2020 will soon be behind us, and with the possible exceptions of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, nobody will be sad to see the back of it. But if, like me, you absolutely cannot spend another minute talking about vaccines, masks or curfews, then what I’m about to tell you will (hopefully) feel like something fresh.
First of all, I need to make a disclaimer. I’m a very lucky guy and I’m grateful for that – I have a family who loves me, I live in a nice house and my business survived COVID. I work with great people, enjoy the work we do and I’m in good physical health. This is not the case for a great many people, and while I can only write from my point of view, I am fully cognisant that to someone dealing with day-to-day survival, I might sound out of touch. Nevertheless, some of this may still be useful:
Marcus Aurelius, the great philosopher-king of Ancient Rome said this, 1800 years ago: “An infected mind is a far more dangerous pestilence than any plague – one only threatens your life, the other destroys your character.”
You can’t control a virus. Anthony Fauci can’t control a virus. You can’t control the politics of your country. You can’t make governments always do the right thing and you can’t rely on the media or science anymore, because they’ve been so heavily politicised. So what can you do?
1. You can get yourself into better physical shape.
Being healthy and having a strong immune system will make you much less likely to have to worry about COVID, even if you get it. You also won’t have to run around terrified of every person who has a frog in their throats. Going forward, aim to get your body into great shape – or at least better shape. There’s no-one to blame now, nowhere to hide. If you’re fat and preventably unhealthy at the end of 2021, that’s on you.
2. Eliminate drama.
Figure out who you’d like to see more of and who you’d like to be around less. It should be very clear by now. Since we have to operate in smaller bubbles for a while still, you may as well have people in that bubble who bring positivity, kindness, generosity, inspiration and love. Kick out the people who talk about sickness and the individuals you’d least want on your zombie apocalypse team. This is almost like a zombie apocalypse so consider who brings skills, value and optimism to your life.
3. Develop a routine to help you preserve and discover your purpose every day.
This sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Wake up at the same time every morning. Water the plants, make a healthy breakfast, go for a walk, reply to every email and list the things you need to get done every day. Nothing is guaranteed to make you feel worthless like meandering through the day without purpose – and if you’re bored it’s because you’re boring, not because the world around you is dull. Find a hobby, learn something new, and take an interest in something instead of wallowing in self-pity. You can also help other people if your life is so good that you don’t have problems. In fact, getting your hands dirty and doing work for others is eminently more praiseworthy than trying to sound like a good person on social media.
4. Stop looking for a saviour.
Since trust in politicians, scientists and the news is at an all-time low, take the view that they’ve always been rubbish and that at least they’ve been exposed now. That way you can carry on living your life without letting it get to you. It’s childish to believe everything you see on TV; it’s irresponsible to think that government will solve all your problems; and science is hypotheses and processes, not cut-and-dried solutions for you to paste into the corners of the universe you don’t understand. And please, stop being one of those people who say how we need leadership. We don’t. You’re on your own. No leader on planet earth managed to fare statistically better than any other. They’re just primates (and in the case of elected leaders, just primates who won a popularity contest).
5. Improve your own family.
Many parents discovered this year, thanks to spending more time than usual with them, that their kids are horrible people and that they’re not very good parents. If you can see your kids or your relationship needs work, and you choose to do nothing, then you’ve learnt nothing – and you’ll get what you deserve. Alternatively; you can start influencing your kids to become better adults, improve your relationship with your significant other and tidy the world up a bit. There are so many broken adults running around, blaming everything and everyone else that it might be nice to see some people taking responsibility.
6. Don’t believe everything you read
This is important, and will help you make sense of the chaos of the online and fake news swamp we live in. Just because a few people on Twitter say something, doesn’t make it true. Just because Time Magazine says Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the “Person” of the year, doesn’t make that true (or acceptable use of the word person); and just because the NY Post says Donald Trump is the most admired man in 2020 doesn’t make that true either. They’re all just trying to get a reaction out of you, and it’s up to you not to react. You wouldn’t change your life if some drunk, homeless person shouted obscenities at you outside the shops, so why listen to equally senseless people online.
7. Money is all made up.
I’m fully aware of how many people have lost their jobs, had to make massive sacrifices and are looking at a financial future much worse than their past, but governments have demonstrated that it’s all just hocus pocus anyway – handing out stimulus checks, temporary employment relief and finding money none of us knew they had. If they can just throw money around because there’s a crisis, maybe you and I can start asking valid questions about why we have to pay tax or interest? It’s a good time to sit and crunch numbers. There are definitely things we don’t need as much anymore – expensive cars, work clothes, shopping malls, massive sport stadia and music concerts. Clean up that balance sheet.
8. New Years’ Eve is stupid.
There won’t be any big New Year’s Eve parties. Of course, people will still gather privately in smaller groups to see the new year in, but the days of thronging crowds, big fireworks displays and getting publicly, devastatingly drunk are pretty much over. Are you really going to miss them? I won’t. Time to think carefully about how we mark the milestones of our lives going forward… and wake up on New Year’s Day without a hangover.
9. Don’t give up.
None of the rules above should be misconstrued as any kind of capitulation to the stupid “new normal” (a phrase I hate more than the terms ‘comorbidity’ or ‘social-distancing’). I strongly believe that our liberties and rights have been abused in the most despicable manner, and I’m angry, just like you are about all these incursions into our freedom by authorities (even the well-intentioned ones) – but I’m not going to spend 2021 working myself into a state over things I can’t change. Instead, do what you can and let other people see you rise.
You can make sure that you’re ready for whatever comes next, that you’re in a good position to take advantage of the uncertainty that lies ahead, and that you’re as independent of the systems that have let us down as possible. Those of us who try to do these things, will have infinitely better futures than those who don’t.
Here’s to 2021!