1. Calm down. I’m not saying this because the situation isn’t serious, or because I know that things are going to get better before they get worse. But no matter which direction things go, I know that I will face it best, if I face it calmly and with a clear head.
2. Don’t sell your stocks in a panic. I am not a genius investor. But I have a decent sense of when things are high and when they are low. They are low now. Are they at the bottom? Nobody knows, that is why they are up 5% one day, down 10% the next. Everyone is guessing the future value of companies when they have no idea if this pandemic will be over within a few weeks, months or years. Everyday investors take a new stab in the dark. Which way the market goes from here is a pure gamble. If you have been on the sidelines it may be a decent time to get in, but if you have ridden this wave down, now is not the time to get out. Fear will lead you to buy high and sell low, not exactly a formula for getting rich.
I remember back when real estate in Las Vegas crashed. I had paid $170,000 for a 1 bedroom condo in 2006. By 2009 that same condo was selling for $35,000 dollars. The common advice of the day was to take a short sale and get out from under it. After all, it would never be worth what you paid for it. I held on. I look back on that being one of the best decisions we ever made. Did I end up selling it for more than I bought it for? No. But I made good rent on that condo for many years and it more than paid for itself. In addition, the lessons that it taught me are worth far more than money can replace, but that will have to be a post for a different day.
3. The government can’t save us. I am not anti-government. After all, I work for the government. But at the end of the day bailouts, checks, and stimulus will not be what saves us. If you think, “if only the government paid for my lost income, or guaranteed me work or…” you name it, you are headed down the wrong path forward. I want good government, and one that does all it can to limit people's suffering in hard times like we are currently entering. This is best done by fighting the disease and cutting red tape related to relief and healthcare. But what makes our country strong is individuals picking themselves up and accomplishing great things. That will happen by individuals pushing, working, motivating, hiring, innovating, not by government bailouts. The government paying us to sit on our couches only incentivices sitting on our couches, it does not create, and in the long run that is what grows the economy. In fact what really needs to happen is:
4. Work, Work, Work. You want to individually thrive during hard times, work like you never have before. When the going get’s tough the tough get going, as the ancient phrase goes. “Easy for him to say,” you might be thinking. He wasn’t laid off. But to the millions who will likely be laid off this time around, I am sorry but the answer to your suffering is work. Work in any way you can. Work to find a new job, work at odd jobs, start a youtube channel, write a book, remodel your kitchen, whatever you do, work.
This time especially there will be millions who lose their job on a temporary basis. It will be tempting to say to yourself, ‘what can I do, but stay at home and catch up on netflix or master debating on twitter, while I wait for them to call me back.’ You may feel getting another full time job is not the best option, since your other job will likely call you back. To this I say, the best creations we all enjoy were built by people who were working on things they didn’t ‘have’ to work on. You working on a side project and really focusing on it could build the next microsoft, write the next harry potter, or create the next great youtube channel. Is that likely? No. Your next great idea is likely to fail. But you will gain skills and knowledge that will benefit and enrich you in new and exciting ways. If you have been given the unexpected and undesired blessing of time off. Don’t sit back, but challenge yourself and create.
The last point I’ll make on this is that you need to control your own destiny. I know that is a total cliche saying, but it’s true. I hate to say this, but thousands if not millions who have been sent home and told they will get called back in 15-30 days may never get that call. All businesses hope that in 30 days their customers will come right back as if nothing happened. For many, they won’t. Sitting hoping on your old company to ride back and save the day is no better than sitting back and waiting on the government. You deserve better, by taking control, and getting to work you will find yourself with more options, no matter what happens in the future.
5. Hire Others. Winner for smartest move in the current crisis goes to Amazon. Rather than panic and wait to see what this will do to their business, they realized they are in a position to both help society and capitalize on making this a growth opportunity. They said they will focus on delivering the most needed supplies, hire an additional 100,000 people and increase wages from $15 to $17 an hour. I could be wrong but I believe history will show that this was beyond genius. They look good, because they are. They expand their clientele as people who need supplies who don’t regularly use amazon (if such people exist) will begin to use them. And when there are lots of talented people laid off looking for work, they are ready to swoop in and get them, and then pay them a wage that will keep them.
But I’m not Amazon, you say, I don’t have a trillion dollar business that can give 100,000 people jobs. That is okay. Do you have a job that you need done around the house or a contractor to fix the landscaping you have been meaning to do? Getting good help isn’t easy, but in the next few weeks your chances of finding a honest, hard working, and talented person to help you with whatever you need is much higher. And likely at a very reasonable price. People need work, and if you can hire them, you and they will likely benefit.
6. Count your blessings then slow down and enjoy them. At times it takes us to lose a little to help us realize we have a lot. Most of us still have our health. We continue to have access to more knowledge, education, entertainment, food, transportation, methods of communication, and healthcare than anytime in history. This is a list of blessings that our society in general enjoys but each of us could list thousands of personal blessings and should.
As noted above now is a time to work like never before but make sure you take time to not only count, but enjoy your blessings. Take a slow walk through the neighborhood after a rain. Enjoy an evening with the family by the fireplace. Read a good book. When life is hectic it’s time to enjoy the blessings at a slower pace.
7. Serve. There is no better time to stop worrying about how hard you have it and realize there are thousands around you who are suffering just as bad or worse. “Forget yourself and go to work.” is one of my all time favorite quotes by Bryant Hinckley. And he is right. Find those around you in need and lend a hand. Nothing will do more to brighten your day and lift you from worrying about the future like lifting others. This is #7 on the list but I probably should have made it one.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matt 16:25. There may never be a better time to find yourself.
All of these are ways to say, take control. Refocus your life on the things you have power over. You can’t control the stock market, you likely have very little impact on the spread of coronavirus in New York, or Italy. You can’t stop your job from sending you home. And you can’t get Congress to pass the legislation that you feel is best.
There is a temptation when we get scared about the future to become news junkies who watch 24-7 for any sign of what the future might have in store for us. We watch stock tickers go up and down. We check 4 times a day how many people have the virus and how many have died. We listen to hear what bailout bill the government will pass. But every second we spend doing that we put energy and focus into things that are largely out of control. So our world seems and feels, just that, out of control.
When you take time to focus on the things you do have control of. Your health, your mental state, your family relationships, your ability to create and work, and the chance to serve those around you. Then you realize you are the master of your fate. That despite the world crumbling around you, you are still in the driver's seat. And that will help you thrive at any time of your life.