Week 202 in Detroit. For the first time since I moved to Detroit, the entire week was spent in one building in Detroit. My house. A neighborhood restaurant switched to curbside carryout last weekend and so I picked up dinner on Sunday there this past week. Since then, I have not left the house expect to walk the dogs and jog around the neighborhood. On the upside, how about jogging again? Admittedly I spent the last year putting off the gym and running but in the process missed out and missed it. It was nice to get back there this week.
Otherwise this week was busy. Not being in the office did not stop the long hours preparing for upcoming changes in employment and, more than likely, credit markets. Losing income is the top reason for missed mortgage payments and if 6%, 10% or even 20% of the country is going to lose their job, it is a massive blow to the country. Our portion of that problem is home loan servicing. Making sure there’s enough cushion in the industry to carry those who cannot pay until the economy can bounce back or the legal process of foreclosure kicks in. If homeowners are proactively offered 3–6 month payment holiday that is entirely different economic equation. That is a stimulus and the money needs to come from somewhere to make the payments on the homeowner’s behalf until the crisis is over.
In that case, it is not a bailout; it’s a stimulus or part of it. I think that was an area of some confusion this week as politicians called for a complete moratorium on mortgage payments without considering what happens next. In other moments, some saw the money as a bailout of Wall Street banks. Also, not true, at least as far as not requiring people to pay their mortgages goes.
On the bright side, by week’s end, it appeared that we had made progress tying any mortgage payment forbearance to economic funds that benefit the consumer. In the next legislative action to address those affected by work stoppage or economic loss, we are hopeful there will be support for homeowners.
What is difficult and remains unsolved is everyone else. Renters and those in the restaurant industry. Retail and those in the events or entertainment industry. Hard to feel sorry for Target, Wal-Mart or movie stars, perhaps, but those employed by Target, Wal-Mart and stadiums/movie theaters/production crews are hurting and struggling too.
Chef Andrew Carmellini posted that there are 15.1 million people employed by the restaurant industry.
Perhaps being forced to spend this much time in our communities will have us rethinking those that live and work closest to us. Or, even better, might have thinking differently about community.
We’re all in this together.
From the desk of Ryan Holiday:
“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before, and will happen again — the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging. Produce them in your mind, as you know them from experience or from history: the court of Hadrian, of Antoninus. The courts of Philip, Alexander, Croesus. All just the same. Only the people different.” — Marcus Aurelius
I mean that in the exciting way not in the annoyed way.
I’ve started thinking about how life may change after this (I’m assuming) long work-from-home strategy. Per usual, there are two extremes. Nothing is going to change or everything is going to change.
What say you?
What will change?
First up, Home.
Being at home all-day, every-day with everyone in your family is likely to make you think. I think this will cause many people to start thinking about home in new and unexpected ways. Larger home? Smaller home? More economic home — whatever that means to you. To me, home means comfort and accessibility. Being near my wife and daughter, taking time to work out, the chance pheasant out the window. (Seriously, Vernon, the neighborhood pheasant, returned from migration).
The first several days of working from home felt new, balanced, and frankly fun. This week the urgency on some of the projects we had been working on — how to service our clients that lose their jobs, the potential for massive economic fallout from closing many businesses, and inability to buy & sell homes given state-wide shelter-in-place policies — made it difficult to disconnect from work.
Long hours in the same chair … rookie mistake.
One thing that has not dipped this week has been productivity. My team remains engaged and productive. Overall work-from-home is a success and I think with a little more breathing room next week it will be back to the balanced and fun feeling.
In the end, I believe many more people will be asking to work from home after this and companies will have a difficult time holding the line once we’ve all spent 3, 4, 8? weeks working this way.
Risk. Our neighbors and great friends Mark and Laura took a safe-distance, social-distancing walk around the neighborhood with us yesterday. Laura and I were talking about how our teams were handling the specter of a global pandemic. Laura made an interesting comment. “I worry about entrepreneurship after this because I wonder if people will be as willing to take big risks.”
I feel the same way. For the last few years many brands have been talking about threats to the Establishment. Uber. Venmo. Spotify. Netflix. Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders. Some challengers have been more successful taking on the Establishment than others. In this context, the Establishment is a steady, W-2 salary and the challenger is the ongoing, uncertainty of entrepreneurship or consulting.
Given the risks, what happens next? The instinct for many, if not most, will be to retreat to the safety of a reliable company job. It’s too easy to say “corporate America” here because social distancing has proven that stalwart American companies like Boeing, Marriott, McDonald’s and aptly named American Airlines are vulnerable to downsizing and furloughs. That said, we could see workers shift to safe(r) roles.
One refrain that I’ve heard referenced is “nothing will be the same after this.” So I wonder what that means for entrepreneurship and risk. Will this drive people back to safety or is it truly different? We’ll see.
A pro pos of work, Work. Not just entrepreneurship the larger work. If spending time at home makes you think more seriously about your home, it stands to reason that working at home will make you think more seriously about your job. As I write this, I’m realizing it’s too early to tell and probably too early to expect to see anyone making changes. But one of the interesting aspects of this type of threat is what it does to perception and choices. Motivations and incentives.
Without speculating too much further, I would expect that one of the things we can control is our job. Depending on how this plays out, we’ll see a variety of people “taking control” of what they can. There are other areas of control. When I started thinking about what ways this would manifest — tattoos, art, drinking — the desire to express, to respond, to release.
For example, Love.
One of the most popular jokes this week was how many babies will be born in 9 months and how many marriages will end up in divorce. Makes sense that any aspect of life could be analyzed and analyzed again. Why would love be any different?
What I come back to is the same — virus or no virus, working from home or not — how can I be intentional about my choices? How can I treat every day like the chance to rethink everything. To reimagine what life means, should mean, can mean.
To be active in the things that make up a life is to experience the journey, the process. The hardest thing about life seems to be distinguishing between those aspects of life in our control and those aspects beyond our control. Owning our decisions and therefore owning what happens to us is the most difficult part. I also get a sense that’s why so many personal growth speeches, weekend seminars and leadership books are focused on it. It sounds vague and unmeasurable. It sounds too easy to be the key and so we dismiss it. In some cases, I think we hear it too often and take it for granted.
You’d think that would lead me to stop writing about it but the more I think about my life and my choices (which anyone who knows me will tell you is too much) I keep coming back to 2 things.
First, the practice of thinking through motivations and choices is similar to physical fitness, to staying in shape. There are hundreds or thousands of ways to do it but the only one that works is the one that works for you. Whatever fitness means to you, whatever works for you. As long as its working, meaning as long as you are pursuing where you want to be, then it is working for you. Where it is not, it is important to find a strategy that works. Second, not as many people think about their mindset and their work as I initially assumed; because, as I wrote, I think about it all the time. Just like working out, it can be too much.
Yet, I keep thinking about it and I keep writing about it. Some weeks more eloquently than others and some more directly than others, but the desire to keep digging is what keeps me going.
Collectively, we can be intentional too. Just as some people think nothing will change and others everything will change. Some people will inherently move toward authoritarianism (indeed since 2016 some already have); others will elevate the collective over the individual. Public spaces. Public health. Public good. Just as I’ve argued in the past that doing good is returning long term value to shareholders and therefore companies can justify decisions that aren’t (at least initially) all about the numbers, I believe there is an economic argument to be made for efficiency. In this case, the efficiency of all of us. Sure, the market will ultimately pick winners and losers but there are myriad ways that We the People cannot stomach the losses and artificially change the outcome, hedge the consequences.
Every decision has consequences even the decision to stop the ultimate result of the market.
The decisions during and immediately after this crisis will be the ones that tell us whether we’ve become more communal (or at least not less so) and understand that our economic outcome is dependent on my neighbors, my colleagues and my country.
Politico began predicting outcomes in an article that surveyed interesting people about how coronavirus may change society. Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, said “When this ends…we will be better able to see how our fates are linked.”
If that is true, perhaps, there is the hope. The hope that the human connection and the awareness that we control the outcomes here, we make the intentional choices, that collectively change the game for our fellow workers. None of the rules cannot be changed. Case in point, if enough people cannot pay their mortgage on time, we figure it out. We do not stomach the market outcome, we hedge it, we soften it.
I’m fine with that. In fact, I’m celebrating it. Let that be our legacy. Let it be said that we took care of each other when it mattered and afterward we were more intentional about our spending, our support…our…selves.
“Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.” ~ Michael Ramsey
Bonus Content: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…wait what does that mean?
Continued success, answer well and, of course, stay well,