how we make money.
Finally, your relationship with yourself: I doubt there will be a better time to re-evaluate our relationships with ourselves than now. When last were you forced back inside your own mind? When last did you have the time to spend with yourself? During this lockdown, how comfortable have you been with the person you found inside? And what are you doing about it? Outside of this lockdown, we had all the excuses in the world to tell ourselves we’re fine. We had all the distractions we needed at our disposal to avoid having to look at ourselves in a mirror or have that conversation with the person that lives in our heart.
Now more than ever, it’s time to listen to that person, time to have the honest conversations and take the time to be kind to yourself. If all of the topics you’ve read about here fail, if they all turn to dust, you are still stuck with you. Take the time now to nurture this relationship, it’s most personal and closest one you’ll have with anyone. When we leave lockdown most distractions will be back, occupying the time you need to work on you.
For each of the points we’ve evaluated and re-evaluated, for all the thinking we’ve done, it will go to waste without doing something about it.
Not everything here is applicable to each of us. But something here, even if it’s just one of these points, is applicable. The responsibility is now yours to do something about it or be carried around like driftwood on the ocean during this storm.
To conclude, we’re not all going to lie down and accept defeat. 90% or more of us will get up and fight. But it’s how hard you fight and how long you can fight that will determine where you go once this all calms down. And like any fight, you need to prepare. This is a great time and an excellent excuse to take stock of what you’re doing, where you’re going, where you want to be and who you want to be. This is as close as we’ll get to a reset button. I hope you realise what that means.
Force majeure: A superior or irresistible force… to improve everything about my life.
A very loud and gratitude-filled shout out to doctors, nurses and all the supporting players out there right now. You are heroes! The ones that will have little or no time to do any of the above because you’re too busy helping everyone else.