For many, this has been an awful year of loss, uncertainty, and stress. As a culture we have had to deal with death, economic struggles, heated race relations, political divisiveness and lack of social interaction on a historic scale. A shit year by most people's standards for sure.
Upon reflection however, there is a lens through which 2020 can be looked at which offers a different perspective: the wide angle lens that is able to see the whole societal picture and not get caught up in the tragic individual stories. That lens sees the cost of a challenge comes with the presentation of an opportunity. As the saying goes, Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times. Let us look through the wide angle lens as I share what I see we will learn as a society from 2020.
Pandemics are not a new thing. Influenza pandemics have occurred regularly every 30-40 years since the 1600’s. We have grown from each one of those. Masks, social distancing, closing schools, we have a playbook from pandemics of the past. Our sacrifices, our successes and our failures will help our kids and grandkids to be better prepared.
The gift that I believe coivd-19 will ultimately bring is a recentering of our souls. It seems we as a culture have become too comfortable that tomorrow is promised. It is almost taboo in our culture to talk about death so we don’t, until it is at our front door. With no preparation, when death does cross our path it hits us with a force that is debilitating. Fear of death has a way of sobering our overindulged society. Perhaps the wide angle lens helps remind us that we are not owed health or life, it is a gift. Instead of looking at death as scary or bad, can we use it as a tool to build a habit of gratitude. A constant opportunity to take a moment to appreciate the time that we share with loved ones.
The economic restructuring that the pandemic has caused reminds us how important creativity is in a free market capitalistic society. Chaos is a ladder which some of us climbed during the pandemic. Inside the chaos some saw the opportunity to create new products and build new industries. Others used the chaos to reimagine experiences that consumers have with their products. Our culture thrives off of innovation and the economic shakiness that has occurred during covid will harden the strong men and women who persevered to improve our society under the new covid rules. From the financial chaos will rise new players who will shape our country. If you weren’t one before, now is your time to get creative with how you can help move society forward.
To make any change the first step is awareness. The Black lives matter (BLM) movement has done an incredible job making us aware of how a huge segment of the population feels. Riots are an emotional lashing out on a societal level. Much like an individual may lose his temper with his significant other, society lost its temper with the powers that be. The pendulum of social reform has started to swing. This gives us all an opportunity to work together to find the answers that now most people are looking for.
Donald Trump has been a lightning rod in the political landscape, furthering in our country. The gap has gotten so cavernous that 73% of Americans suggest that the parties can not agree on what a basic FACT is! This polarization is coming to an all time high. During these times even families are becoming more politically homogeneous. As of 2018, 80% of marriages had spousal alignment on party affiliation. Parent-child agreement was 75%. This echo chamber leads to the strengthening of said polarization. This however is not the first time in history this has been the case. The gilded age where big business money created huge rifts and the 1950’s and 1960’s where race relations really bubbled up are but two examples where our country has been this divided. While these stats can be viewed from many a lenses, I view it as an opportunity. We know from history that over the next decade or two, the pendulum will swing back to moderate. We will realize that we all want the same thing, a thriving country, a healthy world, and friendly neighbors. We can position and prepare ourselves to be ahead of this curve by learning how to actively listen. By using history as our guide we can be a part of the change.
It has been pointed out to me the benefits of acknowledging that 2020 was a shit year for a lot of American’s. It is ok to feel like you got kicked in the balls. What you learn from that feeling is the gift. Take a second, right now if you have it, to think about this year. About the struggle we all faced and lessons you have learned. The hero in every story learns from the challenges and tribulations. A transformation occurs because of that journey. 2020 is our transformational year. Happy New Year everyone!