“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” ~ Sun Tzu
In a 1959 speech, American President John F. Kennedy famously said: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters — one represents danger and one represents opportunity.”
Although today it is widely recognized that this is not the correct interpretation of the Chinese characters, Kennedy’s wisdom about a crisis yielding unique opportunities may be more important than ever.
While it may sound selfish to treat a crisis of this magnitude, as COVID-19 is, as an opportunity, why not do it when it may help you and those around you deal better with it and survive well through it?
In this context, here are 11 things you can do while you are confined to your home and have a lot of time to indulge in them. The world after six and twelve months is likely to look way different than what it is today. But without worrying about the uncertainty of it, let’s get down to do what we can do now, when we have time.
Let’s start right away.
Have enough survival cash in hand, or in your bank account. Around 6-8 months of emergency funds is a good idea at all times, but this is a necessity now. Keep this cash for meeting your essential needs, like food, medication, shelter and basic utilities. Don’t use it to buy stocks, however enticing it may seem. This cash is for your family’s survival, not just yours. Avoid being greedy or selfish with it.
2. Help Others Survive
This crisis affects all of us alike, without considerations for religion, caste, social or financial standing. So, if you are fortunate enough financially, help others who aren’t. Maybe buy a month of necessities for your housemaid, driver, security guard, or any such person that helps you live an easy life. Maybe hand them an extra month of wages, without the condition of getting back the same later. Use online communication tools to educate them about the idea of social distancing, cleanliness, and saving for emergencies. Ease their fears. Their livelihood is at a greater risk than yours.
3. Get the Basics Right
Coming back to your own needs, after ensuring an emergency fund that should lie at your home, or in your bank account or a good liquid fund, and ensuring adequate life and health insurance, look at avenues to invest the rest of the money well. Choose equities (stocks and/or funds) only for money you don’t need in the next five years. Invest in a staggered manner, maybe spread out over the next six months. Don’t stop your good quality SIPs, but don’t go overboard as well. Don’t borrow money to invest in stocks, and please don’t sell your house to do so. Also, remember that cheapness does not mean value. And cheap can become (much) cheaper. So, ensure what you are doing and why you are doing it. By the way, for money you need in the next five years, go with liquid funds or fixed deposits. Get these basics through to your friends and relatives too, who may not be as financially literate as you are.
4. Rework Your Thesis
Take a hard look at the businesses you own, without obsessing about the regret or pain of losing a large part of your net worth in them in the crash of the past few weeks. Rework on your thesis of owning each stock. If a stock does not fit the original thesis anymore, sell it at whatever gain or loss you are sitting at. Don’t touch the remaining stocks. And please don’t obsess about stock prices of your holdings. What will be, will be. And no one can offer you any credible idea where stocks will head over the next few weeks or months. If somebody does, he is hallucinating.
5. Do It Together
Discuss your financial situation with your spouse. Every stakeholder in the family must know the true financial condition of the family, so that everyone can chip in with ideas and also be willing to change their saving and spending habits with changing times. The idea is not just to get through this emergency as a family, but also learn to deal with all future emergencies together.
6. Be With Your Kids
With kids at home and no classes to bother them, spend time teaching them about the importance of building the right character, habits and attitude to deal with all that life brings along. Also teach them the basics of money and the importance of saving for emergencies. They will understand the term “emergency” better now. And not just about money, take time out to read with them, write with them, watch with them, cook with them, exercise with them, meditate with them, clean with them, and just be with them.
7. Be With Your Parents
Your “family” is not just your spouse and kids. It also includes your parents. If you have been running a race away from them, now is the time to slow down and match your pace to your ageing parents’. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Learn how they have dealt with emergencies in their lives. They’ve lived longer than you, and they don’t just talk to hear themselves speak.
8. Get Your Documents in Order
Get your financial and other important documents and such essential information in order. Don’t just have soft copies of these documents. Print them, sit and talk about them with your spouse, and then store them well in your home closet. Imagine the virus has given you a month to live. Will you do it now for the sake of your dependents?
9. Start Learning (More)
In case “always constrained for time” was your excuse for not picking up those wonderful books gathering dust in your bookshelf, this is the time to pick them up and read them. Click here for ideas on essential reading for building the right thinking and investing mindset.
10. Prepare for the Future
Re-skill yourself and learn some new skills that will make you better prepared for the future. Amidst the virus scare, we may lose focus on the risks to our careers that automation and artificial intelligence may bring. But if we keep learning and keep updating our skills, we may avoid becoming redundant for a longer time. By the way, technology itself has made available the world’s best teaching right at our fingertips. We just need to be willing to use them while we have time. To start with, consider these 450+ Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free.
Call up your friends and distant family members and ask how they are taking care of themselves and coping up with the crisis. Sound positive and cheerful. Make them see the positive side of this crisis and guide them to prepare for any emergency. Tell them all you have learned above, if what you’ve learned above makes sense to you.
All We Have is NOW
You see, the present moment is all we have to create our life, and we have to prioritize things we want to do NOW. Regretting about the past is like wasting time and energy on the impossible. And worrying about the future is like having no belief in your capabilities and that of others passing through the same challenges.
The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. Just focus on what you’re doing, right at this moment. In this way, any activity can be meditation.
As the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote in his 2,000-year-old treatise On the Shortness of Life…
The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
And as Viktor Frankl wrote about his experiences as a German Nazi concentration camp inmate during World War II –
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.
Be safe. Be sane. Be responsible. Just be.
होइहि सोइ जो राम रचि राखा।
Translation: Everything will happen as per God’s wish.
Life will find a way. Let it go.