“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant
In engineering, there’s a thing called a “hydrostatic stress test,” where they take pipes or fuel tanks or ship parts or whatever and they pump tons of water into them. The intense pressure from the water then exposes leaks and weaknesses in the structure, showing the engineers where the vulnerabilities are. Essentially, this is a pressure test.
I believe that COVID-19 has been a kind of hydrostatic stress test for each place and each person around the world. Each system’s weakness has been revealed. Countries overburdened with regulations have been punished for their overregulation. Countries that have a penchant for authoritarian and/or incompetent leaders have had those leaders exposed. And countries that have factious, distrustful cultures have paid the price for their factious, distrustful cultures.
This stress test has occurred within our individual lives, as well. Couples that had been burying their problems for years quickly had them exposed. Weak and opportunistic friendships got washed out. Fragile careers were broken. Miserable lifestyles replaced. Bad TV shows deleted.
But the stress test of hardship doesn’t just expose weakness, it also reinforces strength. Good relationships become better. Important decisions get made. Priorities get straightened out.
In the past year, I’ve seen myself at both my best and my worst. I’ve also seen my country (Zimbabwe) at its best and at its worst. Of course, political parties will argue over who gets credit for what, but neither had anything to do with it. Zimbabweans have always been a bunch of theoretical, overly political, slightly paranoid, conspiracy theory whack jobs. And COVID exposed that in us.
But say what you want, Zimbabwe has done a splendid job with this here pandemic. In a “perceived” world, we would have been wiped out or had high cases but we are doing alright. We even have vaccinations rolling out “steadily”, which I didn’t expect but is happening smoothly, and this warms the heart.
Speaking of which: get vaccinated as soon as possible. Ignore the noise and nonsense. There are a lot of hacks out there making a quick buck spreading bad data about the vaccines. Follow the science. Get vaccinated.
The “new normal” has been greatly exaggerated
After the world dedicated much news to COVID over the past year, I both hope and expect this to be the last blog I ever write about it. Partly because I’m sick of it and I’m sure you’re sick of it. But partly because, for most people in the world, this whole global episode is nearly over.
So I leave you all with my final COVID take: the predictions of how much the world will be changed because of COVID—i.e., a “new normal”—have been greatly exaggerated. Things will soon feel more or less like they did in 2019. And many of these grand predictions that seemed so profound a few months ago will seem silly in hindsight.
Cities will not die. People will move back to them because the pleasure and economic benefits of being around many other people have not changed.
Restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality industries will come back, as they have after every pandemic over the last 3,000 years.
Governments and politics have not changed—or, at least, if they have, it’s not because of COVID. Democratic governments have not become more authoritarian. Authoritarian governments have not become more democratic. Corruption in Africa is still high, there is no pressure made morality happening there.
People will have to get COVID vaccines frequently and it will be totally fine—just as they get flu vaccines, measles vaccines, hepatitis vaccines, etc., and it’s totally fine. Vaccine passports already exist and have existed for decades. They’re so normal you forgot you already had them.
Okay, maybe the remote work thing will stick a little bit. It’s probably overdue. But I would still bet that it is being overestimated. If you want to get ahead at your job and in your career, you will want to be face-to-face with your boss, with the client, with your team, as much as possible. Physical presence will become a professional advantage, therefore smart people will continue to seek it out. Not to mention all the extraverts in the world who are dying to get back into an office every day.
Instead, the things that have changed are the things that you and I hear almost nothing about. The funding and astounding progress made in biotech (mRNA vaccines alone will likely save tens of millions of lives in the coming decades). The supply chains that have been reconfigured, the trade relationships rearranged, the economic destinies shifted, the government debt inflated, the currencies devalued. And this is why we are talking about pressure, no pressure.
There are the actual world-changing events—yet they are so big and abstract, we can hardly see them. They are like the water we swim in. The tides shift us dozens of miles, yet we will look around and feel as though we are in the same place. We do feel the pressure of the pandemic, but are we really under pressure?
Right, so when it comes to pressure no pressure, you need to understand that there is a selection bias. What this means is there is a group of people that will choose pressure. However, there is a group of people that will choose no pressure. Both choices are correct because they are based on perception. I eat my steak medium-rare, you eat yours well done. At the end of the day, we both ate a steak…
This problem happens all the time in psychological research, by the way. It’s why you should never trust a headline that says something like, “Study on Facebook users shows social media makes people narcissistic” or “Phone survey shows that three out of four people hate their phone company.”
Because when you conduct research by posting a personality test on Facebook, you’re not just testing people on Facebook, you’re testing people who love taking personality tests (i.e., narcissists). Or when conducting a phone survey, you’re not just researching people with phones, but people who actually answer their phones or are bored enough to take a survey. You are not considering their mood or feelings at the time. What pressure are they under? Life? Health? Finance? Love? You have no clue.
So pressure or no pressure, you are right. Do you! And stop trying to justify or explain yourself to anyone. Trust me, they have their own pressure, which has nothing to do with you! In closing, I will ask you to do me a favor. Please do not let other people’s pressure be your pressure. Deal with your pressure, see it as an opportunity to be better and be great. Like I said, do you! Pressure or no pressure.
As always, hope you and yours are safe. Reach out in the comments section and let’s chop it up!