Post Corona: The Cosmic OpportunityMay 1, 2020
So, there was a time when there was … no time. Before the Big Bang (a dot that exploded) there was no time. Are we pre dot? Sheltering in place, time feels amorphous and nonlinear.
Time has a lot to do with our perception. Our focus on different things at different levels of intensity creates deceleration/acceleration and other opposing forces that coexist. It feels like forever since I hung out with friends and expectorated droplets into the air of an overcrowded East Village restaurant. Concurrently, time has lost purchase. The last six weeks have been a blink of the eye. Time stands still, yet accelerates.
So, around 14 billion years ago, within a trillionth of a second, the dot exploded, inflated the universe, and set in motion a series of events where stars gravitated together to form galaxies. Planets coalesced around newly forming stars, including our own sun. And 3.7 billion years ago, life took root on Earth.
Time is linked, and benchmarked, to motion — the rotation of the earth and moon that mark our days and years. Recently, the markers of coming and going to work and week vs. weekend have become amorphous. In this fluidity of time it feels as if gravity is pulling me toward my own singularity. If the previous sentence sounded like “time flies,” trust your instincts.
As an atheist, I believe that my soul’s progress and motion is finite. My atheism, while lacking the comfort of an invisible friend, motivates me to focus on how to slow down the most linear and irreversible of things … time. I don’t count on an expansion, the infinitude of an afterlife. For me it’s all here, now. Or maybe it’s just the edibles speaking. But I digress.
My colleague professor Sonia Marciano introduced the concept of variance, and the gangster move of focusing on the piece of the supply chain with the greatest discrepancy. If you’re a car manufacturer and dealerships present a broad range of experience, then you should focus your resources on dealerships. Apple and Amazon recognized the huge delta in distribution and fulfillment and achieved the greatest unlocks in retail history with Apple Stores and Amazon Fulfillment. Look for opportunities where variance and weight are highest.
Time is linear, but motion through, and progress against, time can fluctuate due to an exogenous shock (a global pandemic). There are moments — when the progress of your peer group has greater variance — that offer unique opportunities to detach from a fixed path and cover more distance relative to peers, in less time.
Functional Speed and Thanksgiving in Europe
Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice wasn’t that fast, but he had “functional speed,” the instincts to accelerate or decelerate when it mattered most. When I started L2, we used to go to Europe over Thanksgiving, as Europe was open for business on the Thursday/Friday of that week. If I sound like a workaholic, I’m not. I am outstanding at not working and have a passion for it. However, my leisure is possible because I recognize when to come to play — turn on the jets.
We’d do Burberry/Unilever in London on Thursday and LVMH/Chanel in Paris on Friday. In sum, we worked while others were resting … and lapped the competition. It’s not just working harder than your peers, but knowing when to go hard at it … when there’s variance.
This. Is. That. Time.
The motion/progress of corporate America toggles between 0 and 100% during a pandemic. As Condé Nast and Axios spend most of their time laying people off, or applying for PPP loans only to be shamed into returning them, Facebook strikes a deal with JioMart in India to monetize a 400 million strong WhatsApp. While most firms and people are operating at reduced speeds, this is the time to go to Europe over Thanksgiving, and apply functional speed.
Note: not suggesting anybody travel right now … it’s a metaphor.
The Profound Opportunity
The cardinal opportunity in this pandemic is the chance to repair and strengthen relationships. The majority of medals and recognition bestowed on our women and men in uniform is a function of one thing: grace under fire. Your character, and the perception of your character, is a sum of all your actions across your entire life. But the sketch of these actions is traced over with the indelible ink of the grace, or lack thereof, that you demonstrate in times of crisis.
The chart below is a decent framework for helping yourself and others. Isolation fosters introspection. If the growth zone is too far off right now, or if you’re struggling with mental health or addiction issues, then just getting through the day is good enough during a pandemic. You’re a loving person and a responsible citizen? That’s mostly what’s asked of you. You might find, however, that taking a moment to think big picture, or how you could help others, can elevate you above the fear zone. Generosity produces more endorphins in the brain than self-interested behavior.
Take pause, arrest time, and ask yourself:
- Do you have the relationship with your parents you want?
- Is your relationship with your siblings where you would hope it is if you had to say goodbye right now?
- Could you better embrace the camaraderie and joy of friendships diminished due to perceived slights or a lack of effort to stay in touch?
I’m still too insecure, self-conscious, and clinging to a bullsh*t cartoon of masculinity (quiet = strength) to express the admiration, affection, and love I feel for family and friends. Working on it.
It’s all going so fast. It was a blink of an eye when I looked up at the commencement crowd at Berkeley’s Greek theater and saw my mom waving at me. I got a job, got married, and was just starting to be the caregiver she was to me. And then, in a blink, she was gone.
That was 25 years ago. In another blink, I’ll be near the end. One of my fears is that time continues to accelerate, and I’ll have let my own insecurities and bullsh*t get in the way. That they will diminish the opportunities to achieve the only thing that matters: deep, meaningful relationships … and it will be too late.
The pandemic has created variance and a meaningful chance to lap the competition. And it’s given us a profound, maybe once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the man or woman our kids think we are, and our parents hoped we’d be.
There are so few absolutes. One is that no one, near the end, wishes they had been less forgiving, less generous, or less loving during times of crisis. Time has slowed, for the moment, and we are given the opportunity to repair and strengthen in weeks what can take decades.
Life is so rich,
P.S. Yours truly has a weekly TV show! That’s right, catch The Dawg on vicetv.com starting this Thurs at 10pm ET (or stream at your convenience). Your loss, Netflix! And in this week’s Prof G Show I spoke to the inimitable Stephanie Ruhle about how to stay true to who you are, ignore the people who wrong you, and play your own game.
P.P.S. We’ve never gotten so much email back as we did last week in response to Corona Corps. If you’re thinking about a gap year, one org adapting their program to meet the surge in demand is Global Citizen Year.
Perhaps you are THE our time thinker many of us were waiting for; you can be a strong voice to a better world. Thank you and please keep going.
Even though I’m an NYU Stern MBA marketing alum, I only just recently found your writing and podcasts. I also just started learning about Stoicism as well. So when I read the last section of this post, I got a deep jolt of synchronicity: it’s never too late — and a pandemic is an even better time than most — to learn, grow, and live your best life. Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with us.
Wow are you smart! BTW what caused the Big Bang? Good luck with that incredible mind of yours.
I found this post incredibly helpful and have referenced it across our organization several times over the last couple of weeks. It has provided a level of understanding that there is commonality in how we are feeling, that we aren’t alone, and that we can come through this stronger. Thank you!
Thank you Scott. Love the historical and philosophical references. Brilliantly articulated as always.!
“… the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion.” Albert Einstein in a condolence letter to his best friend Michele Besso’s family (1955). Make the most of your life. Fine post.
Brilliant analysis of variance, from Sonia (my favorite professor at Stern) and Prof Galloway. Reminds me of the Japanese life mission principle to identify what the world needs most, that uses your strengths and that you can best contribute. Tough Venn Diagram to achieve, but I’m trying. Sorry I earned my MBA before Prof Galloway was teaching at Stern.
Amazing piece Scott. My son Luke (a former student of yours) highly recommended your blog. Like the Chambers Brothers remind us, “time has come today!”
Brilliant as always Scott
“My atheism, while lacking the comfort of an invisible friend”, lmao. I’m going to use that invisible friend analogy next time a religious fanatic annoys me.
That earned an audible response from me too (there’s was just nobody here to hear it). Definitely using that one, thanks Scott.
Variance… I love this article
Outstanding graphic, but it might be borne in mind that on any given day, particularly during the stress of house arrest, should that befall anyone, an individual might be meandering through and back any one of the stages described. More like hopscotch than a linear trajectory. Note re. existentialism / atheism v. theism. Each individual has his or her own path. There is no need to declare one’s atheism superior to the theism by infantilizing those who believe as persons who have an ‘invisible friend’ or, worse still, who devalue time. That said, the image of a personal singularity is just captivating.
On the contrary, not only is pointing out the difference between theists and atheists important in this context with regard to the perception of time and what to do with it on this Earth (as opposed to ‘somewhere else’), but the perception differences manifest in numerous ways in our society. Theists often fall prey to ‘suffering’ this life to get to the next. I don’t know many (any?) atheists that don’t believe we should maximize our time here and now for the benefit of all. Scott does make the mistake of concatenating his time here though. The cosmic perspective has us all united in the grand chain of the universe. Those particles that were formed in the Big Bang are within us all. Our genetic chains are not just within our cells, but between us all through generations and generations of evolution. We are as connected with each other as we are to the very fabric of the universe 13 billion years ago and will be 13 billions years from now. It’s not just this life in our flash of existence. It’s that we are the conduit for all of the universe to exist through us in time. Or maybe that’s the edibles talking.
Sonia Marciano is brilliant
Always learning something when I need it most.
Great post. I love the upfront bit about time. I’ve always thought it’s like a two week holiday. In the first week you hardly give the second week a moment’s thought. You have all the time in the world. I suppose that’s why people like infinity pools. But suddenly on that middle Saturday you start counting down the days left. Some small part of you is already on the way back home. There’s that feeling of slight dread and maybe a clarity of thought. By Day 13 all you can do is watch the last few hours slip quietly by. It was all just a glimpse of freedom.
Scott, do you think VIAC is a good streaming play now?
Sharing is a good first step toward change. Not just for oneself but also for your readers. And this reader would like to genuinely thank your for that.
Wow!!! This hit home. I am probably one of the only ones that is embracing this virus for exactly what you said in this piece. I do not in any way want to go back to what my normal was. I have learned to do such amazing self care. I have never felt more rested and at peace just being human and not superhuman. Thank you!!!
Dear Scott: Terrific post. I especially found the link between variance from Professor Marciano (check out her excellent DLA London 2018 talk on Subaru and the importance of variance on the company’s brand strategy) with strengthening interpersonal relationships to be quite profound. The money quote for me was, “Your character, and the perception of your character, is a sum of all your actions across your entire life.” True indeed, ProfG.
Check out the passage from “Magic Mountain” – T. Mann, called “Excursus on the sense of time”. It never resonated more for me than now. The gist is, time flies when you’re doing nothing.
Hello. Just finished a great sprint with the Prof. . Can we get the source for Prof. M’s talk about Strategy? The Sprint is a great experience. Thanks Mike
> I’m still too insecure, self-conscious, and clinging to a bullsh*t cartoon of masculinity (quiet = strength) to express the admiration, affection, and love I feel for family and friends. Working on it. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you experiment with MDMA. It enables the free flow of emotional commentary like nothing else and is a great tool for those of us struggling with this.
Great post. Also, the new podcast rocks. Be safe.
Prof G presents an incongruent personality to me in a good way. He is rough and tender, shallow and depth, flaw and perfect. His keenly observation of human fallacy brings home the sad reality of our species however he is proven a steadfast beacon during the time of crisis.
Hi Scott…. thanks for sharing both the good news and bad news. A unique opportunity …. the gift of time. You sound like an entrepeneur. . LOL
Prof Galloway, greatest value unlocker
Right on focus and not as cynical as you sometimes sound, but you, Prof Galloway, have a rare quality for exposing what is hidden. Thanks for sharing it.
Very nice. Be careful NOT to get trapped by the “puzzles”. Paralyzing. You, at times, sound like Larry David…
You are spot on with your thoughts and reaffirm whats going in my head, life is at a intersection and i would like to choose part of what you suggested.. Thank you
Scott thanks for that -there is much wisdom in it.
wow this really fucking sucks
Truly amazing talent for saying a lot without saying anything. Attention junkie. Suggest you use this time to address that.
That commute time data visualization is an absolute travesty.
Ehh, so the proportions are slightly off. As a Bostonian, I appreciate the effort of getting that tiny T in there.
Scott – as always another fascinating perspective – this one on a “time” in history that is unique and provides an opportunity for those who choose to take it.
“Facebook strikes a deal with JioMart in India to monetize a 400 million strong WhatsApp” Great. That’s 400 million more people in India who will be sucking hind tit while advertisers rejoice. F*ck facebook.
Time flies like an arrow Fruit flies like a banana -G. Marx Thanks for the well thought out post prof.
Another great post. I can truly take something from this and as you have said, Isolation brings introspection but also solitude is sobering, have a great weekend.
Scott, a thoughtful piece as always. I always appreciate your blending of the personal and professional, because that’s literally where I live and where I find the most interest. That’s where the juice is. I also appreciate the shout-out to Professor Marciano — I had the chance to take a class from her at Kellogg and watching her think transformed the way I think. One thing I’d observe is that for many, I hope, the pandemic has exposed a different kind of variance – the variance between how we spend our time and what actually brings us joy. A lot of our business/consumer culture is driven on the idea of indirect rewards; if I hang out with people I don’t really like doing busy work for long hours, I’ll make enough money to do what I REALLY want to on the weekend. It’s a pretty terrible system, but many of us convince ourselves to play along with it. I was never good at taking instructions so I never did, which has probably debited my financial stat sheet many times over but has also credited my soul account in equal measure. I’ve just turned 50 and on par I think I’ve made the right choices. I’m wondering if maybe the blush is coming off the rose for more people — or at least, I hope it is. Sure, you could use those 40 hours a week you save commuting or the two days a year everyone else is eating turkey and giving thanks to get ahead of the competition, hustle more, and grind it out. But maybe just maybe there’s actually value in slowing down, hugging your kids when you’re 30 instead of when you’re 50, and asking — “What do I really like to do?” What if the whole idea of competition, which feels so real in the business sector, is actually a useless construct in the human one? And what if the human one is the sector that matters most? In any event, my sense is that those who are concerned about the quality of their relationships have done better at reinforcing those relationships than they give themselves credit for. One’s ability to see that life is so rich, I think, is ultimately proportionate to one’s ability to discern where true wealth derives. Thanks as always for sharing your discernment with us. ~ Jeff
The source for diagram “Who do I wanna be during COVID19” is Daniel Coates-Connor https://www.coatesconnor.com/
Scott as usual a great mail. I’m sitting here in South Africa, and am afforded the luxury of clean air, beautiful sunshine and a happy home. There are people on this continent that are not as fortunate. It is hard for anyone to lose their job and millions are facing this in the US right now, but are afforded a check from the government to help when times are tough. Here in Africa things are, a little different. Countries have adopted full lockdown and this means, full lockdown. No going to the beach or getting home delivery of your favorite foods. Children in poor communities receive their main meals at school, which are now closed. People are literally starving. So when we think we have it bad, just think of staying at home, from an enemy you can’t see, without anything to eat. The good news is that, as with your introspection above, it allows people to open their hearts and just as in war, brings humanity closer together . I would love to send you a video of how people are helping each other in this time, in Africa . Jeremy
Hi Jeremy, I would love to see the video if there is a way for you to share it. Stay safe, Elle
Good piece. Especially like the fear/learning/growth chart. You are at your best when you avoid straw mans and ad hominems.
Excited to see the show!
Wow. Just wow. Ya never know if it’ll be business or life with ProfG. I feel the same way: “One of my fears is that time continues to accelerate, and I’ll have let my own insecurities and bullsh*t get in the way. That they will diminish the opportunities to achieve the only thing that matters: deep, meaningful relationships … and it will be too late.”
Scott, Scepticism…… the simplist form of doubt. Re your intro …… time at al. Correct to the point of YOUR now, which is this moment. 1 – Surely on explanation you realise that you have constantly reflected back at your own timeline and clearly re……membered (think about that word) as a younger presence of you, atheist or not that you FELT you were more than what you thought, not the aggregate of those thoughts but something more substantive behind the actual process of thinking. 2 – Then as YOU age…. time – proof apart on your comment that in fact your soul that resides in that “seat of self” is not finite………cannot be, if it was then their would be no future you… me. Its simple, but hard, born on Earth into chaos, you are required to navigate to the real you behind the constant endless thoughts……. achieving that within your earthly Time-frame and then freely accepting same. 3 – So buckle up and enjoy the ride. If you dispense with your doubts, why e en have them?……. the journey is so much easier. Enoy your weekend. M.
Thanks for pointing out what really counts and we rarely stop to even see, let alone appreciate and connect. Thank you for your excellent course, your transparency, your thoughtfulness and showing your caring humanity behind the public persona. As you noted, we all have a facade. Acknowledging that is the first step to not letting that barrier block us getting the most out of our life experiences. Be well. Be blessed with robust health. Pls keep spreading your unique, meaningful message and making other people’s lives the better for it!
Mayor Garcetti (LA) has been mentioning the Corona Corps (which prob could be renamed Health Corps or something more related to the work) in his daily briefings. Most recently, he mentioned he’s working with Congress-people to establish this organization. Perhaps you should be on this team and help with recruiting those of us Gen-X (or older Millenials) to help with the middle and upper management of the organization? Thank you!