Corona Opportunity

When I sat down to write this, I spent the first hour staring at a blank screen. What to write?

My inbox is already full of emails from all of the companies I subscribe to telling me how they’re handling COVID-19. From my antivirus software (how ironic) telling me something I didn’t bother to read, to my British publisher (Hachette, the second biggest publisher in the world) letting me know that their entire office had closed indefinitely, and that they will all be publishing our books from home until Boris changes the game. This is JK Rowling’s publisher, and Gwenyth Paltrow’s publisher too. They are working remotely and to me, that is just crazy. 

Just like a Hachette publishing executive, you too may be reading this from your laptop or your phone at home.

I know I’m writing this secretly hoping my kids are able to entertain themselves long enough not to check in and break my flow (which took me three days and one hour of procrastinating to find).

The reason I hesitated is because there is so much to write about, that I didn’t even know where to start. 

  • The memes (it’s all fun and games until someone dies)
  • The risks of making everything in China
  • The fact that South African leadership have galvanized more impressively than UK or USA leadership (certainly just my opinion) and we should give them credit
  • The next great depression. If the event industry was a skyscraper, Coronavirus is an international 9/11 attack, with a courtesy missile shower on tourism, aviation, restaurants, cinemas and sport clubs. 
  • What the F$%K happens if SA goes into full lockdown?

I didn’t know whether I should write a ‘10 things to do in isolation’ post, a think piece on ‘The Hidden Risks of Globalisation’ or a quick one to let you know that our website got the Sorena virus a few weeks back, not the Coronavirus, and that our staff are all at home, just like me. 

What uncorked my writers’ block was actually a pep talk I had to give myself to claw out of a rabbit hole of COVID clickbait that I had tumbled down. It was dirty. Boris, Trump, Fox News, Trevor Noah, Tom Hanks. It is all too intriguing, exciting, terrifying and most importantly, distracting.

I asked myself the same questions I ask clients when they are anxious, distracted and paralysed. 

In every great book on strategy the authors talk about how important it is to be cool and calm during turmoil. 

All ‘great’ people are great because they can see what not-great people can’t. And the magic they see amidst unimaginable adversity is called ‘opportunity’. 

Mandela saw his 27 years in prison as an opportunity to study his enemy, study his craft and practice forgiveness and leadership. Helen Keller saw her disabilities as opportunities. If she didn’t have the ailments she had, she would never have become the person she was. 

Imagine what the world would be like if Helen Keller wasn’t blind and deaf? How lucky are we that that happened? Can we say that? I don’t know. Would she say that? Maybe. The point is that she got dealt a hand that may have driven most to fold, but she used it to change the world. 

Great people milk every ounce of their lives for opportunity. Great people don’t get caught up on what is fair, what is just or what they should have gotten. Great people watch how the dice roll and plan their next move. 

Of course the best way to prevent turmoil is to plan for it by playing a safer game. Warren Buffet famously says, ‘It is only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked’.

In the next few months, those discoveries will become real. With that reality, lots of Land Rover Discoveries will be recalled by the bank, along with many of the other assets currently in the usufruct of the ‘apparently rich, but actually over-leveraged’ friends you may envy. 

But, if you’re one of those who have been swimming naked, this too shall pass. In the end everything will be ok. If it is not ok, then it is not the end. 

For now, this is how the dice have rolled. You’re not in jail for 27 years. You’re not blind and deaf. 

So the question I asked myself is, ‘What’s your move?’ 

The clients I have who have been most successful are the clients who have had something tragic happen to them first. The tragedy is often a wake up call that highlights what really matters to them. 

The coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy that has happened to all of us. I wonder what it will wake me up to. The thing you’re most stressed about is often not the thing that matters most. And, sometimes, it takes losing everything to discover what really matters. 

My experience has been that the only two things that really matter to anyone are health and relationships. Relationships are the only thing that make us truly rich. And without our health, we die. 

While you’re on lockdown, think about how you can use this opportunity to truly enrich yourself.