In the past month, the world as we knew it has turned upside down. People are fighting over toilet paper (that’s funny … and at the same time also sad); financial markets are tumbling; governments are running around making decisions between the economy or the people; people are losing jobs; businesses are worried about paying their bills as customers stop showing up; health facilities are trying to cope with an influx of sick people. Our world doesn’t look like it’s about to get any better right now, for anyone. Except maybe toilet paper sales!
With so much change happening so quickly, there is a lot of fear, anxiety and confusion. Which is hardly surprising when you consider no one trained us for this and too many people live hand to mouth each week with little savings to deal with surprises.
And when I refer to surprises, I’m only talking about basic surprises like a broken tooth or servicing the car because it broke down. Not the mother of all surprises like dealing with a recession AND a pandemic at the same time! And it happened so fast… December 2019 all good. March 2020, what the fuck??
I’m not afraid to say this is scary!
My plans for 2020 are now completely out the window. They’ve changed to (for the moment) focusing on getting through the shock of this change and dealing with questions like:
- How do you pay your bills when your customers have stopped showing up?
- How do you earn a living when the customers who do show up have little or no money?
- How do you get through this year when your income is dropping like a stone?
- How can you make it through this when you may not have enough savings?
- How do you avoid losing everything you have?
Whatever your question, I believe it all comes down to the same thing …
“How can you build a better world for yourself by surviving (or thriving) during a recession AND a pandemic?”
Governments had a chance to do something. For the most part, they failed. Instead of us isolating our respective countries when they had the chance, and stop the virus getting in we’re now being forced to self-isolate in our homes under emergency lockdowns. Instead of our leaders protecting us, we’re having to protect ourselves.
So now that Pandora is out of the box (and she ain’t going back in), what can we do to protect ourselves?
First (I know this is cliché, but it works) … just stop and take a deep breath.
Let that breath out slowly. Do it again.
Slowing down helps you make better decisions, and helps you focus on now. Panicking about what could happen isn’t going to help. So, as you move through today and into your new future, never forget to stop and take a deep breath slowly whenever you feel it’s all getting too hard.
Second … you have to believe it’s possible to get through this without losing everything.
If you believe this is going to hurt – it’s going to hurt. If you believe it’s all doom and gloom – guess what? It ain’t going to be sunshine and roses.
What you believe in limits what you think you can achieve. Prior to 1954, runners believed the four-minute mile was impossible … until Sir Roger Bannister broke it in 1954. Ever since, runners continue to run sub-four-minute miles.
If you believe recessions suck and you’re going to lose money, that’s what will happen. So, let’s start believing you’re going to be okay. Even better, believe it’s also possible you could be more than okay because of this.
Having said that – reality check time (I am a contrarian after all – and I believe you need to be a realist too).
Some people will struggle through this. Businesses will fail. Some governments will fall (deservedly so, if you ask me). Some people are going to lose some serious money. Some people are going to lose their jobs. Some people are going to get sick and some will die. Whether that includes you or not is, for the most part, up to you.
If you believe you have no choice in this mess, I can’t help you.
If you’re on the fence, then you need to read this article – 5 Great Depression Success Stories – about how some businesses that faced a serious challenge and lived to tell about it.
- Movie theatres got creative with double features, cut prices, giveaways …
- Proctor and Gamble pursued new marketing avenues
- Martin guitars offered new less expensive models
- Brewers diversified
And I know from my own experience starting my own small business in 2008 (I know it wasn’t the Great Depression, but it was the Global Financial Crisis) that it’s possible to do well during a recession.
So hopefully you believe it’s possible to get through a shitty time (even if you’re not sure how you can at this point), and maybe even do better than just get through. What’s next?
Next … you have to be prepared to make some hard choices
This starts with knowing what’s most important to you. The values you have are important because you will face some choices you haven’t made before. Unless you’ve got money, you’re going to face situations where you’re going to have to choose between things you have and the people around you. The choices you make will be different for those who value money more than people … and vice versa.
Our values are personal, and I’m not here to judge. All I want you to be aware of is that life will be very different for everyone for the coming year and because of that you’re going to have to make decisions you’ve never had to make before. So be clear on what’s important to you to ensure you’re making good decisions for you.
If you believe it’s possible to make it through this without losing everything (even if you don’t know how yet), and you’re okay with making hard calls, then you’re ready to start building a better world for yourself … at least better than the one you’re looking at right now.
One final thought about this whole mess.
I believe the financial markets and governments failed to deal with the financial crisis in 2008 and the recession we’re now facing (which I believe will be worse than 2008) is a correction of that mistake. It sucks that you and I will bear the biggest brunt of that correction, but we can get through this without losing everything if you’re prepared to make some changes.
Businesses that shouldn’t be here will not make it through this. That’s a good thing. Maybe not for the businesses that fail – but for the businesses that remain it will mean more customers and happier customers (because businesses that fail normally aren’t meeting customer needs well anyway).
We will realise we put too much faith in banks, financial institutions, and governments. And hopefully, we’ll make sure that once this is over, we choose better leaders for Government (based on outcomes, experience and merit rather than popularity and self-interest) and we don’t rely as much as we did on banks and financial institutions.
Maybe we’ll stop spending more than we make and put money put aside for the next “rainy day”. This won’t be the last one!
I hope we start taking more ownership and accountability for our actions and reduce (stop?) blaming everyone and everything else for the very things we ALL do. The “go to” thinking shouldn’t be moaning to the Government to do something about whatever is pissing you off – it should be ‘what can we do about it?’.
I also hope we’ll see a return to real “community”, even if we need to communicate virtually for a while, and a drop in fake/virtual ones and that we will carry this on through when we come out the other side of this mess.
Whether this happens or not will come down to the personal choices we all make as humans and whether we choose to remember what happened, how it happened, and how we got through this (so we never give that away again). Unfortunately, history isn’t on my side with this … but maybe, just maybe this time as a species we will learn and not forget.
Over the next week I’ll be posting five different ways you can improve your chances of surviving the current epidemic and recession:
- Part 1 – The life you used to have ain’t coming back; Planing for the worst, hoping for the best; Building your war chest (if you don’t have one, how to get one FAST); Cutting or deferring unnecessary costs – business and personal
- Part 2 – Talking with your bank; Talking with your suppliers and customers; Tax planning
- Part 3 – The rules have changed – you need to get used to the new rules as soon as possible; Changing credit terms with your customers; Stop spending money on marketing/advertising (invest instead!)
- Part 4 – Talking with your employment specialist; Talking with your insurance broker; Talking with your landlord; Talking with your accountant
- Part 5 – Accepting Government assistance
In the meantime, I wish you all well, whether you are an employee, beneficiary or small business owner. Look after each other and do not let the stress of what’s unfolding swallow you up and spit you out. I believe in the human spirit, and I believe you can get through this if you are prepared to make some tough choices.
Your future is in your hands.