There is no way to sugar coat it, the last few weeks have been a lot to handle. The morphing of the coronavirus from a Chinese to a European to a global – and then to an us – problem, seems like it happened gradually, then all of a sudden.
In the words of Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy – “Boy, that escalated quickly, I mean that really go out of hand fast.”
When it comes to my own mindset, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that a few weeks ago, when I perceived it to be a them problem, my primary concern was around the economic and financial fallout that was resulting from the outbreak. “Oh, the mortality rate is really low, what is everyone panicking about?”
However, by the time my daughter’s school was cancelled today due to coronavirus concerns around one of the parents, let’s just say my thoughts quickly shifted to ones of health and safety of friends, family, community and yes, myself.
Clearly some reflection is needed.
So, after some soul searching, I have decided that rather than succumb to the doom and gloom of it all, I’m going to use it as an opportunity to stress test everything in my life.
We continuously hear that those most at risk from the Coronavirus are those with weakened immune systems or underlying diseases. While this is true from a physical health perspective, it also applies at a business, financial and emotional level.
For example, from a personal finance perspective, the collapse in the global stock markets is a great opportunity to stress test my investment strategy.
Over the last few years, I have carefully decided on a strategy that diversifies me across asset classes, geographies, currencies and funds.
Had I not done this (i.e. had I chosen to be 100% in equities in South Africa), I would be far more concerned than I already am.
To be fair, the recent crisis has highlighted some areas of concern and I have made some tweaks to my portfolio over the last few weeks. While it’s still not comfortable, I take comfort that I am fairly well positioned to ride out this storm. Hopefully I will also learn from my mistakes and not repeat them in the future.
From a business perspective, companies or departments that have been built with solid foundations are far more likely to make it through the crisis than those with serious underlying issues, such as poor cash flow, management teams or culture. Regardless of whether they succeed or fail in the coming months, there will be valuable lessons to take from all this for future ventures.
Finally, this virus (not to mention the added pressure in South Africa of load shedding) is going to test us mentally and emotionally.
The stress and anxiety is real people and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better.
Given the nature of this crisis, it’s going to be tempting to want to isolate yourself from the world and withdraw inwards. Ironically though, I believe we are going to need each other more than ever (although not in group environments) to get us through these coming weeks and months.
Many religions and mystics teach that everything and everyone is connected in some way – all made up of the same cosmic dust and part of a single living organism. Quantum mechanics has also found that is true at the molecular level and not just in some abstract, esoteric way. And as the rapid spread of the coronavirus has shown, in today’s hyper-connected world, our fates are increasingly intertwined.
While some people have used the current situation as a reason to deride, divide and alienate certain cultures and people, I prefer to take this opportunity as a reminder to care about the health, safety and happiness of humans across the world in the same way as I do my own family.
We are all in this together – let’s look out for each other, care for each other and for Gods sake, please don’t hog all the toilet paper.