Wall Street and Main Street are out of sync, still, and we have a better place for big companies to spend their advertising dollars...
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Am I the only person who wants this self-isolation to go on just a bit longer, if only so I can cross some more items off my to-do list?
Now that the politicians are talking about a return to normal, I keep thinking, “No, not yet.” Yes, I know we’re not going to reboot until we get past the bulge and come up with a treatment for the next victims. Even if the all clear sounds in July, though, I’m absolutely not ready.
I absolutely miss playing with the grandchildren and I miss restaurants and I miss the days when someone might cough a few feet away from me without causing a panic. Still, I’m kinda liking this whole shelter-in-place thing. It’s a new adventure, and it’s absolutely anything but boring. F’rinstance…
I’ve been kicking myself for the reading habit that disappeared over the years, vowing over and over again that I would catch up on all those books I had planned to buy, plus the ones I already bought and never cracked open. In the month since Jill and I sealed up our apartment, I’ve actually read four books and I’m in the middle of three more. Hooray for me, but I was really hoping to get through a few dozen before my parole.
Ditto for movies and TV shows that I missed along the way. I’ve checked off 28 of the top 100 films on some list I downloaded, plus another dozen from friend recommendations, but I’ve made it through only six at this point. Only another 80 hours to go and I’ll be caught up. Then, it’s time to stream Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s Tale, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and a hundred other series I never got around to bingeing when they were new. My best estimate is that I will get to the Red Wedding in 2032.
(Side note: Remember when it took less time to see the movie than we needed to read the book? Ah, good times.)
FTR, it’s not that I’ve been twiddling my thumbs for the past four weeks. I’ve been keeping up on my exercise, more or less, and I’m FaceTiming the grandkids about five times a day. I’m still mentoring start-up companies, writing the blog and WASHING MY HANDS every time I touch anything. I’ve been cooking more, doing more dishes, and recalculating my retirement savings at least three times a week.
And then there’s all the home movies I shot over the 39 years since we bought our first VHS camera. It’s taking me about two days to edit one year’s worth of tape, and all I am doing, really, is cutting and pasting. At the rate I’m going, I need another two months of isolation to finish the job, assuming I don’t watch any movies or read any books or Facetime the grandkids, or or or or or or.
That should bring me to the photo albums, but who am I kidding? I won’t be getting to the photos until three pandemics from now, assuming nobody makes any movies or television shows between now and then. Is it wrong of me to be making plans for the pandemics to come? Don’t answer that.
All this talk about returning to normal reminds me of last call at the bar. Whatever we’ve been doing, it’s an alert that we only have so much time to complete our mission. We all have different goals and different projects, of course, but all of us are on notice that this part of our journey is not going to last forever.
It’s a lot like life that way.
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Let’s add this to the many reasons kids are smarter than adults, and likely to be much happier, as well.
My grandson decided to get into the porta-crib by himself, so he grabbed a step-stool and started pulling himself up. I offered to help him, but he said, “I can do it.” And then he got stuck, so he asked for help.
Brilliant! He got stuck and asked for help. The greatest lessons are so, so simple.
So when do we lose the ability—no, the wisdom—to ask for help when we need it? As adults, we chant our rugged individualist, self-sufficiency mantras repeatedly as we damage our health, our relationships, and our survival. As is often the case, we would do a lot better if we acted like children.
I thought about my grandson recently, in a suburban diner, as I was catching up on life with a guy I hadn’t seen for about a decade. We were about 20 minutes into our highlight reels when I felt the need to explain how he could solve all his problems. (My old record was four minutes, so this counts as progress.)
There’s no doubt I was right, of course. I knew what he needed because I could see things objectively, without being bogged down by emotional baggage or unnecessary details of his life. Foolishly, he was challenged by minor issues like "ethics" and "people" and how many "resources" he could devote to the problems. Let’s just say that he didn’t take a ton of notes as I spewed sagacity all over the table.
We commiserated for a while about how easily we can solve other people’s problems, a particularly relevant topic for two guys who have earned their keep as consultants. When you’re in the business of finding solutions, though, problem solving is the easy part. The biggest challenge is convincing the client to accept and implement the plan that they’re paying you to deliver.
I encountered this frequently with business founders who couldn’t accept the limits of their insights. Paraphrasing just a tad, “I built this company and nobody knows more about this business than I do, so nobody can solve any problems better than I can. If I haven’t fixed it, it cannot be fixed. Now, what was your idea?”
This resistance is pervasive in our personal lives as well. Someone asks if we need help and we say, no, we’re fine, we have it under control, we can handle it, no need to be concerned. Except, of course, that we can’t get out of our own way and we’ll be wallowing in our slop forever.
Every one of us has a friend who is trapped in an eternal do-loop, continually hitting the same roadblock and making the same decisions that get them nowhere. Every one of us has a friend who picks the wrong relationship, the wrong investment, the wrong job, the wrong health choices, over and over again.
And every one of us is that friend to somebody else. We need help, we know we need help, all our friends know we need help, and we still insist it’s all fine, totally under control.
This is one of those challenges that is dirt simple.
Any three-year-old could make the right choice here. Couldn’t we be just as smart?
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If you were sick and you finally found a medicine that kept your illness under control, would you stop taking it as soon as it started to work?
That’s the trap we’re in right now. All this social distancing and hand washing appears to be slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Slowing, but not stopping, of course. Even if 80% of us are locked in our closets 24 hours per day, somebody has to deliver the toilet paper.
All the people who drive the trucks and treat the patients and stock the shelves and fix the plumbing are still on the job. Some are driven by their commitment to the greater good, some cannot afford to miss a paycheck, and others are simply certain it won’t happen to them. It will, though, at least to some of them, and the outbreak will continue.
The virus will spread more slowly if they interact with fewer people, of course. If we go back to our regularly scheduled programming, we’ll just reboot the plague.
Maybe warmer weather will slow the spread, at least until the fall. Maybe it will turn out that drinking a gallon of Diet Rite each day really does work. Maybe a million old people will offer to die in order to save the economy. Maybe.
Right now, the stock market is orgasmic as the adult in the room predicts a peak, but a peak is not a trough and it is not an end date. When is it safe to come out to play, and how will we know?
Even as I write this, I realize that the whole situation looks very different in different parts of the country, even in different neighborhoods. Immigration issues look different in Boise than in El Paso. Gun control has a very different value proposition in Chicago than in Casper. The plague probably looks like no big deal in most rural areas, while it's a clear and present danger in densely populated cities. In fact, the situation looks different in downtown Chicago than in many of our suburbs.
Let’s assume, though, that we were and are taking this seriously. Let’s assume that we’ve seen enough deaths and enough hot spots that we all agree there is a threat. Even if we believe the threat is less significant in our corner of the world, it is real.
Now what? How do we prepare for life with a highly communicable disease that has no proven treatments and no vaccine? When is it safe to open the diner, hug the grandkids and stop washing our damned hands. (Honestly, I feel like Lady Macbeth, but not quite as guilty.)
It’s sunny and almost 70 in Chicago today, the perfect day to invite the neighbors over for a barbecue. Too soon, though. We have to wait until…what?
Now that we’ve decided this is a war, I guess I’m a war correspondent. That makes all of these battlefield updates much more dramatic, including…
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.