I’ve never been one to spend much time reading the news.
In between the sensationalist stories, clickbait headlines, biased pieces and mind-numbing stories about celebrities, the articles that may actually be considered to be newsworthy are often shocking and depressing.
Of course it is important to keep up to date with world affairs, but I also strive to avoid negativity if I can help it.
Some may consider that ignorant, but it’s a way of life I have decided to live, and I try to not give the news any more time than it needs.
2020 has been different though.
For the first time in my life, I find myself waking up, grabbing my phone, and immediately start scrolling the major news outlets for updates on what is happening with this global pandemic.
It has consumed me, and the planet. I have multiple tabs open on my laptop, and while I try to stay focused on work, every time I see an update I am compelled to click over and start reading.
Even on the days where I have made a conscious decision to avoid the broadcasts, my phone buzzes with notifications from friends and family sharing the latest developments.
Every conversation I have is dominated by the topic of COVID-19. Everything I do now feels like it has a cloud of despair hanging over it.
It’s an atmosphere that can’t be escaped. Whether it’s from wandering down the empty aisles of my local supermarket, seeing mates and not being able to give them a hug, or driving by once-popular cafes with vacant tables, the seriousness of it all is slowly becoming the new norm.
I am feeling constantly overwhelmed, and I know I am not the only one.
In the past 7 days, I’ve had more long phone calls with friends and associates than I have had in the past 6 months.
Everybody is suffering from their own sense of confusion and uncertainty. The conversations we’ve had sway between serious concern and humour, but often with a hint of feeling lost.
It’s a subject that crosses borders, blends generations, and doesn’t discriminate.
Globally, things are unfolding in a far more disconcerting manner.
Economies are crashing. Employment numbers are dropping. Businesses are failing. Health resources are beyond capacity. Countries are being locked down. And even more tragically, people are dying.
This crisis is unlike anything the world has seen since World War II.
On the odd occasion I log onto Facebook and check into the various groups I’m a part of, I’m confronted by entire threads of people airing their fears, difficult circumstances and lack of motivation at this ongoing calamity.
But just like my own outlook on life, I am not writing this post to dwell on the negatives. There is enough of that in the media.
I am instead choosing to stay positive and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Like all responsible people right now, I am self-isolating, only leaving the house for essential items, being extremely diligent about washing my hands and keeping my distance from people.
I am also being a realist, and have accepted that this extreme change on the lives of billions around the world may be with us for 12 months or more.
Yet, despite all of the doom and gloom that surrounds us, I am incredibly optimistic about the future. In the face of uncertainty, my mind is clearer than ever.
I’ve been speaking at great length with Alesha, my partner in life and business, about what lies ahead for us and how we can stay afloat.
As business owners, the last few weeks have been grim. Contracts have been cancelled and income has disappeared. The financial forecasts we had developed at the beginning of the year are now irrelevant, and there’s no relief in sight.
But to be honest, that is making us extremely excited.
We’re excited about the unknown, and about finding new opportunities that lie hidden in the fog.
This is an event that nobody predicted, and there’s nobody to blame for the situation we find ourselves in.
We could get angry or upset at this, or we could be creative in choosing the path we take to get through this.
This pandemic has made us realise that we have been too comfortable in our life and business. Over the last few years, things were easy. Our inbox was filled with new partnerships and lucrative offers almost daily. Income continued to grow month on month. The hard work we had put in was now paying off, and it was time to reap the rewards.
And that comfort built complacency.
We tackled new business projects half-heartedly, relying too heavily on our previous successes to really take things to the next level.
We knew we could deliver fantastic products for our clients, and because of that, we stuck to doing what we did best rather than striving to learn new skills.
Now that that the complacency has caught up with us, we’re forced to either sink or swim.
That in itself is an incredibly powerful situation to be in, if we decide to swim.
Rather than put our tails between our legs and start screaming ‘woe is me’, we are buzzing with positivity about what we can do to come out on the other side of this better and stronger than ever.
We suddenly find ourselves with more time than we ever had before. True, that comes at the sacrifice of our income, the loss of freedom that we once had, and the looming threat of a pandemic is very real. But we now have time to breathe, think, focus and act.
I am not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers, and I urge you to see this as an incredible moment in time in your own life too.
During my numerous chats with friends, ranging from entrepreneurs running multi-millionaire dollar companies to workers living paycheque to paycheque who have just lost their jobs, I’ve noticed a subliminal message that underlies our conversations.
There is a definite lack of uncertainty, and some are in much more dire circumstances than others, yet there has been no sense of utter hopelessness.
Nobody has thrown the towel in without a fight.
Instead, we talk about what unknown future lies ahead for all of us, and what we can do to get through this together.
We share words of advice and optimism, we encourage each other to stay positive in these dark times, we bounce ideas around, and that inspiration shines through in our own mindset long after we hang up the phone.
If there’s one thing history has taught us, it is that humans are resilient. We find a way to soldier on even in the longest of winters.
It is never easy, but it’s also never impossible.
It’s important right now to not bury our heads in the sand and wait for everything to go back to normal. What if ‘normal’ never returns?
Instead, we must stay positive in the face of uncertainty, and start recognising those opportunities that are all around us. And once we find them, act on them.
They might not always succeed, but if we are serious about getting through this, we have no other choice.
These opportunities will be different for everyone, and don’t necessarily have to centre around business or employment.
They can be for things you always had an excuse for. Things you never had time to do.
Pick up a guitar if you’ve always wanted to play. Learn a new language for a country you’ve always dreamed about travelling to.
Buy some art supplies and teach yourself to paint. Try to become a better photographer. You have the time now. What other excuse do you have?
If you have a family, spend quality time together. Play board games, listen to your grandparents’ stories, read a book to your child, cook a meal with your loved one.
If you’re locked at home, stay active. Walk up and down the stairs. Do 10 push-ups every time you feel bored. Rearrange your furniture to feel like you’re in a new place.
Also take the time to reflect, meditate, dream about the future and connect with long-lost friends.
Netflix can wait, there are better things to do!
And if you are a business owner, or find yourself out of work, what can you do to start diversifying your income?
What new systems, projects and avenues can you develop to create something that is sustainable, or will grow exponentially as the tide eventually shifts?
You have access to the internet, the largest resource of free information that has ever existed. Don’t use it to check the news every hour, play mindless games, or scroll social media.
There are literally millions of books and courses to study so that when these restrictions do ease, you are smarter and better equipped to enter the workforce than you were a few weeks ago.
And if you do become unwell, or unemployment threatens to affect your livelihood, reach out to somebody and talk.
Don’t let this pandemic destroy your outlook on life, or consume your every waking moment.
Stay positive during these uncertain times. You deserve it. You’ve earnt it. You need it.
Even if you are struggling, realise that you are living in a world of endless possibilities. A world where each day can bring about new opportunities.
One day this will all be over, we’ll go back to work, and life will continue in one way or another. Don’t look back on this time and realise you lost it by wallowing in negativity and self-pity.
You will get through this. But which road you’ll take at the end of the tunnel is entirely up to you.