Why Success Isn’t Always Possible

I touch on a lot of this theory in my article Success is Cyclical, but I know anything insightful is worth repeating. Most people who are into personal development learn early on not to make excuses. We learn that our lives are our responsibility and we have to take action to get results. But as you mature, you realize results don’t always happen and aren’t always possible. You encounter numerous situations where the underserving get success and the intelligent, effective, and kind get ridicule. The reason this happens is because all living things are subject to cycles of growth and decay. “Good” things and “bad” things just the same. So the next time you feel like you want to be hard on yourself, gently ask “What season am I in?”, and you may get insight into your next moves.

Growth and Decay are two sides of the same Coin

Let’s take the stock market for example. Everyone loves when the market is up and hates when it’s down. Everyone, that is, except the wise. Wise people know that the stock market going down is both useful and necessary. When the stock market crashes, it forces companies and people to reorganize. After the first stock market crash we saw more legislation and federal protections from fiscal disaster. In 2008, we saw the Dodd-Frank Act. And, I believe, in the aftermath of the Coronavirus, we will see a push for Universal Basic Income.

A market crash can provide lower buying prices for a commodity that (we hope) will always go up. The point here is that when anything grows for too long, its outdated practices and inefficiencies necessitate a correction. This is why all successful companies, people, and organizations continually analyze and change as they gain more feedback over time. All those systems that don’t eventually fail.

Rewards and Recognition are Arbitrary

Speaking in generalities is a little dangerous. Of course rewards and recognition are good things usually given to the deserving, but not always. If you ever saw someone get promoted and you can’t wrap your head around why, this is why I say rewards are arbitrary. If you were a high-level executive at Enron, you would be rewarded and recognized for being dishonest. I think this happens in far more businesses than we would like to acknowledge. On the other hand, if you worked for an honest organization, you would be rewarded for hard work, ingenuity, and your ability to produce results. So if you took an honest, intelligent, hard-working person and put them in an executive position at Enron, chances are they would not be rewarded for their work (and hopefully the toxic culture doesn’t change their character).

Does that mean they aren’t doing the “right” thing? Of course not. It just means they are not doing the right thing to be rewarded under those circumstances. That’s why it is important that we screen all of the intimate relationships in our lives (work relationships, money management, romantic relationships, friends, etc.). We need to make sure our values are aligned with the values of the people we work closely with.

Hopefully this serves as some solace when you see things going sideways. Remember that success is not always possible, and that is a good thing!

Crimes of Omission

Sometimes life throws us challenges that we cannot anticipate. It isn’t “fair”, but it is the way it is. Recently I was reading an article that said most of a person’s sins are sins of omission. Not that they did anything wrong, but rather they failed to properly prepare or anticipate upcoming challenges. Crimes of omission are particularly wrenching because hindsight is 20/20. We wish someone would have warned us. Jim Rohn once said, “It isn’t what the book costs, it’s what the book will cost you if you don’t read it.” If you never read Richest Man in Babylon you’ll never know the steps to financial independence. Will this impact you immediately? In small ways yes, but in larger ways, not until you are older and it’s much harder to make up for lost time.

A Case Study

Imagine you are a father (if you aren’t). You know that the most important thing you can give your children is your presence. You come up for a promotion, and your hours at the office increase, along with your paycheck. As a result, you get to see your family less and less over the passing years as you climb the corporate ladder. Then one day you wake up and your husband or wife tells you that your child has been caught using drugs. What did you do wrong? Nothing. There was no crime in choosing your career, but that choice means you omitted the choice to be more involved in the lives of your spouse and children. You were not “bad”, and you didn’t do anything “wrong”, you just neglected what you value as most important (your family) over something less important (money).

Common Crimes of Omission and their Antidotes

Luckily, we aren’t the first people to ever walk the earth. On our life’s journey, there are certain difficulties that we can expect and plan for. Our society does a poor job of preparing us to handle life’s problems. Perhaps our parents did better? Maybe not. Maybe we got lucky and found a mentor…but then again…maybe not. In any case, I hope that by sharing some common difficulties were are likely to face and how to deal with them, I can help be a mentor to someone who needs it.

  • Financial Independence
    • One of the great failings of the public school system is our ineptitude at teaching our students how money works and the importance of financial literacy. We can anticipate that a person without financial literacy will always have problems with money. My personal recommendations for money advice are Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, and of course classics like Richest Man in Babylon.
  • Relationships
    • The most relevant advice I have ever received on relationships came from Brian Tracy. In his book Eat That Frog he explains that the whole point of working hard and making money is so we can spend our money and time with those we love. He goes on to say that the quality of our relationships are in direct proportion to the amount of time we invest. Relationship advice is abundant and (in my opinion) sometimes not helpful. My personal recommendation for information about relationships comes from an unlikely source: How to Win Friends and Influence People. My experience is that if we spend sufficient time with our loved ones and interact with them using the principles written in that book, we have a good foundation to build off of.
  • Health and Fitness
    • This aspect is the most convoluted of all of the above in my opinion. I think most people can agree that a mainly whole food diet, coupled with cardiovascular and strength training is the ticket to better health and appearance. The best books I have read on this topic are ALL from Renaissance Periodization. Their training and nutrition advice has been the most helpful to me in regaining my desired levels of health and fitness.

No matter who you are, there are certain desires that are common to all people. We want to be healthy, wealthy, productive, and have positive relationships. Much of what determines our success in these areas are small repeatable actions, done over and over, for an extended period of time. Don’t fall prey to crimes of omission. Thanks for reading!

Success is Cyclical

No one has ever been consistently successful and conversely no one has ever been a consistent failure. The degree to which we succeed in life indeed depends on our efforts and character, but we must remember that outward success is different from self-esteem. Successes are external measures (money, fame, prestige, respect, etc.) of your performance. Self-esteem is the internal measure of your performance. While having and achieving goals is good and healthy, we must remember that there is a certain level of arbitrariness that goes along with that. This idea doesn’t destroy the excitement of achievement and success but rather attenuates and puts it into perspective.

When Good is Bad and Bad is Good

Think about it. If success were a constant, the greatest men and women would always remain perfectly esteemed and free from criticism, or at least close to it. When you achieve something, it is an outward reward based upon the external climate. What I mean by that is your environment rewards you for meeting its temporary needs. Winning the presidency is a reward for making the best case to the American people that you can meet their needs. Winning a powerlifting meet means that, in relation to the other lifters, you were the strongest. Being a popular girl at school means that your body type, fashion sense, and personality are being rewarded for meeting the needs/desires of your peers. All of these things are neither good nor bad, just neutral.

So success is an external validation based on you meeting someone or something’s needs. Let’s look at an extreme example. For a while, Adolf Hitler was very successful. That doesn’t mean he was “good” or “right”, but rather that he found a way to meet (or supposedly meet) other people’s needs and desires. I am sure that there were wildly intelligent, empathetic, and dutiful people in Germany at the time, but they didn’t rise to power. For whatever reason, the environment chose Hitler. My point here is that no matter who you are, you will never always be successful. It’s impossible. Precisely because external needs and wants are always changing.

A personal example. As a teacher I work with groups of students in various capacities. Some years, my students love me. So much so that they buy me gifts and come back years after they have left to see me. Other years, much less so. I don’t think my students have ever hated me, but some years there are no awards or heartwarming appreciation. I, at my core, haven’t changed. I always treat my students the same. But times and things change, and for whatever reason, I am not that special to them. And that’s okay!

Success and Self-Esteem

Success is cyclical and elusive. No sooner than you achieve something, the desire for something bigger and better comes along. One achievement is a spur to the next. Totally natural. But focus on the internal as well. Self-Esteem is a result of feeling good about yourself based on your pre-determined values. If you value family, you will have high self-esteem if you take actions that show that. If you value loyalty, every time you are there for a loved one you feel good about yourself. Success never stays around indefinitely, whereas self-esteem never leaves you so long as you cultivate it. I’m reminded of a Bible verse: Do not store treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, but store up treasures in heaven.

Time and seasons will change, and certain virtues will go in and out of popularity. Everyone is subject to this. Sometimes, external rewards will validate our work and other times they won’t. There’s nothing bad about it, it just is what it is. If you can set your values and stay true to them, you can end up with the cake upon which success is the icing. Thanks for reading!

How to Keep your Life in Balance

One of the big lessons I have learned as I get older is that life is many shades of grey (maybe not 50 haha). There are very few hard and fast rules, but rather principles that should guide us a we flexibly navigate life. Not surprisingly, these principles hold true in most areas of life. It reminds me of the oft-quoted Bible verses about there being a time for everything. People who live one dimensionally and by very strict rules will inevitably have trouble in life. Someone who is always agreeable will miss opportunities to stand up for themselves. Likewise, people who are aggressive will miss out on benefits nature only rewards to the gentle. It’s not that being agreeable is “good” and being aggressive is “bad”, it is that there is a time to be each one, and more likely a good response is somewhere on a spectrum rather than an extreme.

These principles show up in most areas of our lives. A good teacher is a warm demander. A seeming paradox! They are emotionally warm, but have high expectations. Likewise a good parent loves their child unconditionally but also disciplines them. Any balanced approach to our lives requires that we navigate seeming opposites. Let’s take a look at a few areas this applies to in our lives.

Health and Fitness

A healthy person with a good relationship with food knows there is a time to be very disciplined in eating, and a time to enjoy eating. If we can keep our ratio balanced (say 80% healthy food, 20% fun food) our fitness and health will benefit. If we skew too much toward healthy food, we can become orthorexic, and if we skew too much toward fun food we become fat. So we see again, fun foods aren’t “bad”, they just need to be balanced by healthy eating. Many dieters also know that eating tasty high calorie food when dieting can help reset your metabolism and set the stage for more fat loss.

Similarly, any sensible exercise program has the majority (maybe 80%) of training as base training. For lifting, this would be multiple sets of 5-12 reps. For cardio, this would be talking pace, or long slow distance cardio. If we dabble too much in intense exercise (HIIT, very heavy lifting >85% 1RM, sprinting, etc.) we can quickly become overtrained. Interestingly, we can’t have one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin.

Money

A few years ago I stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache. After reading about the FIRE movement, I became very interested in ways to become more frugal. When dealing with money, our default stance should be toward frugality. But we have to remember that the whole point of becoming financially independent is freedom. And sometimes that freedom comes with a literal price tag. We are frugal so we can enjoy our vacations with family and the occasional nice dinner. If we err on the side of spending frivolously, we go broke. If we skew too intensely toward frugality, we miss opportunities to have interesting experiences and enrich our lives. My wife and I cook most of our meals at home to save money, but we also enjoy (every couple weeks or so) delicious fancy dinners. Once again, if we keep this in balance (daily frugal habits with the occasional splurge) we get the best of both worlds.

Work and Play

Lastly, we see that work and play must also be balanced. Hopefully, we are on the path to financial independence. But in the meantime, we must balance our work as a necessity, with play as leisure. Most people don’t love their jobs. And that’s okay. We don’t go because we love it, we go because they send us a check every two weeks. If you do like your job, consider yourself lucky.

Because of advances in technology, most people are always on the clock. Emails flood our inbox at any and every hour of the day. Unless we make a conscious decision to set boundaries between work and play, we can easily get out of balance. My wife and I were recently taking a walk on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. When I looked at my phone, I had over 10 emails and messages (none of them urgent) that I had received during that one hour walk. Apparently no one else was outside enjoying the weather! I try to make a habit of “unplugging” as often as possible. Think about it, there were emergencies before cell phones, so if something is urgent, people will find you.

Hopefully you have gotten some useful insights into ways to keep your life in balance. Thanks for reading!

Surprising Benefits of Speed and Reactivity

I said in my last article that science can be used or mis-used to prove almost anything. I have learned through experience that the only science that makes a difference in your life is the science you experience. Meaning, someone can say eat 1.8 g/kg of protein per day, but if I haven’t tried it and confirmed the benefits, it means nothing to me. So I won’t say this is science, because it isn’t, but I will share my results of a study with a single subject. Me!

In this article, I will talk about my experience with introducing speed, agility, reactivity, and quickness (SARQ) into my training. We all know that the foundation of fitness is cardiovascular health and muscle strength. I would like to posit that powerful fitness and health benefits (albeit optional) can come as a result of including SARQ training.

How I Stumbled into SARQ

I have been working out fairly consistently for the better part of five years. First, I did mostly strength training, then mostly cardio, and I have settled in a happy medium. My workout routine over time morphed into the Physical Activity Guidelines (hey, scientists might know what they’re talking about?!?! haha).

I will confess that maybe 80% of fitness will come from routine cardio (3x per week) and weightlifting (2x per week). But I took a slight diversion from my incline walking, elliptical, and weightlifting routine and tried something different a few months ago. LA Fitness has a dance studio with some punching bags in the back. I decided to go over and do a couple of rounds on the bag. I noticed that in the days after the workout, I began to feel more energetic and sharp. I was better at thinking on my feet and felt an energy level slightly above what I am used to. Seeing as how the only change in my program was the boxing session, I began to look up the benefits of boxing.

Why SARQ Falls through the Cracks

Now, this isn’t science yet, but think about it. Kids have built in SARQ. It’s called playing. Very few adults have a grown-up equivalent. Think of a game of tag. It’s fast paced, you have to run, change directions, dodge opponents, and think on your feet. Many adults never do the physical equivalent. What I was learning was that boxing was activating parts of my nervous system that were under-active. Even with my lifting and cardio, I wasn’t challenging myself to move quickly, be agile, or be reactive.

Even just a short heavy bag session forces you to move your arms and fists faster than you have in maybe years, and you have to be reactive to get your stance and blocks back as fast as possible. Bonus points if you can spar with a partner!

Now obviously boxing isn’t the only way to increase SARQ fitness levels. You could play a game of pickup basketball (or volleyball, soccer, etc), join a kickball league, play catch with your son or daughter, or do Brazilian Jiujitsu. The main goal is to make sure that the activity activates your speed, agility, reactivity, and quickness. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

No Good Deed Goes Unnoticed

When I began my personal development journey seven or so years ago, one of the first difficulties I encountered was not seeing results. I have read dozens (likely hundreds) of books, taken online courses, and challenged myself in innumerable ways. On the surface, I am much the same person I was seven years ago. But I can now sense certain parts of my life taking off. I always hated that iceberg photo that success teachers would show, but I am learning through experience that this is indeed exactly how it goes. In any of my “accomplishments” there were countless hours of seemingly unrewarded work. It really clicked for me this past winter when I read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. He talks about how any work we do toward a goal is not lost, it is stored. So while on the surface, changes are not yet visible, they are indeed taking place.

An Everyday Example

Imagine you are boiling a pot of water for some pasta. You turn on the burner and place the pot with water on it. You wait a couple of minutes, get frustrated, and then turn the burner off and throw out the water. Obviously, if you had any experience boiling water, you would know that you weren’t wasting your time, it’s just that the water doesn’t begin to boil until it reaches a certain temperature (212 degrees fahrenheit to be exact). You would know that the water was getting hot, whether or not you had “proof” of it. The same can be said of our efforts toward a goal. Maybe those $300 saved each month don’t instantly make you financially free, but over time, those actions are stored and compounded and will eventually get you there. Remember that just because you can’t see results, doesn’t mean the changes aren’t happening. They may just be below the surface.

In my article about choosing a mentor, I talk about the benefits of having a mentor who can relate to the process as much or more than the result. For example, if you ask a trust fund baby how to make money, they can give good advice but they don’t know the inevitable difficulties that come along the way. Similarly, many things in life have a certain amount of time or prerequisite work before you see results. When you start lifting weights, bodily changes don’t start happening for weeks or likely months, but then the changes compound and can create definite visible results.

The Law of Gestation

The Law of Gestation states that every outcome has a timescale for its completion. A tree has a certain amount of time that it must grow in the soil before it breaks ground. College is a good example. If you go to the local University and say you want a degree in Mechanical Engineering in two weeks, they’ll laugh. They know that, for the vast majority of people, it will take four years with the right qualifications. Now yes, there is the odd genius or huckster who can be an exception to the rule, but four years is just what it takes for the vast majority of people.

As a personal trainer, if a skinny guy tells me he wants to gain muscle, I know (because I was once a skinny guy), that if he does linear progressive overload for three months, he will look bigger. If he keeps it up for two years (with some changes in programming and nutrition), he will have an impressive physique. Once again, there are exceptions to the rule (some may gain muscle faster or slower than the median), but in general, three months to notice a difference, two years for a good physique.

So the next time you are trying to achieve a goal, I encourage you to keep in mind that results don’t show up immediately. But take heart because those actions aren’t lost, they are just being stored and compounded.

Creativity Pays Dividends

One of the benefits (and subsequent dangers) in modern society is that creation is optional. How many people do you know who know carpentry, ballet, or how to fix a car? We can get all of our material goods and entertainment from somewhere else for very cheap and very quickly. But just because we can…should we? In my experience, the creative act is a benefit in and of itself. It activates our latent energies, keeps us healthy, and helps us connect with others.

Creativity Creates Energy

One of my first big home improvement projects was renovating our kitchen. It came as a whim but ended up being an enjoyable (though difficult) summer-long project. In the process of deciding to do-it-ourselves, my wife and I not only saved thousands of dollars, we also unearthed a new hobby! After completing the project, I immediately began making a long list of new projects to get excited about. Creativity doesn’t just make something, it awakens energy for bigger and better acts of creation. The mind immediately goes to what greater thing you can do. It pays dividends because that investment is compounded as you continue to learn and grow.

I don’t want to give a narrow view of what counts as creation. Creation could be a Youtube channel, choreography, drawing, building train sets, writing, photography, etc. As long as you are making something that may be of value to someone (even just yourself), you are creating. Watch as your mental energies soar when you find a creative act that you enjoy.

Creation Makes us Healthy

Science is a peculiar thing in that you can use (or rather mis-use) it to prove anything. Bearing that in mind, there is science that shows acts of creativity can make you healthier both mentally and physically. This aligns with my intuition and experience because in most cases, creation is a highly coordinated physical and/or mental act. In my last article I talked a little bit about how cab drivers who stop driving have their brains begin to physically shrink. Similarly, it stands to reason that the coordination involved in dancing, carpentry, or playing an instrument would impart similar benefits to the brain. Here is an article that goes into the science.

Creativity Connects

I consider myself personable. I like people, and can generally do well in a crowd or at a social event. Even though it is no major chore, my least favorite part of social interactions is “small talk”. This usually consists of people trying to explain to others why they are interesting. The unfortunate reality is that most people are not interesting because they are consumers rather than creators. Most people do well talking about sports, fashion, or celebrity gossip. Honestly it is a good way to connect with others. But truly interesting people always have a “project”. They pull out their phone and want to show you their latest table they made, or talk about a book they read and are writing an article about. These people have a certain magnetism because they are always building and learning. Next time you are at a social gathering, see how many conversations are consumption oriented and how many are creation oriented.

I hope this article helped shed some light on the importance of creating. What are some ways you create?

The Pitfalls of Thin Skin

When I was a teenager, I did a lot of general home improvement and maintenance projects with my father. My dad is a no nonsense kind of guy. If he asked me to nail up a piece of drywall and it wasn’t done right, he would literally tear down the wall and make me do it again. If the lawn wasn’t completely free of leaves, I could look forward to an afternoon of raking. While these experiences were frustrating in the moment, they taught me valuable lessons. And not only do I not hold my father’s stern discipline against him, now that I am older, I thank him for it.

Thick Skin Comes from Difficulty (Real or Self-Imposed)

Nature gives endless examples of what happens to living things if they are never challenged. Take a human body and stop giving it exercise (challenge) and it will atrophy. Take a taxi driver and retire him, and his brain physically shrinks. Alternatively give a good amount of exercise (not too much, not too little) and you create a robust (and attractive) human body. Challenge the mind with learning city streets and you can physically grow the brain.

Life in the 21st century is a life of limitless ease. And that’s good! Never before have we had so much available to us with a minimum of effort. But interesting things start to happen as challenge leaves our lives. Our lack of physical exertion has created the proliferation of chronic disease. Our lack of deep, meaningful (and challenging) human interactions has made our minds weak as evidenced by growing mental illness and stress. Our intolerance to opposing viewpoints has made our egos fragile.

In a great irony, never challenging yourself leads to even greater challenges because you are weak. If you can lift 200 pounds, when you are presented with a 100 pound lift, you barely feel strain. But how did you become able to lift 200 pounds? You continually challenged yourself. Alternatively, if you are lazy and never challenge yourself, those 100 pounds will seem insurmountable (and may in fact be so). This metaphor extends into our relationships, dealings with money, and our spiritual lives as well.

Protecting Ourselves and our Loved Ones from Ease

I try not to name problem without a potential solution. If the problem is being weakened as a result of a cushy life, the solution is controlled difficulty. Obviously we don’t push ourselves so hard that we cause damage, but we push ourselves hard enough to gain adaptations.

  • To beat relational fragility, seek out and form human relationship with all types of people.
  • To beat physical fragility, exercise (weight lifting and cardio) consistently.
  • To beat financial fragility, practice frugality.
  • To beat mental fragility, seek out opposing viewpoints and challenge yourself with new (and perhaps even controversial) information.

I hope you found some valuable insights for how to beat the effects of fragility in your life. Thanks for reading!

The Long Term Consequences of Grade Inflation

Similar to regular inflation, grade inflation is the idea that each time you give a student an “A”, the value of it becomes diluted. If we give everyone an “A”, it doesn’t mean anything. As a teacher, especially a math teacher, this pandering to students and parents has given me cause to believe that the current educational practice of grade inflation will produce many undesired long-term outcomes.

What is Grade Inflation?

Ok, I made this term up. When I say grade inflation, I mean the weakening of a grade as the main marker of mastery in a particular content. In the truest sense, an “A” in Algebra means a 90%+ (although we round up 89.5…smh). By itself, this is a very clear score. If a student can manage to get above a 90%, it shows that they have mastered most, if not all, of the content. And (in my opinion) very importantly it shows they mastered it when they were supposed to!

So what happens when we allow a retake, re-assessment, and allow students to redo projects? It shows them that they don’t need to necessarily demonstrate mastery the first time. If this was it, maybe I wouldn’t have any philosophical qualms. But what many schools are doing is introducing quasi grade quotas to make their data look better. I know I am not the only teacher who wants to protect the integrity of grades so they can keep their value. I have been in meetings where school leaders say “We need x amount of students to be eligible”. I think there is a huge problem with that. Instead of reality and standards being our guide, we place an arbitrary number as a goal and bend our standards and reality to meet it. It’s like saying you want to bench press 300 pounds, and then saying that 200 pounds is now 300 pounds. Crazy!

The Problem with Inflated Grades

Wanting students to do well is deeply engrained in the hearts and minds of teachers. We don’t want anyone to fail. Sincere as we may be, we also are tasked with helping others learn. And learning must be assessed, and not everyone will get 100%. And that is okay. A student can be very nice, but if they don’t know Algebra, do they deserve to pass? What message does passing that student send to the other students who actually achieved mastery?

The reason grade inflation is so insidious is because it is backed by a seemingly sound philosophy. We want everyone to feel good and succeed. But there is an irony contained within that. When you try to make everyone feel good, you end up making no-one feel good. If I got an “A” because I demonstrated mastery the first time, and another student gets an “A” via piecemeal retakes and second chances, my “A” is devalued.

Long-term Consequences

The main consequence of a generation of students with inflated grades is an inflated sense of their own achievement. When I enter the gym, I know there are people stronger than me. If I can squat 350 pounds and another guy can squat 400 pounds, I cannot with a straight face say we are equally strong. And you would call me delusional. Similarly, when grades lose their meaning and integrity, students will think they are performing better than they are. The interesting thing is that even they (in the back of their mind) know their performance didn’t warrant their grade, but we have been teaching them to ignore reality and seek what makes them feel good.

It is similar to an over-indulged child. If they never hear no, they become insufferable brats that no-one likes. They bend reality (mental illness) to fit their superficial needs, rather than accepting reality and basing future action upon that. To put the cherry on top, not only do you have a low performer, they think they are performing better than they are.

What to do?

You cannot separate learning in an academic setting from the relationships that it necessitates. This is why we want everyone to do well. We want them to feel like they belong and are important. We want everyone to get along. I believe we can do that while keeping the sanctity of grades.

We have to learn to separate grades from value judgements. Having bad grades doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t make you not a part of the community. Instead of bending our standards we can offer more support. But at the end of the day, it should be the student’s responsibility to make it happen (if they choose to).

Hopefully this didn’t come off as a rant, but more as an admonition and catalyst for a better way. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but there are many intelligent minds in education that can and are eager to do the intellectual heavy-lifting. Hope you enjoyed reading!

How Coronavirus Could Make Us Better

“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage” – Napoleon Hill 

This quote is hard to see the truth of in the middle of a difficult time. But anyone who has lived long enough knows that when you face a difficulty in life, it can make you better if you let it. Now I’m not going to get into a philosophical conversation about whether things “happen for a reason” or not, but I think it is safe to say that most human growth is the result of facing and overcoming difficulty. 

Coronavirus has come from seemingly nowhere and turned the entire world upside down. The social, political, and economic impact is huge. If what Napoleon Hill is saying is true, then this huge difficulty carries with it huge potential benefits. The key word here is potential. It is totally possible to go through a difficulty and become bitter and resentful, but luckily we have some influence over that. Here are some ways that Coronavirus may end up as a benefit, if we respond properly:  

Appreciation of Family

Knowing how this virus has a tendency to prey on the vulnerable, we immediately think of our families and what we can do to protect them. A tragedy or difficulty always brings us back to the most important people:  our families. I imagine relationships are getting stronger as a result of the difficulties imposed by this virus. Perhaps we are talking and connecting with our loved ones in ways that we haven’t in a while. Or at least I hope we are. 

Return to Frugality

The economic impact of this virus may be the biggest impact. Markets have dropped, and many millions of Americans are entering into a period of weeks to months away from work. As a result, people are forced to make hard decisions about where their money is best spent. In times of relative abundance, we can get away with loose spending, but times like these require us to be very intentional about our financial priorities. 

Embrace of a Slower Pace

As a result of Coronavirus, we are all being forced to stop. Not because we want to, but because we have to. We are going for walks, spending time with loved ones, reading, and generally going at a much slower pace. My prediction is that we will see the benefits of this and try and think of ways we can incorporate more down time into our schedules. 

Return to Community Values

Similar to a return to family, we are also seeing a return to community values. Now, more than ever, people are thinking of ways that we can support each other. We are no longer just looking out for ourselves, because we sense that this problem is affecting us all. Ideas that seemed radical, like a Universal Basic income, are now becoming more mainstream because we see how interconnected we are, and getting through this will require the embrace of previously deemed radical ideas. 

Coronavirus is not a good thing. It’s terrible. But if we are wise, we will find ways to take this difficulty and invest our learning in a better future. 

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