Tag: covid-19

Out of Work? These Mental Models Might Help

Picture a black box with two open ends. A CV goes in one end and out the other, after some time, comes a rejection or an interview invite. If it’s a rejection you have no clue why it was rejected because the box doesn’t supply feedback so you assume, since this is probably your twentieth rejection in a row, that you’re unemployable and maybe you should just give up if only you weren’t slowly going broke. The box, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the employment system.

Thanks to a once in a century pandemic many businesses worldwide have gone bust and unemployment has soared as a natural, although distressing, consequence. In one chapter of Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann’s book Super Thinking they write about natural selection and how the model applies to society:

“Beyond biological evolution, natural selection also drives societal evolution, the process by which society changes over time. In any part of society, you can trace the path of how ideas, practices, and products have adapted to ever-changing tastes, norms, and technology.

You will live through many more societal shifts: economic cycles, waves of innovation, evolving norms and standards. With more people than ever and everyone more connected through the internet and globalization, these shifts are happening faster than in the past. You must adapt to these changing environmental pressures to be successful.”

(Weinberg, Gabriel; McCann, Lauren. Super Thinking (p. 100). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.)

Right now we are living through one hell of a societal shift. It can seem inappropriate to talk about natural selection during a pandemic as the phrase is often synonymous with survival of the fittest but, in its intended context, what the model emphasises is that we always need to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in if we wish to survive and thrive. How we actually go about doing that is the tricky part because even in normal times adapting to a changing economy is not as simple or easy as it seems.

Another mental model that can shed some light inside the black box that is the employment system is first principles thinking. With first principles we question and deconstruct our assumptions until we are left with irreducible truths or facts about, in this case, earning a living in a post-pandemic world. If, for example, we question the assumption that employers should give specific feedback to us as a courtesy otherwise we remain trapped in the purgatory of unemployment we realise that they can’t. There’s just too many people applying for jobs for employers to offer specific feedback.

With assumptions like that questioned and disproven we can eventually resume our job hunt from a better, and hopefully more successful, starting point.

One Reason to Write a Book

First draft in progress.

I’m three quarters the way through the first draft of my first book. When the world first went into lockdown last spring I figured it was as good a time as any to start since I was getting paid indefinitely to stay at home, but sometime in the summer I stalled and I haven’t picked the book up since.

When I still had momentum, writing two pages a day on the advice of David McCullough, I remember how receptive I was to anything that might relate to the book as though the days and weeks of consistent work turned me into a charged magnet. Because writing a book takes a long time and demands you venture into the unknown of the next blank page, despite whatever thorough research and outlines you may have, you can’t help but discover things.

I’ll pick the book up again, eventually.

Good Things in an Otherwise Terrible Year

Lake Windermere, western shore.

One day last summer I drove with my parents to Windermere in the Lake District for our holidays. After the first lockdown we were more than eager to get away from the city and the bad news. Our sat-nav took us the scenic route and we ended up stuck on the western shore of the lake waiting for a ferry to take us across. We stretched our legs in the sunshine and stood by the water admiring the immensity and magnificence of the place. I wished I brought my swimming trunks and a towel so I could jump in.

In cities our eyes aren’t accustomed to seeing so far away with buildings surrounding us in every direction so in those times when we can see for miles upon miles without our eyes striking a bus or an advert telling us to buy something we don’t need the scale by which we see ourselves changes. There are things that are literally bigger than us.

Once we were across the lake and found a parking space we ate ice cream and chips; we drank coke and beer; we rode a cruise ship around the lake for an hour while cool breezes blew through the deck. Families and teenagers swam offshore close to a few dotted islands. The staff onboard the ship warned us to keep our face masks on despite the heat. It was a glorious day.

Lake Windermere.

During the first lockdown in the spring my auntie and her wife bought a three month old cavoodle puppy who they named Peggy Sue after my auntie’s nan. We looked after Peggy while my auntie shopped for her elderly father who was confined to his house on government advice. Over the months we watched Peggy grow in size and confidence. Where once she was too small to climb the stairs or leap on the couch she now does with ease. She lifts us out of our pandemic concerns if only for short moments when she paws our legs for attention; when she bites our beards or demands we play fetch with her in the night.

The word that comes up when I read other people’s end of year appraisals of 2020 is “strange”. 2020 has indeed been strange. Covid-19 sent us to our rooms, crippled our economies and killed (and is still killing) lots of people day by day. I remember the panic over bird flu and swine flu but those diseases never spread worldwide. I think the strangeness of Covid-19 for myself is thankfully neither I nor anyone in my family has caught it and yet I see statistics of infections and deaths in the news everyday. I’m pretty sure some bias is at play there. Tell a lie – one of my other aunties caught it a month ago but I think because I only briefly saw her talking to my mother on Zoom even that didn’t feel real. Something about being isolated from other 3-D humans and instead talking to a screen for months on end. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t for one second underestimate the disease.

Still, there were other small celebrations: my uncle turned sixty; my nan turned eighty and Trump is on his way out.

Merry Christmas everyone.