Unprecedented Accounting

Scott Galloway said in his new podcast that during this time we should invest in ourselves by getting something we’ve wanted for some time, like a big screen television, or that surround sound system.

Yet the country is demanding through an implicit halting of the economy that I should tighten my belt loops.

How best to spend money during this time? How best to save it?

We’ve had goldfish delivered and I feel ashamed. I am picking up alcohol from Spec’s down the street, and it feels like an unnecessary delivery. Even if it is curbside, which follows the social distancing guidelines, this is what a crisis is doing to the way I think.

And there are some people who cannot afford either of these options, who are waiting out the painful loneliness of our time by scrolling Instagram because that is free.

I forget that I have not made a single purchase for lattes from Starbucks. I have not gone out for Taco Bell once, and I have not spent any money on books delivered. In that equation, perhaps I am saving money after all.

What is with all this mincing of dollars and cents?

Largely I think it has to do with the way in which we have been forced to account for everything in our lives. Right at this moment, where little is moving around our houses or on the highway, our brains are on overdrive, and we are being forced to take all of our lives and put it on the balance sheet. What can we live without? What are the essentials? What do we value most in our lives and how do we promote that? And equally on the opposite end: what hurts us more than we realized?

If you have been asking yourselves these questions, you’re not alone. Of course the scary thing is that companies, businesses, and other institutions are asking themselves these very questions.

The answer I will give provisionally is the same as I have given before: are you surviving or are you thriving?

This circumvents the money question and instead talks about self-actualization and recognizing opportunity. Maybe you are a person who would save money even if they had fallen off a cliff. Perhaps for you, in order to really value yourself, now is the time to invest in something nice. It is contextual.

For the person who spends too much money on expensive wine, it may seem foolish, now that no one is around to see your expensive wine, to have bought it in the first place. Connoisseurs require company.

Let’s not fool ourselves: a hundred years from now, people will deride us for the things we did not know concerning the coronavirus outbreak, much like other diseases in history. “How could they not have known about protective masks, or how long the virus lasts on surfaces, or how to effectively use technology to track confirmed cases?” That story is being told right now and is largely out of our hands.

The question of our own story remains to be written. Most people, when looking back on their lives, wished they were not so hard on themselves. It is important to keep that in mind with a crisis like this.

Your own outlook is there in the record sheet for you to balance the account. Where will you start?

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