Preventing Your Own Problems
Mark Baker (@guruanaerobic) had a provocative Tweet listing "10 things I've learned in the past year." The last year very reasonably might have challenged a lot of things that people believe leading to short term outcomes they might never have thought they'd see like shutdowns and restrictions on mobility. Note, I am not giving an opinion about the right/wrong of those policies, just stating that I never thought we'd have to debate and live with those sorts of policies even if they are temporary. For the record, my thoughts are not binary yes/no and I'll save that discussion for another time.
For me, the biggest thing I learned was more of a reiteration of a couple of important life priorities I've been cultivating my entire adult life. I've used the analogy before of not wanting to be in a crowd of people at the back of a semi waiting for a handout of a bag of groceries hoping there's enough for me. I can appreciate how harsh that is but it succinctly creates a visual that less dramatically applies to other situations like being in desperate need of whatever round of stimulus we happen to be on.
A little while back I started to describe this as no one will care more about your outcomes than you. There's a saying that goes something like one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. Again, harsh reality but when you're in a bad situation as the result of a pandemic or the like, as far as politicians and policy markers are concerned you are just a statistic. I don't doubt that on some level politicians do want to fix things for people but we have to be open to the reality that fixing things may not even be their second priority. With that in mind, it is up to us to prevent/solve our own problems.
Daniel Kelly Tweeted "Most men have given up on their physical health by the age of 50." I replied how much easier middle age can be when you're fit. Bad things happen when we eat too many carbohydrates and lose muscle mass. We prevent/solve our own problems by cutting sugar consumption and lifting weights. It is never too late to start either one. Related to not wanting to be waiting for a bag of food at the back of a semi, I do not want to manage a bunch of prescriptions and wait in doctors' offices a couple of times a week. I also would like to be able to continue to handle 5-gallon water jugs and 50 pound bags of dog food to a very old age.
We explore financial problems to be solved or avoided all the time here. A quote attributed to Woody Allen is "there is no problem where having more money made it worse." This is not about being rich, I take it as being able to take care of what comes up without it being ruinous. There's only so much you can do of course, a $500,000 medical emergency will reasonably damage most people's finances, I get that but living below your means and having a high savings rate should allow you to endure a $4000 home repair bill without that being ruinous. Also, if your financial house is in order, you're less likely to fight with your partner about money which prevents a whole other set of problems.
Wanting to prevent/solve my own problems is a process. Naval Ravikant said "You can’t follow anyone else’s path to success. It’s a single player game.” I've long framed this as taking bits of process from various sources to create your own process. I don't think it is normal to agree with someone else about everything but that doesn't mean that at least some of their message isn't useful. I've quoted/mentioned Nassim Taleb frequently. I've learned a lot from him over the years but more than half of what I see from him either adds no value for me personally or I just flat out disagree with.
The idea of not agreeing with everything another person says was the first thing I thought of in this take down of Ayn Rand; The pandemic completely unraveled the libertarian ideal of individualism in Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' at BusinessInsider. The point of view from the author seems to imply all or nothing in thinking about what Rand espoused. There's plenty of crazy there to avoid or disagree with but in terms of taking bits of process, preventing/solving your own problems seems like a byproduct of the "selfishness" that Rand is criticized for. Making sure your house is in order as a first priority (talking broadly, not narrowly like parents choosing the children over themselves) before worrying about anyone else resonates. When your health, finances and anything else important to you are in order, you are then more able to help others or otherwise play a constructive role in your community. In my case, talking about community, I am talking about my role at our volunteer fire department. Somewhere in that last sentence stops being Rand's philosophy but there is a bit of it in the first half of that sentence. Not that I am a Rand Scholar but I took what I found useful and discarded the rest.
All of this is part of my process for how I want my life to play out, to maintain my priorities which are being happy at home, healthy, owning my time, minimizing chronic stress and a couple of others I might be forgetting. Agreeing with all of this would be odd but maybe there are a one or two things here that do resonate and are applicable for you.