Stating The Obvious…

Every night I read the headlines going into tomorrow’s news cycle and I’m amazed by the lack of investigation by the mainstream media, they would rather adopt stating the obvious and taking a side. Telling me it’s going to rain outside, when it’s already raining, is just not valuable information. Also trying to entice page-views by saying, it’s raining out and it has rained hard two days in a row is just hyperbole and obvious to most. Then we have tonight’s financial “shocking” news that the manufacturing industry will see a pull back in growth, something akin to the levels we saw back in 1946. Housing starts are at historical lows, unemployment numbers have reached record highs, small business will experience a difficult 2020, restaurants and hotels have been devastated during the first few months of 2020. Not being snarky, but if you weren’t aware of these headlines in your own head, or just by looking out the window of the shelter-in-place domicile you have been living in, then that rock that you’ve been living under has created a great shelter for you.

While we all are living sequestered lives, at a bare minimum I would hope the folks that get paid to “inform” us of provocative news which is based on their intrepid research, will begin to do what is expected. We want, or I’ll say even to go as far as to demand the information that is typically reserved to media-credentialed individuals provided as “news”. Don’t tell us about something we already know, especially with your opinion wrapped around it. More importantly, tell us how the government, industry or other channels are working to right the ship. However, if this goes beyond the expectation of our media professionals, then we are left to re-write the obvious to meet a stance that makes the audience complacent and uninterested in “your” breaking news.

Bottomline, we should be asking and expecting more from our media professionals, I’ll get opinion and sound bites from Twitter.

Okay to Accept Error?

By now most fact based readers have witnessed that the original estimates related to positive cases and unfortunate death from COVID-19 are starting to prove untrue. The worst case scenarios of millions of deaths are nowhere near these estimates. Yes, the infectious rates and general spread of the virus are not acceptable by most citizens and there is still trepidation of what can still happen versus, what has happened. However, throwing darts at a dartboard and hoping for the best is not acceptable to a vast population. If we go back to original estimates and revisit the “million / hundreds of thousands” of deaths forecasts, we would have done anything to stop this from happening. You know what, we did, by forcing non-essential businesses from opening, schools from instructing, sports from participating and the general population from congregating in groups of 10 plus. We instituted a social distancing policy of being six feet away from our neighbors. We started wearing PPE like masks and gloves. We ran out of anti-bacterial products like wipes, gels and sprays. We even witnessed neighbors calling the police on neighbors for going outside their own homes. Yes. this may have flattened the curve, but so may have seasonal changes. I’m not here to debate our reaction to neighborhood rhetoric, but I do want to talk about taking a righteous stance.

We Prepared for The Worst

I think mentally, we have all prepared for the worst of situations. We read, saw, discussed the possibility of millions of individuals dying from a virus we had no control over. We added that extra sebaceous layer to our psyche, hoping that we would not unravel at the possibility of assumptions coming to fruition. Then things started to level out, or what some have called flattening of the curve. The extraordinary death toll estimates started to come down down exponentially and the worst case scenarios began to see a softening. We started to allocate resources to locales that underestimated their assets. We started to see hotspots appear in low exposure areas, requiring a repositioning of resources and material to address the anomaly. Fortunately we proved that we can pivot and adapt as required, as long as the scenario was not beyond reasonable forecasts. Soon hotspots were squelched and a dialog of optimistic “light at the end of the tunnel” started to happen in conversations. Was this time to start preparing for hyperphagia in our virus journey? Ultimately we knew what was incorrect based on data and what was skewed based on emotion.

Accepting Error

At this point we realize that our readers comments, posts and dialog were being prefaced by preconceived thought and ratification of emotion. No matter how much data, intellect and knowledge is applied to the conversation, our emotional well-being is always the ruling party. For instance, if my colleague had lost a loved one during the current crisis, no matter how much I mention underlying symptoms, or a predisposition to the impact that the virus may have to them, will go unheard. If we can segment the hard numbers, from the soft, perhaps we will begin to witness acceptance in the scenarios that envelope us all. It will always be a matter of separating emotion from fact.

Exploring, During a Stay at Home…

A few weeks back we received formal recommendation, guideline, pressure, suggestion…whatever you want to call it to stay home to help “flatten the curve” during this pandemic. Depending on what part of the world, or country you are in, people took the direction in their own way and either met heavy or no resistance to their decisions.

Some went about doing their daily routines without any modification (ex. wearing masks, gloves or other PPE to reduce exposure), while others went all-in and wore every piece of equipment they can find to protect themselves and / or others around them.

There are definitely people on each side of the debate that will (tell) you why they did, or are doing what you see. However, while taking a side and trying to justify a position could be a provocative post, I’m not going to go down that path at this moment. There is something less controversial at play.

Exploring on your own time

This is probably obvious to most, but there are multitudes of things that you can potentially experience for the first time while relegated to sheltering in place. Those that have existing hobbies are somewhat lucky, because they can now dive deeper, or wider into their respective activities. There are others that have always wanted to try something new…I have colleagues trying to learn new languages, playing musical instruments, experimenting with painting, gardening when the weather permits, exercising or really anything new just to get away from watching 24 hour news, jumping on social media, or worse sitting in front of their laptops and PCs beyond the eight plus hours of work they already did for the day. However, if you have kids that are on social media, perhaps this is a good time to explore what they are doing on these platforms, get more engaged and informed. (Link Regarding Social Media Apps Kids are Using)

The reason I said “on your own time” above is that this may be the only time we have, we have been asked to stay put, don’t travel, incorporate social distancing and while most of us have and eventually will complain again “I just don’t have the time” – we now do. As they say hindsight is 20/20 and to look back a few months from now and wish we would have used this time to “explore” would be a shame. You’ll undoubtedly get direction on what to wear and how to act when you go to the grocery store, but deciding what to do when back at home is in your hands.

Sacrificing Millions to Save Thousands…

We have seen this comment over the last few days, while we are eliminating the jobs, the livelihoods and the futures of millions of people in hopes that it saves the lives of thousands of our loved ones. This is an absolutely brutal decision that needs to be made daily and I’m certainly glad that I’m not the person responsible for making this decision, especially considering that it’s a no-win scenario. I can’t even imagine the conversation between a Baby Boomer who is thanking a Generation X, or Millennial for sacrificing their future in “hopes” of keeping them virus free. While they (Gen X, Millennials) may not be heading into battle, outfitted in camouflage and provided government issued ammunition, they are assuming debt (Trillions of dollars) and deferred futures / lifestyles with no reparations on the backend for the sacrifices made now.

Downward Cycle

There are families that will never recover from this crisis that may (or may not) last six to eight months. They may have been getting close to retirement (0 to five years) and they have a 401k, as pensions became unimaginable in modern day society and then they saw the stock market crash and their funds to even consider retiring (perhaps relinquish a position for the next generation) evaporate, indicating that retirement may no longer be attainable. We have also seen folks entering the workforce for the first time, hoping to become less dependent on others and then to get laid-off, or furloughed (gambling on a promise of a job), or just let-go (minus severance). These are individuals typically without medical insurance, rainy-day funds or a network of professional contacts that can get them engaged on interim employment while this all gets figured-out. I even hate to think about the families / individuals that decided in late 2019 that while the economy, environment was ripe for venturing out on your own, or fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning your own business and becoming independent. Then getting a federal, state or local notification that you are considered “non-essential” and need to shut down operations. The anxiety, stress and negative impact on a person’s mental health is unmeasurable.

The Numbers Game

Last week’s unemployment claims hit 6.65 million this is historic as the previous highest was the week before at 3.3 million which literally destroyed the previous record of 695 thousand in 1982. But why did I call this a numbers game, well it stems from the narrative above…what are we willing to risk? Let’s say that of the 7 million unemployed individuals there are 3 percent that now need mental health intervention (ex. suicide, alcohol, drug, gambling, domestic abuse scenarios), that’s roughly 210,000 people. As of this posting, we are currently at 5,900 deaths (USA) via COVID-19 which is not fully filtered by those with underlying ailments. Are we starting to play a balancing game…While we have direct control over forced economic shutdowns, we have limited control over the spread of the virus. But, do I approach the podium with an opening remark that says I am willing to sacrifice 210 thousand for the benefit of 5.9 thousand. Yes, this will be apples to oranges for some folks – but it will still be a burden that is inherited for years to come. The significant sacrifice will only be relevant to the impacted, with residual impact to the overall population.

Leading and Lagging Indicators – There is a whole world out there that lives by leading indicators and then another that swears by lagging indicators. Most like to know what may be in store (leading), while others are happy just confirming the known (lagging). I’m sure there are firms that have started exercising their artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analysis and neural networks against these simulations. These models may have been run and preliminary results available via published articles located deep in academia. Unfortunately, the way mainstream media news and information is disseminated and distributed, we may never see these results. If it doesn’t fit a specific narrative of the publisher, it is often passed over or massaged to meet that narrative. Years from now we may hear that an entity correctly predicted the impact on society, but hindsight is always 20/20 and it will buried in an editorial. Bottomline, we will always be the victims of emotional (society approved) themes and irrational decisions (fight or flight) commentary, which is consistently more ardent than fact based messaging.

No Easy Decisions

We were asked during our childhood to play games where we made unconscionable decisions…Would you kill “x” to save hundreds, or thousands of people?” Sometimes these were so easy to answer, you were wondering why you were even asked. But now the inverse is being asked, are you willing to sacrifice (livelihoods, savings, mental stability) of millions to save the thousands…a lot more provocative and pretty tough to quickly answer. No matter how to answer, you are damned if you do, or damned if you don’t. In conclusion, all I ask is that people think with both their hearts and their heads!!

The Continual Beatdown While Keeping Upbeat…?

I can’t be the only person that has to be experiencing this, but the unrelenting negative commentary, news, photos, predictions and even local weather are really testing the best of us. I wake-up hoping to hear that The Curve is flattening, I hope that someone mentions the economy is on the uptick, jobless claims are ramping down and even something as far fetched that positive cases have crested and are on the downward trend. However, assuming (regretfully acknowledging fact) that we (USA) are only on our second or third week of the crisis and depending on where you live and who you believe, it’s still pretty early in this saga. This puts us right back to where we were weeks ago, while you wish you could control things you can’t, you need to practice keeping Positive. Unfortunately, for some of us in the parts of the US where it’s still late Winter, or early Spring…it’s cold, rainy, sometimes snowy and often dreary outside. You may have colleagues that mention going out for a walk to keep their sanity and you wish you could do the same. However, this is just another straw on the proverbial back of the camel. So while you suck it up, wince a little at their triumphs and hope tomorrow brings a little sunshine and a moderately milder day, there is still more ahead in the tunnel of terror you will need to navigate.

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that no matter how much negative “information” you may subscribe to, or be an unwitting participant of, there is still more to be had at this moment and what you do to process it, is up to you. There are plenty of false saviors out there, such as movie stars, celebrities, influencers, musicians and other personalities that already live in artificial environments that are now providing support and/or guidance. But be aware, most are doing this out of a lack of attention, hits to the revenue stream, that has occurred since focus has been turned away from them and onto real-life situations. Let’s say I have a relative, or someone close to me suffering from the negative consequences listed above, a celebrity posting on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube post will not ease my anxiety. Yet it will get them attention and admiration, especially as they check the “right thing to do” box. I don’t fault them if they truly believe they are assisting in the crisis, but as many have witnessed over the years selfless and discrete charity has done more than posting, for the sake of posting. However, if it makes you feel upbeat to have your favorite celebrity jump into the crisis fray, then so be it and enjoy the euphoric feelings.

In Summary

At the end of the day, only you can measure positivity and its impact on you. If you wake up in the morning in a better place than you went to bed in…then all the better. However, if you wake up looking for false deities and quick fixes, I would hope you remember that we are all in this together and often reaching out over the virtual table or even phone-line will have a greater impact on your day than not, plus it creates relevant relationships going forward.

Isolation (Let's See How This Goes)

Winter to Spring – During this time of mandated self / social distancing, when you are formally asked to not “physically” interact with individuals, unfortunately many alternatives will lead to social media…fortunately, this is where you can choose to be the consumer, or the publisher of the messaging.

During these undetermined and apprehensive times ahead, I’m choosing to be the publisher.

But Mike, why so optimistic, things seem to be going from bad-to-worse? Well, the following are items that I hope to accomplish, or at a bare minimum attempt during this period: (keeping focused, keeps me calm)

  • Self instruction via e-learning and audio books
  • Develop a deeper understanding of technology (AI, RPA, DevOps, SaaS)
  • Healthier Habits
  • Organize my environment
  • Better my photography skills
  • More creativity on Instagram and YouTube

We are going to take this one day at a time and see how things shake-out. But in the meantime, here’s hoping for a quick start to Spring, more blogging ahead and a quick end to COVID-19.

Daily Image Seen on TV – March 2020