The Cosmic OpportunityNovember 23, 2022
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Day-to-day news is relentless, especially when the news medium … Twitter … is the news. In the moment, it’s easy to let insignificant issues command an unreasonable share of time, energy, and attention. Yours may not be a billionaire bulldozing social media, but you likely have one. Someone at work, an argument with a friend, something in the news … anything. We are programmed to think we’re the center of the universe; that right now is the only moment, what’s on the surface is the only reality. Sometimes, it helps to pause, and reflect on other moments.
Two years ago, we were trapped in what felt like a moment that would never end, with no travel, home school, little socializing (Zoom happy hours, are you kidding me?) and the unseen threat of a microscopic virus haunting every interaction. Yesterday I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family and my friends. In person.
I wrote the following piece mid-pandemic. Reading it now, I am grateful. Grateful that, at the very least, things feel … normal.
[The following was published on May 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. Learn what it takes to get a business within striking distance of $1 trillion. Enrollment for my Business Strategy Sprint closes Tuesday — sign up here.
great piece, very much appreciated
There’s a theory that if an authority figure tells people to do or accept something that should obviously be wrong, they’ll generally do it. I’ve learned as I’ve tried to stop the unethical hypnotherapist that it’s not just conjecture.
If anyone knows who’s writing this, I’m sure they know I’m under hypnosis that I didn’t agree to, that no one would have agreed to.
Now that they know it’s a wrong and I object, I hope they will make sure the folks at Cranberry Psych and Wesley know that it’s a wrong with their words.
A while back, I asked a Psychology Today columnist, in his comments field, how you go about stopping a hypnotherapist who has conducted itself the way this one has. The jerk gave a smart-aleck answer that tipped me off that he was an ally of the unethical hypnotherapist. I kept asking about the matter again, so I know editor Kaja Perina knows who the unethical hypnotherapist is, and could stop the violator.
I really wouldn’t suggest trusting PT or anything that writes for it, either, seeing that they’ve gone out of their way to protect an unethical member of the profession they’re covering.
I think it should be obvious without reading their ethics code that hypnotizing someone without his knowledge or consent is unethical conduct, but if you can’t see the obvious, you might track down their ethics code and see for yourself.
The hypnotherapists’ ethics code used to be posted a few places online, but you’d really have to track it down now. PT stopped having a comments field, and hypnotherapy groups don’t publish their ethics code online anymore.
That shows me that my attempts to stop an unethical hypnotherapist had some results, even if they’re not results that ethical people should be proud of.
An update on my unethical crowdsourced covert hypnotherapy situation.
I’ve actually caught 2 psychologists involved, one from Cranberry Psych Center, the other from Wesley Family Services. Still, the two psychobabble groups have continued to ghost me, because they tend to do that when they’re involved in something as unethical as hypnotizing someone without his knowledge or consent and refusing to stop.
If any of your readers are in the Pittsburgh area, they probably ought to rethink any association with either Cranberry Psych or Wesley.
I’m not sure how many clients these two dubious psych groups have to lose for them to consider doing the right thing in my situation, but I’d like them to find out, since I have been ghosted consistently.
I don’t know of any other cases where they’ve done something like that, but if there’s one, I wouldn’t choose to associate with them of my own will, knowing what they’re capable of.
Thanks for sharing Scott -One of your best yet
Much appreciated. I wasn’t aware of how incredibly thoughtful/caring an atheist could be… Thank you for enlightening me… I mean, no offense; my experience with y’all has been few and brief.. And they were all thankful for nothing- bitter even. I’m rambling. Anywhoo I like to identify as a primal, hedonistic, pagan, heathen. Mwahaha!
Oops. Forgot what I even meant to say, which is that Life is beautiful, and holy. Love is the only magic. Everything else is temporary. Right?
Thank you for reposting this message. It was relevant when you first put it out and sadly is even more needed now. I love your chart and have even printed it and put it on my refrigerator. Unfortunately, I think the Fear Zone has grown. The pressures on us at all ages are tremendous. Keep reminding us to think, reflect and care.
Beautiful post Scott. At this moment my Father is ailing from Parkinson’s, I have not spoken to my Brother in two years, and I worry about a shrinking circle of friends. My Father let all of his friendships go, even the good ones. Why? Petty BS and Irish greviances. I don’t want to end up like him. While I can’t reconcile with my Brother right now, I did reconnect with my childhood friend recently. It is going too fast. It’s harder to make new friends. The Pandemic has been such a lonely time. I crave friendships but find it so hard to make them these days. You’re a great writer Scott.
Hi Garry, I urge you to take the first step and speak to your brother.
And after accomplishing everything you’ve aimed for Scott, there’s still one thing I hope and pray you do: Quit atheism. Give your life to Christ. The universe didn’t just happen. It didn’t just organise itself and allowed life on earth. There was a higher intelligence behind it all.
Where did the higher intelligence come from?
You are a very thoughtful writer …