The Doors, 1967
Strange days indeed, and Jim Morrison's 1967 lyrics resonate today.
My personal experience is that three months ago we were celebrating a generous company bonus and planning a luxury trip to the USA, with my youngest son going on a trip of a lifetime to a NASA summer Space Academy in Huntsville. Absolutely no clue what was about to hit. The situation today, I have been made redundant, now setting up my own business, no immediate regular income, and as of yesterday my wife furloughed until at least the end of June. However, I am much luckier than many, I do not have any immediate financial worries, I can pay my rent and put food on the table and no one is coming to repossess my cars. I have had a privileged life, the benefit of a good education, supportive parents, a good career in a well paid industry with 25 years of continuous employment. For others, this is a very serious situation with the very real prospect of immediate financial ruin. The people we rely on the most, in health services and social care, struggling to keep their head above water. Many of these people are dying much younger than they should for no other reason than they are treating people with Coronavirus and then contracting the virus. People who do not attract footballer wages, do not get generous company bonuses, do not go on luxury holidays. People who even in normal times struggle to make their rent.
Our current predicament has demonstrated how fragile our reality is. The things that seemed important a few months ago seem less so today. We created an illusion of security that in a few short months has been blown away as easily as spring blossom in a light breeze.
So when this crisis is over, do we want more of the same, or something different? If we have a choice of doors to go through, which door are we going to choose?
I could offer my thoughts on a solution, but better to offer five questions that we can all ponder.
Before I ask those questions:. I will start with the Stockdale Paradox as a primer:
'You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.'
The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. It was named after James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval officer and Vietnam prisoner of war. The main idea, until yo accept the facts of your current situation, you can never move forward and improve your situation.
I have to believe we will prevail in the end, but only if we address accept the brutal facts of our current reality. The current reality is more than just the current crisis, it concerns the macro-economic and social reality we have created for ourselves that led us to the place we are today.
So, five questions:
Is the job in hand to return to ourselves to our previous reality, as quickly as possible, or is it something else?
Are those that that have power, influence, fame, and financial wealth, and able to pontificate on our current crisis, fundamentally disconnected from the majority that are living through this crisis?
Should business only be about be profit, our should it have a wider social purpose?
Do we place more importance on celebrity and media personality, disproportionately so in terms of reward, when compared to other roles in society?
Are we going to make a difference by taking personal accountability for everything that has happened to the world over recent months, or is it for someone else to sort out?
I cannot pretend to have answers to any of these questions. I have an opinion, but it is not the same as an answer. I cannot even say I have accepted the brutal facts. But these are the questions that are keeping me awake at night.