In Control

Life is sometimes crazy, isn’t it? I mean, look at what we have gone through in just a few short months this year.

A pandemic killed the world economy and dramatically increased mental health cases.

Racism pushed its way into the limelight, temporarily quashing pandemic concerns while protesters took to the streets.

We expanded our vocabulary with new phrases and word pairings. “Physical distancing.” “Social distancing.” “We’re in this together.” “Stay safe.” If you are like me, hearing these words is like hearing nails grating on a chalkboard.

Despite everything, however, the earth continues to revolve around the sun 24/7.

What awaits us in the bigger picture is anyone’s guess, but one thing is sure: With all the turbulence of 2020 (the irony of hindsight is not lost in that number), we do see goodness emerging both in people and our planet.

Since working at home has become the norm for most, parents are now focusing more on their children. Family time and the family unit have once again become relevant.

And pollution has decreased. The earth is breathing freely again.

As I ponder the first half of 2020, I wanted to share what I believe are essential learnings.

  1. There is but one race on our planet. It is called the human race.
  2. Money is power, and the powerful continue to rule the world. That said, the assimilation of wealth in the hands of a few (the one percent) is not sustainable for humanity.
  3. Medical experts do not always get it right. Pandemic measures done in excess create more harm than good (for example, suicide rates are spiking, domestic violence is on the rise).
  4. Objective news reporting has given way to sensationalism. Ratings and profits are driving what should be unbiased and balanced news.
  5. Social media creates stress in excess. It can usurp all energy in a single post.
  6. Fear makes people do silly things. The media is an excellent incubator of fear.
  7. All individuals function at different emotional levels. That is what makes us unique. That is also what creates severe differences of opinion and conflict. Media helps fuel these differences.
  8. Critical thinking is not something that everyone possesses equally. There is also inequality in the distribution of money. And power. See point 2 above.
  9. Politics are a dirty business. Even good politicians must take a certain amount of mudslinging if they are to stay in the game.
  10. Businesses are opening slowly, and even the grocery store food lines are starting to go by the wayside. Things appear to be returning to normal.
  11. Personal productivity and motivation are inextricably linked. Good mental health also impacts motivation.
  12. Not all businesses will survive the economic slowdown. But not all businesses will die, either.

I’m sure you can add more to this list.

When this pandemic passes – and it will – I hope that you get a chance to reflect on how the experience has changed not only your business but you, personally.

How will your post-pandemic reality look? Will it be the same as pre-pandemic, or will the scars remain long after the “all clear” from epidemiologists and governments?

Whatever your reality, know that businesses cannot operate as usual in the post-pandemic era. If innovation and flexibility were not embedded in your business previously, they must become part of your business mantra now. Companies capable of thinking through new ideas and quickly experimenting are the ones that will survive post-pandemic.

According to the World Economic Forum, the global economic slowdown is forecast to cost the global economy at least $1 trillion in 2020 (not including the tragic human consequences). That should be motivation enough to start thinking about how to adapt your business to a new reality – regardless if a new way of doing business is required.

How do you start adapting your business? Look at the flaws in your organization first – this crisis amplified these flaws. Implementing new ways of dealing with the customer is mandatory to correct the weaknesses.

Next, identify where you need help – is it knowledge, skill, products, or something else? We can’t do everything on our own – ask and get the help you need to sustain your operation. Other areas to evaluate include your data and technology (is it working for or against you?) and your workforce. Machines and computers are great (when and where they are needed), but no business can function effectively without a competent workforce.

In the end, when things do return to normal, know that you are in control – both of your personal and business futures.

Productivity in Crisis

There is so much fear-mongering around the COVID-19 (a strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS) pandemic. While the pandemic is real, the approach to quashing the virus is unrealistic and is damaging not only our economy, but our mental health, as well.

Simply stated, the disease statistics do not support the measures.

Of all those infected, 80 percent will experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery while 15 percent “might” need hospitalization. Of the 15 percent, some will die. The world death rate is 20 percent, but this is only for closed cases and does not account for active tested cases. Nor does it include all cases (i.e., those that have the virus but were never tested).

This is one time where I will invoke Trump’s infamous “fake news” claim. The percentages of overall deaths relating to COVID-19 are false. If the entire population is not tested for COVID-19, then the percentages are exaggerated, and the number of people reported to be infected is inaccurate.

Is the virus deadly? It can be, but so is the flu. So is heart disease. So is tuberculosis. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. As of April 18, COVID-19 killed about 159,000 people worldwide. When was the last time we shut down the world economy during flu season? Right. Never.

You may say that vaccines exist for a lot of diseases, so COVID-19 is new in that regard. Maybe, but the entire world population does not get an annual flu vaccine or any other vaccine, either. This is a fact. However, not to worry – Big Pharma is working on that vaccine, just like they did on the others.

Disease or no disease, good hygiene is important and social distancing makes sense when dealing with someone with a contagious illness. However, where is the logic in shutting doctors’ offices, shutting stores, shutting private and government offices, and shutting other so-called non-essential services to protect, possibly, 15 percent of the population that is immunocompromised? And where is the logic in socially-distanced lines outside grocery stores and pharmacies? It is utter nonsense!

I may sound like I do not care, but that is not true. I care deeply about my family, friends, and community in which I live. I’m sure you also care for those you know and love. However, the extreme measures imposed on us by governments are not in our best interests. The measures may be in the best interests of the top one percent, but after this is over, most of the population will be decimated not because of the virus, but because of the inane shutdowns that led to economic devastation.

If the entire USA gets COVID-19—population of about 330 million people—based on current statistics of 15 percent hospitalizations, about 49.5 million people may need to be hospitalized. If Canada’s entire population of about 38 million contracts COVID-19, about 5.7 million may need hospitalization. These are big numbers. However, remember that these numbers assume that every person gets the virus. But this isn’t true, is it?

Not everyone will get sick. Not everyone EVER gets sick at the same time nor does everyone EVER get the same diseases that anyone else might get. Some people will NEVER get COVID-19, even if they are in direct contact with someone who has the virus. The same applies to other diseases.

Good hygiene and social distancing may help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The Centre for Disease Control recommends putting distance (at least six feet) between yourself and others, practicing frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces—especially when someone is ill. That seems like common sense when dealing with anyone with an infectious disease. However, all of this can still be done while keeping businesses open to maintain our economic productivity.

As I ponder our current situation, I ask myself if I’m missing some important information about the virus that might help justify the extreme actions imposed on our livelihoods. However, I do not see the logic. I cannot reconcile how shutting down the economy does any good for anyone – whether you are sick with COVID-19, heart disease, the flu, measles, or any other illness.

One thing is certain: We have become drones (perhaps terrified drones) of the government while those selling the “practice” of good hygiene and social distancing are raking in profits. This is occurring at the same time as millions of workers are laid off and businesses are closed (some likely forever). Yes, governments are providing support through wage subsidies and loans to those who have lost their jobs and businesses, but when this is all over, someone will need to pay back those subsidies and loans. Be prepared to expect higher taxes in your near future.

There is inequity even in the government stimulus. Not every family of four gets the same government benefit. Some families get the full benefit, while others receive nothing. Some people want to go back to work because they do not qualify for unemployment insurance and are running out of money; others want to seriously injure those who break the quarantine. For some, quarantine is optimal – a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flipflops, with a cocktail or coffee. But for most, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

Look at Sweden. Sweden stands apart. Sweden is not in complete lockdown, yet Sweden’s COVID-19 numbers are on par with similar populations. It is not any better or worse. But Sweden’s people are working and living normal lives – they gather in groups (less than 50), their restaurants are open, they are not forced to wait in lines outside grocery stores. They can shake hands if they wish.

Sweden has a mortality rate that’s about twice as high as that of Denmark (where full lockdown measures are employed)—0.01 percent of the population dead in Sweden versus about 0.005 percent of the population dead in Denmark—and only half that of France.

The bottom line is that this pandemic has created ill-conceived measures and these measures will ruin more lives than save.

We are all paying an extremely high price for COVID-19, indeed.