Born into a Crisis - The Grand Migration
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
‘We must take the soul back and withdraw it into itself; that is the real solitude, which may be enjoyed in the midst of cities and the courts of kings; but it is best enjoyed alone.' Montaigne
Our lives have turned upside down; as Hemingway puts it, ‘’first gradually and then suddenly’’. We knew there was a looming epidemic somewhere in China; not the shiny Shanghai or Beijing or Shenzhen - centre of smartphone and electronics production worldwide - but Wuhan. In less than two months, the entire world joined the race against contagion.
Now we are confined to our homes, where once we escaped for comfort and cosiness, and celebrated ‘working from home’ to be left alone and create our best works, to get away from annoying colleagues or small talk, or simply to work on our own schedule as we plan it. This now has turned into a mandatory condition instead of a voluntary occasion and we don’t know how to live with it. Even on those rare occasions when we enjoyed that flexible working environment, we always felt slightly uncomfortable, with a little bit of guilt and stress as if we were slacking or faking the work.
Now everyone needs to get used to it, it’s the new normal. Or is it really? Social media is quickly filling up with tips and tricks of remote working, best practices, which software to use, time management, staying connected; which are all very relevant and useful but not enough, they’re not even the beginning of it. Our lives have changed fundamentally, not just working conditions; we’re not only cut off from our colleagues or clients, our entire social life is disrupted. The barista who serves our coffee everyday, or the waiter of the restaurant we frequent are far far away now. Our families, loved ones are no longer there physically when we need them.
How do we deal with that? There will be hours and hours of therapies and research and ‘solutions’ which are mostly technical in essence to ‘solve this problem’. We need to acknowledge what just happened before we get to the solution phase. We need to accept and be comfortable with the fact that transition doesn’t happen overnight. People are not robots; they don’t wake up one day and check the conditions and change the way they live accordingly in a split second.
It is fine to just get lost in anxiety for a while, this is not the time to live our old world in a new setting; there will be a significant loss of productivity. Our performance will slow down; there are dogs to be walked, kids to be entertained, meals to be cooked, pantry to be checked, toilet rolls to be stocked, or simply we’re overwhelmed, we cannot concentrate on anything. Let it be. Let us take a deep breath and be aware of our circumstances, calm down, reconnect first with ourselves and then with our surroundings.
Once we get to that consciousness level;
Let’s ask for help, for real this time. Anyone who knows certain things better than us, who we can help back (not because we want to invest in a future business contract but because we feel like it and value it).
Let’s set an example to everyone; by being confident and focused, and connected in any way possible (Saturday virtual dinner, anyone?), by caring more for other people, the elderly, the vulnerable, the sick and the worried. Founders who think of their businesses as part of a universe of interactions and the society as a whole, are able to develop products that appeal to the whole world. This is not going to change and in fact will be even more important to succeed. The things we’ve come to appreciate in the post-industrial app economy as nice-to-haves will turn into musts, and that can only happen with a societal point of view instead of an hyper-individualistic one.
Let’s prioritise the right things, our product, our clients; what is crucial and life and death matter about them now, what is strategic and long term? Which ones can we delegate to someone else, which one needs our urgent attention?
Let’s double down on customer acquisition, creating loyalty in any way possible. Even if this only means, calling our existing clients and checking how they are doing. Making cold calls, using content marketing and other digital ways; reaching out to new ones will keep us focused and healthy in the long term. There is life after this, let’s prepare for that.
Let’s stop thinking in the old ways of 9 to 5 working hours. Work and life are interlinked; it is ok to do yoga at 10am and to write your best code or create your best sales deck at 10pm after your kids go to bed. This is not an invasion of your life by work or the never-existing work/life balance being tipped off. It is life; to be fully lived and enjoyed at every second. It is where we are now, or maybe where we should have been a long time ago.
Stay safe and healthy.
'You are to do like the beasts of chase, who efface the track at the entrance into their den. You are no more to concern yourself how the world talks of you, but how you are to talk to yourself. Retire yourself into yourself, but first prepare yourself there to receive yourself: it were a folly to trust yourself in your own hands, if you cannot govern yourself.’ Montaigne