Dear ‘January Tristan’,
‘July Tristan’ here. I thought it may be useful to send you a few lines from your future to let you know what to expect and, perhaps, to help you plan for the next few months.
Above all, there is one thing you need to know about 2020: it will change everything you thought you knew about the world you live in.
Over Christmas, you read about reports of a new mystery virus in China. You’re not affected by this now, but you will be. You will find this impossible to imagine, but world travel will be shut down to try and contain this virus. You will be confined to your house; schools will close (most kids won’t go back until September); shops, restaurants and pubs will be shuttered; and normal life will pause for weeks on end (I told you you’d find it hard to comprehend).
Simple stuff like shopping will become really complicated because of the shortage of many products after initial panic buying. The press will whip up hysteria and add fuel to the flames.
It’s July now and this virus has killed more than 40,000 people in the UK alone. You should consider how you will keep your family safe. I’d suggest you make a modest stock of essentials – oh, and supplement with Vitamin C, D and Xanthohumol. It might be an idea to get a decent probiotic. They say the condition of your gut biome makes a difference to your recovery if you ever pick up the disease.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Your business must be in good shape and has to be accessible in a different way too. Forget face-to-face meetings (yes, really). Get used to the idea that your clients will need to get value from your work without the opportunity to meet and discuss, unless it’s via a computer link.
This is working out great for some people and not so well for others. Many desk workers have relocated to their spare bedrooms or kitchen tables. For those who happen to be working on projects involving Europe, the US and Asia, there have now been four months of extremely long days. Some businesses have prospered, but many, many others have ceased to exist. Look up the word ‘furlough’ – you’ll hear that used more than you ever have before.
You’ll have to get used to no-one being allowed to work in or visit cinemas, restaurants and bars. They’re only just opening up again now. Your contact with other human beings is limited beyond belief. Universities are silent, offices deserted, factories on reduced shifts, car parks empty…
There’s been a huge upswing in cycling, and train and bus passengers are sparse. In fact, all the efforts to reduce traffic pollution in cities have accelerated, because bikes, eBikes and e-scooters are being taken seriously as alternatives.
One more thing – you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time considering what design of face mask doesn’t make your glasses steam up, and how many you need to buy. You’ll be wearing these for a long time. Disposable gloves too. And if you thought you kept your hands clean before…
Here in July, we’ve arrived at what the media is calling ‘post-lockdown’, but which still feels like lockdown to many. We still can’t travel as you do now and, although we’re allowed out for the evening, many people remain nervous of going into pubs and eateries.
Invest and get a haircut
If you’ve been saving up for something, buy it now. Spending’s going to be more difficult and the novelty of online shopping (except for groceries) may at last wear off. No-one will want your cash – inert surfaces carry the virus and we’re all keen to avoid it – so cards only, please. Buy a lot of hand sanitiser – or invest in a company that makes it.
By the way, make sure you get a haircut before the 23rd March – or buy some clippers.
This is just the start of the way our world changes in twenty-six weeks.
Through all this, some people have welcomed the time to pause and rethink their values. Some countries are still seeing a rise in virus cases and deaths, others have plateaued but are planning for a second wave of infection and ramping up plans for a grim winter. Whether you call it considerate behaviour or a bid for self-preservation, keeping away from other people has become the new normal.
Though you may see this as a positive, Brexit has all but vanished from the news. More worryingly, climate change has also slipped down the news agenda, but is of course still moving apace. Latest estimates predict we’ll have seen the last polar bear by the end of the century.
Change before you have to
What I have seen in the last six months would have seemed impossible in January. Your plans for the next couple of years may still play out, but what I can say with certainty is that you must have more than one plan. Flexibility, agility and the ability to diversify are more vital than ever…as those without plans, or any openness to change, are already discovering to their cost. As the saying goes ‘change before you have to’.
Cheers mate. And as we all now say, stay safe.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.