Squeezing the K


How to Bridge the Gap of Inequality and Justice in a Post COVID-19 World.

When the stock market crashed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of people hoped it would be short lived and the economy would recover quickly and strongly to the benefit of all.  And if you could measure the strength of the economy with just one metric you could make a strong case that is exactly what happened. 

Stock markets all around the world hit record highs in late February, lost approximately 40% of their value by mid March and had recovered about 90% of their February highs by mid April.  A classic V-shape that proponents and cheerleaders have been pointing to as evidence that the worst is over, and life will soon be back to “normal”. 

But the economy is not just one number.  Deeper thinking economists are increasingly pointing to a widening gap between the classes.  Those who could take advantage and buy while prices were low are reaping the rewards those that those who couldn’t, the ones who lost their jobs, even for just a few weeks, are still struggling and will continue to struggle for months and maybe even years to come. 

And it’s not just the uber-wealthy who took advantage.  The upper side of the middle class has made out like bandits too.   Owing to lock down restrictions on when and were to spend, savings rates and investments in home improvements have gone way up.  According to this article from The Huffington Post, (https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/debt-insolvency-canada-wealth_ca_5f870abec5b6c4bb5471e28c) when you’re stuck at home but still working and earning an income, one of the only things you can do is work on your house.  Home ownership was already a stretch for many younger workers and those in the service sector, now with all the renovations being done, prices across the country have increased by 8.6% on the year.  The greatest gateway to lifelong financial security, personal real-estate, is almost certainly out of reach for large swaths of the population. 

Large wealth disparities between the classes is a recipe for social unrest and economic collapse.  It’s what spawned revolutions in France and Russia, coups in Iran and Chile, and the civil rights movement in the United States.  Even peaceful revolutions like the ones that ended Apartheid in South Africa or triggered the reunification of Germany had roots in economic inequality. 

In the spring of 1969 NBC aired Season 3, Episode 21 of Star Trek (The Original Series) called “The Cloud Minders”.  The plot was progressive for it’s time but has become a familiar one in dystopian literature and film since.  While on a diplomatic mission to a new planet, Kirk and Spock are caught up in a revolution in a society where intellectuals and artists live in a utopian city in the sky while the rest of the population toils in mines on the barren surface below.  At one point, after being attacked by rebels on the plant’s surface Spock muses,

“This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts.  Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.”

Star Trek, Season 3, Episode 21, Gene Roddenberry, NBC

One of the things that COVID-19 has brought to the forefront is that the people who support the vast majority, the so-called front lines in health care, food service and consumer goods are grossly undervalued.  Revolution may not be imminent like it was in the days of the Czars or the fictional world of The Cloud Minders, but revolutions rarely start quickly, they simmer and grow over time.  COVID-19 is a wakeup call.  With the right kind of leadership, the K-shaped recovery could be the beginning of a revolution in the way we value certain types of work.  The question is, will it be a peaceful revolution or a violent one?

The way I see it we need at least three things to help the revolution evolve along the most peaceful path possible. 

First off, we each need to re-evaluate our place in society.  Back in June my father, best known to my loyal readers as Pastor Dad, wrote an op-ed for an influential Christian Magazine called “I Am My Brother’s Keeper.”  In it he asserted that the way of love, or more specifically the way we show love for our neighbours, is to wear a mask.  Meekness or mutual submission to authority is not a sheepish game of follow the leader, it is a powerful assertion of collective strength in protection of the weak and vulnerable.

Second, we need to invest in the infrastructure of justice.  Let me be quick to point out here that justice is not shorthand for law and order.  Law and order without peace and justice leads to violence and oppression.  A just society is one that values each person’s contribution with equity and compassion and provides access for those without resources.  A just society closes the gap of the K with things like free health care, public education, housing, laws that are applied equally and punishments that fit the crime. 

Third, we need to exercise patience and grace.  Regardless of where you find yourself on the K, a return to “normal” will be long and far from smooth.  Some people will come out of this recovery stronger than before, but many more will struggle with new realities that the post COVID world will bring.  As a collective society we must recognize that while we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.  Some, those with the most resources and the best access are sailing through on luxury cruise liners, while more are clinging to life rafts and praying for a break.  Grace can take many forms, it can be as simple as following Pastor Dad’s lead and wearing a mask, staying clear of large gatherings, and supporting local businesses.  But for those with more resources it should also be active support of hospitals and charities that help the poor and vulnerable. 

At the beginning of the pandemic we were all encouraged to do our part to flatten the curve.  As a second waive moves around the world we need to remain vigilant in that regard and as we move forward into a post COVID world we need to be mindful of those on the lower rungs of society. 

Keep flattening the curve and work diligently to squeeze the K. 

The Only Thing That There’s Just Too Little Of


In the spring of 1965 singer Jackie De Shannon released the single “What the World Needs Now is Love.”  By mid-July the song, written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, had worked its way up the Billboard Hot 100 to peak at number seven in the US and number one in Canada.  Written during the Vietnam War it is a folk anthem originally intended to bring people together regardless of their political views.

The song popped into my head recently while I was flipping through some journal notes.   A few months back I wrote, “every community of love can love more”.  As I read those words, quite unbidding into my head popped the lyric:

It’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.

We live in anxious times.  Back in February I heard that over a quarter of Canadians surveyed said they would be fearful of being around someone with a serious mental illness.  I get it, mental illness has a unique capacity to make us all feel helpless.  If you have ever spent time with someone suffering from anxiety or depression you know that it doesn’t take long before you are feeling completely inadequate to help.  At that point it’s just easier to walk away and leave the afflicted to the “professionals” but the fact is that people suffering from mental illness need community more than they need clinical intervention.

And that was also before COVID, before we all started dealing with enough severe stress and anxiety to be classified as mentally ill ourselves.

It’s true that perfect love drives out fear, but repeated exposure just desensitizes us.  So the best way to manage fear and anxiety is to suck the drama out of it and just admit that it is part of being human.  Draw together, do not run in fear from one another.  We are designed to bring healing and wholeness through one another.

In addition to love at times like this we could also use a bit more justice and a bit more hope.

“Lady Justice” – there is a reason she’s always blindfolded

Justice has been a big topic lately, ever since race relations successfully bumped COVID19 off the front pages of newspapers around the world.  But we don’t want just any justice, we want the kind that puts people and things into right relationships with one another and justice that doesn’t add burdens to the already over-burdened.

And we need hope, the kind that is tied up with honesty.  We need the kind of hope that says we believe things can get better while acknowledging that things aren’t right at the present moment.

So, I guess there is more than one thing that there is just too little of, Love, Justice and Hope to name a few.  But that wouldn’t make for a very good song.

 

 

 

 

Construction Project


Clearing Away the Debris and Starting Something New

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and –streams in the wasteland. [Isaiah 43:19]

Have you ever visited a construction site?  Especially at the very beginning of a new project it seems like there is more destruction happening than construction.

I have been passing by a new condo development on my run each morning for the past few weeks.  What was once an overgrown meadow has been cleared of brush, leveled, and filled with gravel.  An elevator shaft now sands off to one side towering approximately 8 stories high but other than that there does not seem to be much real construction happening on the property – yet.

Growing up I took part in my share of construction projects.  My dad is a do it yourself kind of guy.  When I was four years old, he built the house I grew up in.  When I was ten, he built a barn.   We were always building something.  It often seemed as though our entire life was one big construction project.

At the start of anything new there is always a phase of preparation that involves demolition and clean up.  It might not seem like much is happening in this phase, it might even seem like you are moving away from positive change.  But clearing away the old, used up or broken bits it a critical part of creation, you have to clear the pallet so the speak, for something new to rise in its place.

This past month has felt a lot like the preparation phase for a big construction project.  We are being forced to clear away the unproductive, unimportant and unnecessary bits of life.  It has been painful for many.  Some, who work in secondary and tertiary industries may never fully recover.  But through it all we have been reminded of what really matters.  We have gained a new appreciation for emergency services, medical professionals, consumer staples, transportation infrastructure, farmers, and the entire food supply chain.  Our forced isolation has also reminded us of the importance of family and community.

Isaiah 43, which I quoted to start this post is not a happy chapter of the bible.  It was written to rebellious people, soon to be exiled from their land as punishment for their sins.  But regardless of the dire circumstances these folks would soon find themselves in, the tone is one of hope and renewal.  Even in the wilderness God makes a way.

I am not saying that COVID19 is punishment for sin.  I am not qualified to make such a statement and even if I were, it would not be helpful.  The apostle Paul said that our fight is against bad ideas, (Ephesians 6:12) not each other, pointing fingers and talking about sin at a time like this is an extremely bad idea.

What I am saying is that as we rebuild from this time, we have been given an incredible opportunity to reset our priorities and right some wrongs of the past, prioritize the things that matter, family, community and the core requirements of a healthy and sustainable life.

Much of what we are seeing in the news and online today is generating fear and judgement.  That is not helpful, and it is not the voice of God.  Mr. Rogers once responded to a child in his audience who had questions about scary things with the gentle reminder, “look for the helpers”.  In these challenging times we would all do well to not only look for the helpers but to look for opportunities to be one.  One of my weekly motivational goals is to give something back. Whether that is as simple is donating a few dollars to the children’s hospital, buying a few extra groceries for the food bank or something else on a grander scale, everyone can be a helper.

Our post COVID19 world is under construction.  Let us build something we can be proud of.  Take a minute right now to think about how you can contribute and let me know in the comments.  I would love to hear about it.

 

 

 

Locked Down Blues


Three Keys to Battling Depression and Staying Motivated During The Coronavirus Lock Down

“I think I’m depressed.”

Until last week, I had never uttered those words in reference to how I feel about my work.  Not once, ever!  Sure, I’ve gotten the blues over personal matters and had less than stellar days, but I love my work, I love helping my clients and I love life.

That is until recently.

Since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown started six weeks ago, I’ve managed to remain pretty up-beat.  I closed a large deal just hours before the lockdown went into effect, so my income has remained stable to this point.   I started out looking at quarantine as an opportunity to integrate some exciting new technology into my business, clean up some lingering projects and make myself ready for the big wave of recovery that I was convinced was just around the corner.

Well that’s all done now.  I’m video conferencing like a pro, my inbox has never been so clean, and I have officially run out of new projects.

Last Wednesday, at precisely 10:10 am I had completed every item on my to do list and was done work for the day.  And that’s when it hit me.  Without a clear plan and a to do list long enough to topple the CN Tower, I started pacing the floor like a Caged Tiger and after a few hours of that I just sat down and moped.

It didn’t take me long to realize what had happened.  I wasn’t taking my own advice.  For weeks in this space and over on my video channel I’ve been telling everyone that this is going to be a long recovery and the world will likely never be the same again.  But somehow, I convinced myself that my business would be fine, I’d recover quickly and pick right up were I left off sooner and stronger than everyone else.  But when the phone stopped ringing, and the busy work went away I was left to face a stark reality, I am completely unprepared for a long wait.

As I thought about it, I began to formulate a plan for how to stay motivated and keep doing business over the coming weeks and months.  Here are things I am thinking about that have, so far, pulled me out of my depression and given me a renewed sense of purpose and hope moving forward.

It’s Not About Us

I find it always helps to keep a little perspective in times like these.  Not that there have ever been times quite like these before but that’s kind of the point.  To date, worldwide over 3 million people have contracted COVID19, 208 thousand have died. By way of comparison, official estimates place the number total deaths during the Vietnam war between 200 and 300 thousand.

In Canada, over 48 thousand have the disease and 2,700 have died.  The impact of the economic shut down is staggering, with just over 1 million people having lost their jobs and having to rely on government assistance to pay their rent and buy groceries.

The human suffering that this pandemic continues to bring is beyond anything I have ever experienced.  As far as the history of pandemics goes it’s still relatively small but this is currently the largest death toll of any infectious disease since a strain of flu swept through Hong Kong and killed a million people between 1968 and 1970.  With no vaccine in sight, COVID19 could easily surpass a million deaths by the time it’s over.

The slowing of our businesses and social isolation pale in comparison to these statistics.  It’s not about us.  It’s about the millions who are sick and the hundreds of thousands who continue to die.

Control What You Can Control

You can’t control the outcome, but you can control the input.

I made a list of 10 tasks to complete everyday that will have a significant impact in moving me closer to my goals.  Each of these 10 tasks are 100% within my control.  Achieving my goals depends on other people reacting favorably, I can’t control that, but I can control the things I do and when I do them.  If I complete these 10 tasks everyday, I will put myself in a good position to capitalize on the reactions of others.

Not all these tasks are related to business success, some are purely personal and mental health related and that’s okay.  Having some personal goal specific tasks are key to living a balanced life.  Some of my daily tasks include, 15 minutes of meditation, making cold calls, responding to correspondence and checking in with friends.  Having a well-rounded list helps to keep both business and personal life in perspective.

Celebrate and Reward Success

What happens if I don’t complete all ten tasks in a day?  In short, I haven’t done my job and in the long run I will fail to achieve my goals.  Achieving a goal might not be enough to maintain motivation though.  It’s important to have something to look forward to.

If I complete all ten tasks every day for five days, I can reward myself by taking a day off.  If I achieve certain other benchmarks, I do other things, play a round of golf, buy a new toy, take a vacation etc.  These are the prizes that keeping things in perspective and consistently completing specific tasks will lead to.  It’s important to take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labors otherwise what was it all for?

 

I’m happy to report that I don’t feel depressed anymore.  By paying attention these simple keys, I hope to stay positive for a long time.  How are you staying motivated during these difficult times?  I’d love to hear from you, write me a note in the comments below.

 

The Sun Will Come Out Eventually


Faith, Optimism and The Continuum of Hope

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days mulling over the differences between Faith and Optimism.  It seems to me that at this cultural moment people are clinging to worldviews that are crumbling from our grasp like handfuls of sand.  What once seemed solid in our hands is slipping through our fingers while the world quakes, we tremble and the concept of normal is best left to philosophers.

The concepts of faith and optimism tend to be used interchangeably but they have vastly different meanings.  It was while watching some video content from another coach this week that I was struck with this common misinterpretation of language.  While he paid lip service to the etymological differences and traditional definitions of the two words the bulk of his video teaching focused on faith almost exclusively and he missed a great opportunity to delve deeper into our collective psyche at this moment in time.

Looking at faith and optimism in context with today it helps to look back at previous world shaping events.  War analogies have been popular among politicians and writers of late, President Trump continues to say that we are in a war with an invisible enemy.  But the war imagery doesn’t sit well with me, it’s just too violent.  Doctors and research scientists are not soldiers, in a bloody war, they are dedicated healthcare providers working to prolong human life.

As a Canadian and an endurance athlete I prefer to think of it in terms of winter and marathons, two things that suck and can seemingly go on forever.  We all know that winter and marathons eventually end, we just don’t know how much pain we are going to have to endure before we get to the finish line.  Nor do we know how long that pain is going to linger afterwards.  The current COVID19 pandemic and the sociopolitical fallout that is sure to follow are a lot like running a marathon in a Canadian winter, just one storm after another with no end in sight and the distinct possibility of a stress fractured ankle ruining our summer.

So, what about Faith and Optimism?

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived the holocaust then spent the rest of his career counselling and studying victims of long-term trauma.  What he found was that those who started out the most optimistic rarely survived.  The optimist might say “things will be better by summer”, but what happens when summer comes, and nothing has changed?    As the continual disappointment of missed deadlines and failures mount, the optimist suffers a broken heart and dies a little each day.  He tends to put too much stock in his own ability to influence the outcome and bend reality to his picture of how things should be.

The person of faith on the other hand recognizes that he is but one piece in a massive machine full of autonomous and often conflicting moving parts.  As such, he rarely makes predictions that depend solely on his or anyone else’s ability to complete a specific task.  The person of faith instead places his trust in the concept of better and celebrates incremental improvement along a never-ending continuum of progress.  While the optimist can only look forward to an arbitrary point in the future the person of faith can look both backward and forward noting how far he has already come and have hope for even better days ahead.

Which brings me to hope.

If you are looking for a word to pair with faith the concept of hope is much more congruent than optimism.   Hope, according to the author of Hebrews is the driving force behind faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [Hebrews 11:1]

Without hope, faith is formless and provides no measure for progress.  Hope provides the continuum of growth with a touch point we can stop at and say, “look what we have accomplished” without placing too much emphasis on our own abilities or discounting the influence of outside forces.  Hope also does not rely on an arbitrary end point but rather leaves open the possibility of continued progress than we could ever have conceived from the start.

Little Orphan Annie said, “The sun will come out tomorrow” and whether it did, or it didn’t she had nothing further to add or look forward to.  The person of faith and hope says, “The sun will come out eventually” and when it does it’s just another event in the continual march of progress.

Surviving COVID19, like every other history shaping and personal growth defining event, is going to take faith and hope, it is not going to require optimism.  Optimism can set you up for failure, faith and hope are built to survive setbacks and endure long roads of recovery.

The road is long, there will be setbacks.  Keep the faith.  The sun will come out, eventually.

 

Just Breathe


The Power of Meditation (and Prayer) in Times of Stress

Let’s face it, we’re stressed.  I’m stressed, you’re stressed, we are all stressed.

I’m no stranger to stress.  As an entrepreneur I have had more than my share of sleepless nights and fretful days as I have navigated through a world that has very little appreciation for the sacrifice and dedication that it takes to open, build and run a business with no safety net, no guaranteed income and no long term security.  Most of my friends have government jobs or jobs with large corporations that offer significant long-term benefits and job security.  I grew up surrounded by teachers and people employed by fully funded NGOs.

I’ve worked in start-up firms or for myself since I was 19.

Sure, I’ve brokered some big deals in my day.  The kind that purchase a modicum of security for a few months or even a year, but the money inevitably runs out and I am always left searching for the next big thing.

In the era of COVID19 many of my closest personal friends, colleagues, associates, and clients are experiencing job related financial stress for the very first time and I’ve been fielding a lot of calls from a lot of stressed out people.

Earlier this week I created a resource page that I published on google docs to help people find the things they might need to get through these stressful times.

But today I decided to write about the one thing, regardless of the situation that everyone should do when stress begins to mount.

Breathe!

Focusing on your breathing is the first step of meditation in all its forms.

According to Healthline.com, meditation, regardless of religious context has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, promote emotional health, enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span, slow age related memory loss, improve sleep, control pain, and decrease blood pressure.

In my book “Prayer School”, available on Amazon.ca or for free download I dedicated the entire first chapter to centering and opening your mind and heart for greater things.  Whether you are religious or not the practise of the breath prayer (or breathing meditation if you prefer) is a key step in calming your mind and centering your thoughts for a greater purpose.

So here is a quick breath prayer or breathing meditation exercise that I teach everyone who comes to me in financial stress. When pressures mount and it seems like you are losing control follow these steps to calm your mind before you act on your impulses.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

1 – Stop

2– Be Still

3 – Breath In for a count of 4

4 – Hold it for a count of 4

5 – Breath Out for a count of 4

6 – Repeat until you feel your heart rate slow

If it helps repeat a mantra as you breath in and out.  Personally, I like to breath in and out on Psalm 46:10, “Be still (in), and know that I am God (out).”  It helps me to remember that I am not alone in the world.  But the words don’t really matter, I had one friend who like to breath “I like (in), peanut butter sandwiches (out).” The point is, to take your mind and body away from whatever it is that is causing you stress in the moment.  Once your heart rate settles down, you can turn your focus to the problem at hand with more clarity and peace of mind.

This practise works to calm anxiety and stop panic attacks in their tracks, but meditation is also a great way to inject a general sense of calm into your daily life.  Many people have incorporated meditation into their lives as a regular practise at the beginning and/or end of each day.  I’ve been doing it every morning for decades.  That’s next level stuff though, for now, and while we all learn to navigate the world during and post COVID19, a simple breathing meditation can go a long way to help us all through these stressful times.

 

How do you deal with stress?  Let me know in the comments below.  And if you are having trouble dealing with financial stress as a result of COVID19, or any other reason, get in touch and let’s talk.  But first – breathe.

Lauren

 

 

Whole-Life Life Insurance


The Emergency Fund You Didn’t Even Know You Had

“COVID-19 has shut down my business, I need cash now!”

I have had clients start phone calls with that line, or something similar, at least twice a day for the past three weeks. Thankfully, most of them were smart enough to take my advice and set aside some emergency money, those that did not are wishing they had and are ready to push the panic button. But not all emergency funds are created equal and so yesterday I took to YouTube to discuss the most overlooked source of emergency cash that a lot of people have at their disposal; check it out here.

Once you get past my riff on breakfast nutrition I get into the meat and potatoes of the discussion around the 1:55 mark, hang in there, its worth it. Or you could just pause the playback while it downloads and skip ahead if you really want to.

For those of you who do not have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy, I want to take a few minutes today to ask you one simple question. Why not?

I get that some people think Life Insurance is a waste of money. Why pay for something that you will not reap the benefit from directly? While I understand the sentiment, I have to say, dying without a plan in place to provide for your family and pay off your debts is just rude. If you are independently wealthy, that’s one thing, but my mother taught me never to expect anyone to clean up my messes for me. Even wealthy people have Life Insurance because Life Insurance, when built properly can be the final broom that comes along and sweeps your life into a tidy little pile and makes things easy to dispose of.

Not that I am saying you’re dirt that you family is just going to toss away. Let’s assume you love your family, and in turn they don’t think you’re dirt, let’s also assume you’re not independently wealthy and you’re not rude.

You probably have some Life Insurance already. Most employers provide at least a small amount of income replacement for your family to help them through a difficult time as part of your health plan. That’s nice but it’s not generally going to be enough to clear your debts and provide for your family long term. In addition to your employer sponsored plan most people will purchase some term Life Insurance to cover off major debts and provide income for their families for a few years. This is all good stuff but it’s not Whole-Life Life Insurance and it’s not going to provide you with any emergency money while you are living.

While term coverage resets at a higher premium at the end of a specific number of years, a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy is designed to give you coverage for one guaranteed premium amount throughout your entire life. It also provides you with the opportunity to participate in the financial returns of the insurance company and grow a cash surrender value which you can access while you are living. Term policies only payout once on death.

In the world of COVID-19 it’s the cash surrender value in Whole-Life policies that many of my clients are finding can form the basis of an emergency fund. You don’t need to die to gain access to this cash value, you can instead surrender some of the death benefit or take a loan from insurance company to bridge through a difficult time. The beauty of this plan is that you don’t have to submit to a credit check, it’s technically your own money, and you don’t have to commit to a specific time frame to pay any of it back. If you die while the loan is still outstanding the insurance company will just deduct whatever is left from the final death benefit and pay your heirs the rest.

This is not all sunshine and roses. The CRA may consider some of the advanced funds as income and expect you to pay tax on them and the insurance company may charge you interest if you take it as a loan. But if your other sources of income have taken a huge hit paying some tax is not a bad thing and the interest rate is about a third of that charged by most credit cards. Win-win.

Experts agree that everyone should have about 3 months of expenses in an emergency fund. Most people find this hard to do but by paying a premium of say $50 a month you can build up a cash value well in excess of that number over time. In the past week I have advanced an average of $6,500 from Whole-Life Life Insurance policies to everyone of my client’s who have qualified. Not bad for a commitment of $50 per month and a whole lot more than the government is offering through some of their emergency financing programs.

So, if you have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy you might have a significant emergency fund at your disposal. If you don’t have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy now might be the perfect time to check with your financial advisor and put something in place for the next “once in a life-time” financial emergency like we are living through right now.

Stay healthy and safe, and stay home if you can.

Lauren

The New Xenophobia


Fear and the Death of Community

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My wife and I went for a walk to the drug store yesterday.  She hadn’t been out of the house in three weeks and cabin fever had set in.  We didn’t really need anything, but her aunt is turning 100 years old in a few weeks.  Since we won’t be with her on this momentous occasion, we decided we at least should send her a card to let her know we’re thinking of her.

For a few minutes we debated the need to go.  Is it responsible for us to go out at all?  Should just one of us go?  We eventually decided that we both needed to get some fresh air, the store is only a couple of blocks away so a walk would be good for the both of our souls.  If we felt uncomfortable when we got to the store, one of us would stay outside while the other went in, get what we need and leave as quickly as possible, while still practicing physical distancing as much as possible.

As we walked, we met a couple of other individuals and family groups, out for air as well.  Approaching these other people, we adjusted our strides, slowed down, walked in single file and gave a wide berth as we passed on the sidewalk.  We made eye contact, smiled and nodded at each other and said thank you for respectfully keeping a safe distance apart.

When we got to the store, we decided it didn’t look too busy so we both went in.  I stood at the end of the aisle while she went down and picked up what we needed.  We tried our best to stay the requisite 2 meters away from any other humans and didn’t touch anything unnecessarily.  This was especially hard for her as she likes to browse, touch and smell things.  You break it you bought it became you touch it you bought it.

The whole experience was surreal.  I couldn’t put my figure on it at first but as I began to reflect, I started to realize that what I was feeling was an underlying sense of fear coming from everyone.  Contrary to FDR’s inaugural address from 1933, we are now being told that fear and suspicion is an appropriate response.

Xenophobia is the fear of the other.  The term has mostly been used to describe the way in which societies organize around the exclusion of certain people groups.  Closing boarders, limiting access to social services and denying basic human rights based on religion, skin color, or country of origin has been described as xenophobic.  But today xenophobia can be more literally and broadly defined as the fear of neighbors.

COVID19 is not your grandparent’s crisis.   Ninety years ago, the economy cratered due to a cascade of events set off by the collapse of the overvalued stock market.  This led to tightened lending criteria at the banks, reduced consumer spending, and higher cost of exported goods as a result of a tightened money  supply.  FDR became president at a time when people were afraid, not of each other but for each other.  His speeches and famous fireside chats were designed to give people a sense of calm, encourage community service, sharing and cooperation.

Today we are being given a very different message.

“Enough is enough.  Go home and stay home.”  Justin Trudeau, March 23, 2020

Gone are any encouragements to go out and spend money and keep the economy going, like President George W Bush so famously declared in the aftermath of 9/11.  All non-essential businesses have been shuttered or forced to sell only on-line with curbside pick-up.

Gone too are encouragements to get together and work for a better community.  All community involvement has been reduced to, “do your part, stay home.”  But that doesn’t build a sense of community at all, it simply leads to isolation, stress and depression.

Last week, as I stood in line to get into Costco, (that being a head trip in and of itself, retailers have never before restricted access to their stores), one staff member walked up and down the line reminding us all to keep our distance because “everyone is a threat to your safety.”  It didn’t register with me until days later, but this is the perfect example of how we are being taught to live in these times.

Fear Everyone!

The economic, social, and psychological impact of this crisis has yet to be felt in its fullest form.  We are trying, but without real human connection there is a key element missing.  When all human interaction is done at a distance of 2 meters and shrouded in caution, like the Costco employee so starkly reminded us, we lose a piece of what it means to be human.  Our economy will inevitably suffer but the long-term damage to the social fabric and our psychological wellbeing my well far outpace any financial losses we will experience.

When we can’t get together in groups all attempts to maintain connection through other means are but a poor facsimile of the real thing.  This fear will kill community in ways we may never fully understand, it’s already started.    Not to mention the people without access to modern communications technology, the elderly, the poor, the physically and developmentally challenged.

I have no advice to combat this feeling of isolation and depression.  We are in uncharted waters.  Humanity is not made for this and we are completely ill-equipped for a long fight.  We need each other, there’s nothing more to say.

 

Living on the Edge


Transferable Lessons from Athletic Training for Life During COVID19

Depending on when you choose to start counting, we are now somewhere around 20 days into the brave new world that is COVID19.  As fate would have it, the morning before the province locked down the schools I went to my local public library, (the city locked them down the next day) and picked up a few books that I had been waiting for.  I now have these books for an indeterminate time, so I’ve been taking a slower, more studious approach to reading.

The first book I read was, “Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That Is Revolutionizing Sports” by Dr. Marc Bubbs.  I heard about this book on a performance podcast for triathletes and decided to check it out.  Dr. Bubbs was interviewed by a triathlon coach that I follow, and I was intrigued by some of the things he was saying specific to triathlete nutrition, so I decided to get his book.   Don’t tell my wife but, I’ve been considering hiring a nutritionist to help take my training to the next level, she already thinks I’ve lost my mind with all this triathlon stuff, I can’t wait to see her reaction when I start pouring bone broth into my coffee.

Dr. Bubbs is the Performance Nutrition Coach for Canada’s national basketball team and has consulted with professional NBA, NHL and MLB teams all over North America.  What I was expecting to get out of the book was a lot of information about athletic fueling and while there was plenty of that what I really learned was more about training load and recovery strategies.  It turns out you can’t eat in a vacuum all aspects of life affect your results.

Last night after a particularly stressful day managing our lives and businesses in this new world (we are both self employed) my wife and I each had a mini nervous breakdown.  The stress of not knowing what to do or how long this is going to last finally got to us and as we talked it out, I noticed I was using the same language Dr. Bubbs uses to talk about athletic recovery.

Here are the terms I learned from the world of elite athletics that we can all apply to life during the outbreak of COVID19.

Functional Over-Reach

It’s a well-known fact that you build muscle and endurance by continually placing stress on the area you want to increase.  That’s what lifting weights and running wind sprints are all about.  Functional Over-Reach (FOR) is the act of continually pushing training to the razor’s edge of complete exhaustion and then backing off.  By doing this repeatedly you can quickly build up muscle and endurance getting faster and stronger over a short period of time.  Most amateur athletes and weekend warriors never reach the stage of FOR however and don’t get the full growth benefit of their training.  In order to get to FOR you must push past the initial tired stage and find that next gear.  Some people call it the second wind but even if you can find it very few people will push it all the way to total exhaustion.

Critical to the build phase, once you’ve completely exhausted yourself you must take adequate time to recover before going out and doing it all again.   Recovery times vary depending on the athlete and what you are trying to build but the point is, stress and recovery go hand in hand.

Non-Functional Over-Reach

If you fail to give yourself the proper amount of rest between heavy training days, you will inevitably enter a phase of Non-Functional Over-Reach (NFOR).  Simply put, you’ll stop getting any growth benefit from your training.  Your strength, endurance or speed will plateau, and you might even start to get weaker.  NFOR is the alarm bell or blinking red light that your body sets off saying “slow down, we can’t do this anymore!”  A coach or athlete that keeps track of their training metrics will recognize NFOR the minute it starts and go into a prolonged rest phase or ratchet back training to include fewer hard days.  You don’t get a second wind from NFOR, there is no benefit to continuing to push a body that has stopped absorbing training.  The only thing to do is rest.

Over Training Syndrome

Finally, if you miss or ignore the signs of NFOR you will begin to experience Over Training Syndrome (OTS).  OTS is quite simply an injury waiting to happen.  Stress fractures, cartilage damage and repetitive strains all tend to be the result of OTS.  Since you failed to recognize the signs of NFOR and didn’t get adequate rest your body simply breaks down and forces you into an even longer period of rest.  In extreme cases OTS can end your athletic career altogether.

 

So, what does all this have to do with COVID19?

As I explained to my wife, it’s as if we have all entered a phase of mental NFOR.  The first couple of weeks we could push ourselves to adapt.  It was tiring but we could go to bed and night, get some rest and be ready to go again the next day.  But now, with no end in sight, and no escape it’s not fun anymore.  We aren’t growing, we aren’t getting any better at adaptation and we might soon start to experience prolonged anxiety, depression and mental illness as a result.

We all need to take a break.  Phone a friend, watch a good movie, go for a walk, take up a new hobby.  Anything really that takes your mind off the news and your social separation.  Do it as often as you need to.  For me that means completely shutting down all news sources between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, texting a friend at least once a day, getting up from my desk to move around every few hours, and going for a walk every afternoon.  Whatever it is for you find something that gives you a mental break.  We can all get stronger through this, but only if we avoid mental OTS.

Keep your chin up!  Don’t over train, we’re all in this together.

Lauren

Fire Insurance for Your Life


Preparing for the Next Crisis

I hope this finds you healthy and safe in the midst of this unprecedented time.

I once had a long argument with a close friend about how best to support a mutual friend through a crisis.  I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that I was advocating for providing immediate support while he was lecturing them on how they could have avoided the situation in the first place.

I finally lost my cool and declared –

“The fireman doesn’t stand on your lawn lecturing about safety while your house burns down, grab an [expletive] hose!”

Right now, many of you are dealing with a financial house on fire.  The Employment Insurance department of the Canadian government usually processes about 27,000 cases a week, last week they received almost 1 million new applications.  If you haven’t lost your job, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that your world has been significantly altered in some way.  If you are a business owner who has been forced to close your situation is even more dire and complicated.

So far, the government has done a fairly decent job of providing us all with a firehose.  The emergency aid package is not without complications and many people are still experiencing significant stress but it’s better than nothing and as they work out the bugs in the system, I’m sure it will get better.

Like rebuilding after a fire, in the coming weeks we will all have to deal with the fall out from this crisis and there a few things that I can help you start to do now to help you be better prepared for the next time.  Think about it like fire insurance for your life.

1 – Develop an Emergency Fund

Experts tell us that we should all have between 3 and 6 months of expenses saved for emergencies.  Sudden job loss, uninsured damage to property, uninsured health complications, they all have the potential to burn your financial house down.  I encourage everyone, regardless of your financial situation to at least set aside $1000 in a Tax-Free Savings Account.   As you are able, most people are okay to build that up to 3 months of fixed expenses, 6 months is only necessary if you are self-employed or working on contract.

Canada Life offers a broad range of investment options that are suitable to be held as an emergency fund TFSA.   Once this crisis is over and as soon as you are able, let’s get that done.

2 – Eliminate High Interest Debt

If you are carrying a balance on credit cards or any other forms of high interest debt, you should plan to pay that off as soon as possible.  After you’ve set aside the minimum $1000 in the emergency fund but before you worry about the full 3 months of expenses, get your debt dealt with.

As a result of the financial crunch this crisis is causing, we have already seen a significant decrease in mortgage rates across Canada.  If you own your home now is the perfect time to refinance and consolidate it with as much of your other debt as possible.  Canada Life offers a very competitive mortgage program with posted rates among the lowest in the country, along with a home equity line of credit, that could save you thousands and set you on a track to debt freedom years sooner.

Even without a lot of high interest debt, this may be a good option for you.  If you own your home and would like to see how this kind of refinancing can provide an extra layer of security for the next crisis, I’d be happy to show you how.

3 – Review your Living Benefits

The term Living Benefits is a fancy way of saying disability insurance.  In contrast to life insurance, living benefits are all the kinds of insurance tied to your health and wellbeing that pay out while you are still alive.

One thing this crisis has taught us is that we cannot take our health and wellbeing for granted.  While most employed individuals have some insurance through a company health plan should they become sick and unable to work, most people don’t know what it covers or for how long.  Many people are surprised to learn that their policy has a long wait period or provides only a fraction of what is required to maintain their standard of living.   Canada Life offers a number of living benefits programs that could provide that added level of support at a critical time and be the difference between a smooth and relaxed recovery or a drawn out and stressful one.

 

As I said at the outset, if your financial house is on fire, now is not be the time to drop everything and buy into any of these programs.  But if you are able, we are open for business and ready to help.  This crisis will pass, and I want to be there for you when it does.  Let’s stay in touch and when you are ready let’s make sure you are prepared for the next crisis before it hits.

Stay healthy and safe everyone.  We’re all in this together.

Lauren