How I’m Navigating The Coronavirus Pandemic

thebrofessor's picture
Rank: The Pro | 34,158

Now that we're over one month into this, I think it's time to speak up. I had been trying to go on a diet of social media and message boards, but I can't help but try to shed some alternative thinking where it might be needed. As with most things, take what I have to say with a grain of salt, and at the same time I hope my message resonates with everyone.

This virus is a front kick straight to the testicles. I've lived through the financial crisis, was in high school during 9/11 and wanted to immediately run to the USMC recruiter and start sniping Al Qaeda, been at a firm that closed its doors promptly after moving to a new city where I knew no one, lived through hurricanes with weekslong power outages (SE USA remember), and so on and so on. During all prior crises, we were able to huddle together as a community (especially during natural disasters), we were able to get away from it all with a vacation that was preplanned, or even just get a brew at the local pub with your mates. Social distancing has nuked our normal coping mechanisms, and that sucks, no two ways about it. So, with a new normal with no end in sight, how should we think about this?

1. Respect

Respect. It's easy to get snippy during this time, particularly if you're living with roommates, have young children at home, live in a cramped apartment, this is not going to be as easy as someone who has only their spouse, a couple dogs, and a nice house. Lead with respect. We're all stressed during this time, that's not to say you're not allowed to feel stress, just that you're not alone, so treat others with respect now more than ever. What does this mean specifically? It means exercising patience in long grocery lines, it means not doing burpees during your roommates morning conference call, it means not hoarding food and supplies just because you have the money to do so. More than the golden rule, treat people the way they wish to be treated. And if you're unsure, ask. Say something like "what are some things we can do to make this time more bearable, if not fun?" You will be surprised what you hear.

2. Humility

I've seen a lot of political banter on this virus, presumably because Trump is disagreeing with many within the medical community and has focused his concerns on the potential economic impacts rather than solely on public health. Now is not the time for this. If you enjoy discussions among family members or friends, that's totally fine, just keep it civil. Nobody knows for sure what is going to happen. Even trained virologists' statements are just opinions based on years of experience. Models can only be so helpful, so while you should tend to lean on scientific opinions rather than those of your uncle's facebook, have some humility. You don't know much more than the next person, so if you choose to argue about this, have some humility. Also ask yourself this question, maybe in your head, maybe aloud - by continuing this argument/discussion, what do I hope to gain? Newsflash: you aren't going to change many people's minds, if any whatsoever. Are you arguing with strangers just so people upvote your post online? Because you want to "win" an argument with your superior knowledge? Reflecting on your reasons for engaging others on politics will hopefully cause you to lessen how much a part of your life this is.

3. Kindness

I follow a lot of people on twitter of the Nassim Taleb variety, I'm sure you all have similar circles of people you follow. Mine are an odd bunch, they love putting out papers on complex systems and how shocks like CV are mayhem on systems. They use their platform to yell and scream at politicians, intellectuals, and others trying to belittle the virus or if they enact measures that do not agree with their work. They may be correct, but now is not the time for nastiness. I've seen nastiness on the part of people like them, I've seen nastiness in my own working team with people taking different attitudes to social distancing (some not leaving their homes at all and chastising others for their actions), I've seen nastiness on the part of people in favorable financial positions saying "well, you should've had an emergency fund" and the like. I am not saying you're not allowed to think those thoughts. I am not saying that you are incorrect, you may very well be correct. I ask you this: what good does that accomplish? Does someone who just got furloughed really need to hear you say they should keep 6 months of living expenses in cash? They know that, they feel shitty about it already, give them a hug (virtually), share some kindness, we can talk about personal finance later.

4. Perspective

This isn't that bad in the US. We still have running water. We still have electricity. We have technology that allows for communicating in ways never thought possible. I remember when cell phones had limits on minutes, texting was like toll roads (you paid per text after your limit), group chats were nonexistent, and video chatting was unheard of outside of major news companies. Some people on this forum and elsewhere have lost your jobs. I am sorry for you, that sucks, no two ways about it. Companies are still hiring, so dust yourselves off and get out there. This is no the Great Depression where everyone is laying people off. Some areas are experiencing food shortages, I am sorry for you. I am lucky enough to live in the SE where we're close to our food at all times, but for those of you in SF, NYC, and more, I feel very sorry for you. That said, you are still in the USA. You are not riding this crisis out in Tehran, this is not Ebola in the Sudan, this is not MERS in Syria. Take a moment and focus on the positive things of your life, and you might just change your perspective.

5. State of mind

Even if you're an optimist like me, this period has proved challenging, particularly for extroverts. I cherish the ability to go to one of my favorite bars, chat hockey with my favorite bartender, help the girl who makes margaritas out with school/life decisions, stuff like that. I miss that, there's no sugarcoating it. Does that mean I'm entitled to be depressed? Absolutely, I am not telling you to not feel the emotions your body wants to feel. It's more harmful in my opinion to sweep everything under the rug. Does that mean I'm entitled to stay depressed? FUCK NO.

One of my favorite ideas from Viktor Frankl's book about his time in concentration camps is on state of mind. The gist is this: everything can be taken from you, money, power, possessions, food, freedom, dignity. What can never be taken is your own mind's reaction to a situation, no matter how out of control you feel, you always have that power. Use it. Focus on what you can do, not what's been taken away. Recognize that spending countless hours fretting over things you cannot change is unproductive. Focus on things you have control over, and make your peace with the rest. I can't go to the gym anymore? GOOD, I'll adapt. I can't go to bars anymore and talk to friends? GOOD, I'll set up facetime dates with my bros. I can't go on that Memorial Day vacation anymore? GOOD, I'll make up for it later and spend the time I would've spent surfing doing other things. You are in control of your state of mind, no matter what your government, employer, friends, and loved ones say. You are allowed to feel all sorts of feelings, and depression is completely natural. You must, however, maintain the realization that you are still in control of your reaction to any situation, only you can decide how you use that power.

6. Physical wellness

This pandemic is uniquely shitty on bodybuilders, powerlifters, crossfitters, and everyone living in cramped quarters who is a gymgoer. If you had a specific 6 day split, were close to hitting a new 1RM or Murph time, I feel for you. My gym just got some nice new equipment, I was hitting some good numbers after an injury, the new years resolutioners were out so back to the normal regulars, and then this happened. GOOD. I'm fortunate that I have an empty 2 car garage, but I've been in shutdowns due to natural disasters when in a sub 700sqft living space, so let me share some thoughts. Run. No US state government can prevent you from going outside and exercising as long as you maintain social distancing. Do easy runs first, where you can have a conversation comfortably, put on a podcast or your favorite playlist, it's remarkably therapeutic. I am not a runner, I ran for fitness tests back when I was a lifeguard, would occasionally run on the beach if the family vacation got stressful, but it's not a hobby of mine. I've come to love it during all this nonsense.

Next, get a kettlebell or some exercise bands. Thankfully we live in a day and age where workout ideas are plentiful, so you don't have to go far. If you're a bodybuilder/powerlifter and don't have the ability to have a home gym, tough shit. You're going to get smaller if this pandemic continues, so make peace with that (see #5). Do what you can. You can't change your situation, but you can change your attitude. I was a fan of powerlifting once. I'd lifted relatively injury free for about 15 years, and then tore a back muscle. Squat PR? Shot. Deadlift PR? Obliterated. I could've easily stopped, rehabbed, allowed that muscle to turn into fat, but that's the wrong mindset. Focus on what you can do if you can't change what you cannot do. Finally, use this time to focus on your total health. I'm not a doctor, so can't say that a six pack and getting your macros right will protect your personal wellbeing from a virus, but what I can say is that the best defense against illness is a healthy individual. Lose that body fat with this found time, get your cardio endurance up, eat healthier since obtaining food is more difficult, the choice is yours.

7. Mental wellness

Similar to #5, we need to really be taking care of our own minds now more than ever. Call a friend, ask them how they're doing. Let them vent. You may not solve any problems, but people need to share their feelings. Call your family members (maybe not the crazy uncle who thinks this is a ploy to get Trump to lose in the fall), see how they're holding up. Tell them you miss them. Even if (like me) you don't see family all that often, it still counts. Also, turn off the news, it does you no good. I realize that if your job is in journalism, market commentary, etc., you can't do this. But the vast majority of you all watch far too much news. Sure, you can be up to speed on what Trump said on his latest presser, what the market is doing in reaction, what all of the moving parts of the stimulus bill are, what various states are doing to take action, the trendline of new cases in various countries, but what does that accomplish?

Seriously, ask yourself that: "what have I gained by knowing all of this news?" I would argue it does you no to limited good. The media on both sides are designed to agitate, not calm, because they need to sell ads, and panic and stress are good for business, and to have an election year with the most controversial president ever? This is a great time for MSM, and no I'm not just talking CNN/MSNBC, they're all guilty. Turn it off. My wife & I have been on a strict 30-60 minutes of local news in the morning combined with urgent alerts on our phone. I haven't missed anything of importance, and I work in markets, have to talk to people all day long about what to do with their money, so you would think I'm a news junkie. It doesn't help. Going on a news diet will help your mental clarity, how agitated you are with various topics du jour, and save you from conversations which accomplish nothing but flaring tempers (e.g. "did you see Trump's press conference last night, I can't believe him!" "no, I was watching Tiger Man on Netflix, I'd be happy to talk about that though").

8. Discipline

How are you spending this time? If you're a banker, in CRE, or any part of finance that's not trading/AM, you're likely seeing less work. What're you doing with that time? Are you playing video games? Fine. Are you doing nothing? Fine. Everyone needs a battery reset every once in a while, but be sure you're being intentional with this time, you may never get an opportunity like this again. Keep waking up at the same time, discipline is important. Keep a steady schedule, keep working towards your goals, treat this as normal as you can. Don't booze it up every night, don't play video games like you were in high school for hours and hours and hours on end. You are getting a gift of found time by not having a commute, to put on a tie, and so forth, use it wisely. Be intentional. Don't just let this time go to waste by fucking around. Guess what? All of those people in your network are no longer doing business travel, attending conferences, and seeing clients in person. THEY HAVE TIME, USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. What about that foreign language you've been wanting to pick up? I'm sure there are plenty of people on Italki willing to coach you for a fraction of the cost given the pandemic. What about that book you've been wanting to finish? No better time than now, so get after it kiddies, you can see this as an obstacle or an opportunity, choose wisely.

I've been relatively sane during all this, despite the massive hit markets and my income have taken, so you might wonder what have I been doing? I don't have all the answers, but I'm doing a couple things which have been helpful so far, I hope they help you too.

  • Yoga. Not every day, but most days. Working from home has me sitting down more than I was before (no client meetings, no breaks for team meetings, just in a chair all day), and this has proven necessary.
  • Meditation. If you haven't done it, now's the time to try. Focus on your breath, and let you mind wander. You may go to some crazy places, and maybe doing 30 minutes at once is too intense, so start with 5 minutes. It will help. All of the anecdotal evidence is true.
  • Exercise. I've had to switch up my routine, but am still getting it in. Military workouts are great. Lots of pushups, pullups, air squats, lunges, running, and some kettlebell work. Got a barbell en route, so will be more normal soon, but this has tided me over.
  • Maintaining Boundaries. Thankfully my clientele allow me to do this, but when I shut my laptop, work is done. just because it's around the corner from the couch doesn't mean I need to do it. It will be there tomorrow, and your brain needs the rest to ensure you're effective for the next day. Work will always be there, and you won't be effective if you're overworked.
  • Keeping it light. I am now the proud owner of weeks' worth of Looney Tunes material, it's a wonderful break after a day counseling people, watching markets plunge, and the twittersphere go at each other's throats. I've also been exploring new music, taking more time in preparing meals (no commute to/from work and to/from gym, easy to spend 2 hours with a meal now), watching documentaries I never would've had the time for, stuff like that.

Above all else, you must maintain this mindset: this too shall pass. It is easier to doubt the human spirit than remain optimistic. As a country, we're at each other's throats politically. You're seeing generational agitation between millennials and Gen Z who want to party while their parents and grandparents fear for their lives. You have twitter bodybuilders telling people that their morbidity is their fault because they didn't take care of themselves. You have Trump and you have Trump Derangement. You have supposed democracies showing just how draconian their legal systems are (I would've never imagined an Italy where you're not allowed to take a stroll).

You have the scientific community telling us this will only get worse. You have the prospect of 20% unemployment (even if for a short time). We are staring down the barrel of the first recession since 2008, and potentially one as bad as or worse than that. But let me ask you this: when have we, as a species, never come back? If you zoom out from the beginning of Homo Sapiens to the present day, it's been an upward sloping trend in terms of progress. We're not perfect, we could've done certain things better, and yes, crises will kick us in the dick and force us to reevaluate, maybe even take 10 steps backward before we can move forward, but we will move forward, I firmly believe that.

If I can help anyone in this forum on any of the above or if you have further questions, I'm happy to do so.

All the best,

bro

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Comments (97)

Mar 25, 2020

Amazing post as usual! I've been watching loony tunes material myself lately (I don't know why)...maybe it reminds me of childhood / care-free days - not to be sentimental here. I'm glad you also mentioned "man's search for meaning" - it's a great book and I hope more people read it.

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Mar 25, 2020

Read the entire thing. Great read and tips. Thanks @thebrofessor I hope you and your family are safe, and like you said; This too shall pass.

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Mar 25, 2020

thank you sir, we're all in this together.

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Mar 25, 2020

Thank you for this post! Added some perspective that was in my blindspot areas and I am going to be more intentional addressing those in personal/work/housemate life.

Thank you for taking the time to send this out!

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Mar 27, 2020

Sorry for not replying sooner, I'm glad it helped and will happily help further if needed. Never hesitate to drop me a PM

Mar 25, 2020

very helpful, thanks for posting.

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Mar 25, 2020

Well said. It's 4pm right now and got most of my work done because I got up early and focused on what I needed to do. Might call it a day soon, take my dog for walk and make a decent dinner and have a couple DogFishHead beers (only a couple). Not bad for a quaranteed Wednesday.

Mar 27, 2020

Few things are more rewarding than a craft beer after a long days work, keep on keeping on bud

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Mar 25, 2020

Nice. Agree.

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Mar 25, 2020

Good post, one thing I want to clarify is that in meditation the goal is to overcome mind wandering and return your attention to the breath. if you spend 30 minutes mind wandering you are wasting your time. I recommend downloading an app such as Waking Up by Sam Harris or reading The Mind Illuminated if you want a thorough guide

Mar 25, 2020

Re: fitness - for an excellent cramped quarters workout that can be completed in 30 minutes, check out Bas Rutten's all around workout program:

https://music.apple.com/us/album/bas-ruttens-mixed...

Mar 27, 2020

I hate that you showed me this, kicked my ass when I tried it Wednesday, GOOD. Something else to strive for (doing this workout without needing a defibrillator)

Mar 27, 2020

It's legit right? El Guapo is the man.

Mar 25, 2020

Thx for the super obvious advice.

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Mar 25, 2020

thank you for reading my post. I'm sorry it wasn't specific enough or groundbreaking. what else would you like help with? I'm sensing you need some

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Most Helpful
Mar 25, 2020

I deleted Twitter along with all news apps off my phone last week, and have felt SO much better mentally. The toxicity on twitter and in the media is f*king suffocating and is borderline mental/emotional torture. Next step is to put the phone away from the hours of 7am-7pm everyday with the exception of incoming calls/emails i check every 2 hours. Feels great.

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Mar 25, 2020

I feel like avoiding what is causing you pain is not solving the problem .. see point 5 above..

Mar 29, 2020

I'm a firm believer that social media is unhealthy the vast majority of the time to begin with, now more than ever.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2020

Why is hoarding food wrong (especially if you have elderly / high risk candidates living with you?

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Mar 26, 2020

buying what you need is one thing, buying more than a 1 week supply if your country still has functioning grocery stores, that's selfish.

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2020

I'm not sure what you mean here. If I have elderly/high risk parents of course I want them to live. Should I sacrifice their lives for the "greater good" of society? Don't pretend to act like you are some social justice warrior. If your wife was going through cancer (immune system compromised) would you hoard or not? And iet's say you didn't hoard. Is that really showing her love by treating her the same as everyone else?

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Mar 29, 2020

I don't agree that 1 week should be the cutoff.... We should be trying to minimize all trips outside right now, including trips to the grocery store. If you're able to stock up on a few weeks of supplies and can save yourself a couple trips, that's probably the best for everyone.

With that said, I'm not saying go buy every toilet paper roll in sight.

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Mar 26, 2020

Legendary post. Thanks for taking the time. Hopefully this helps at least one person reading this to have some sort of "a-ha" moment or mental reset.

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Mar 26, 2020

thank you sir, hope you're holding up. I'm here if needed

Mar 26, 2020

High school during 9\11? I thought you were a lot older.

There's a lot of Epicurean ataraxia in your post that I fundamentally agree with, though I suck at practicing.

I would say having a healthy routine helps going through this. I can't hit the gym, sure, however as you mention, I can and do run outside. I know enough exercises that do not require weights at least for the time being so I should be fine.

Readings help, then again I'm just sticking to my 40-pages-a-day routine.

State of mind wise, I'm a pessimist by nature, that's why I picked a partner who's the opposite of me under that aspect. I also volunteer on a website for people with mental health conditions, did that years ago, now I have some free time and it helps me as well.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2020

He said he's married for 10 years so it checks out.

Mar 26, 2020

haha, maybe I'm older, maybe that was stretching the truth, maybe it was the truth. all I'll say is I was born in the 1980s.

had to google epicurean ataraxia, thank you for that 3 dollar phrase, part of that is inborn, part of it might be going through a tough time, part of it might be luck of the draw. your mind is like a muscle, it can be trained, but you have to put in the effort.

I wasn't always like this. I used to fly off the handle at everything, have a sense of entitlement, and was just generally a fucking brat. losing my job in the financial crisis and having to beg for jobs after 3 months of feeling sorry for myself changed me forever. not saying everyone needs a kick in the dick to get straight, but I sure did.

glad you have a partner who's an optimist, that will help. if you find yourself feeling negative, figure out the triggers. is it something you're reading on twitter? watching on TV? what is it? remove the triggers and you might find that helps.

also, I'm gonna need some italian recipes from you bub, got a lot more time on my hands so can spend more time cooking. plus our local butcher is still operating so all is well on that front.

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Mar 26, 2020

Once again, I'm surprised there isn't that much age difference between us.

Personality wise, we have a number of things in common, notably a number of slaps received from life. One thing that came with age however is the ability to handle them. Unfortunately sometimes to learn something you have to burn yourself, because you are too stubborn to listen, or maybe because you couldn't find someone able to teach it to you.

When it comes to ange, I have always been an angry kid. I just channel it to achieve something and balance it out with positive elements that bring out my kinder nature, indeed my partner, pets, volunteering, possibly kids next.

Italian recipes: if you really want to do something, go for hand-made lasagne\cannelloni. Those are time consuming but given the situation, worthwhile. Otherwise tell me what you are in the mood of (meat - you mentioned the bitcher/fish/firsts) I'll look up something.

Straight out of the blue, I'd go for wild boar stew right now, which is surprisingly easy to do provided you have the meat:
https://www.italianfoodforever.com/2012/10/wild-bo...

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Mar 26, 2020

"help the girl who makes margaritas out with school/life decisions" I miss this too

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Mar 26, 2020

Very nice.

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2020

People are just upvoting this because thebrofessor wrote it without actually disecting the points and seeing if everything he says is true or not.

Mar 26, 2020

So refute them if you find something to object to.

It's possible people think he made some good points or at least presented them with a tone that was clear-minded and even keeled.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2020

I'm the only prospect IB M&A that has made a comment above my current response to you. You can read my previous replies.

Mar 27, 2020

you won't be able to change everyone's mind. I hope this individual sees the spirit of what I am trying to accomplish rather than some of the individual phrases with which he disagrees. a mentor once told me that even the best thinkers had detractors, so what hope does an idiot in PWM from the South like me have? I hope that on balance, people see the positivity I'm trying to share, but for those that don't, I hope they find happiness later in life.

Mar 27, 2020

Somehow you don't dare to say the same under your nick.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 27, 2020

Largely that's because I try to keep my account professional grade just in case one day my cover is blown. Dissent is no longer respected in Corporate America so its best to remain anon.

Mar 26, 2020

Great post bro.

Personally spent the first week and a half of this getting fucked up every night, the so called reset after months of grinding particularly hard. Now using the time to work out and focus on personal fitness as well as invest in distressed stocks.

Mar 27, 2020

good on you sir, hope you are holding up well

Mar 26, 2020

Damn Right Brother! We are all in this together!

Mar 27, 2020

love the attitude!

Mar 27, 2020

damn, been having a rough week. this really helped. thank you

Mar 27, 2020

That's the best thing I've read all day. Never hesitate to ask for help, I'm glad to do it. Be well sir

Mar 27, 2020

What this pandemic has taught me is that I may never actually return to the office. Following this, I likely plan to shift more towards remote work. I wonder how much of an impact this will have on those who have the option to work remotely but just never exercised that option.

Nothing like working from home in sweatpants and a football jersey

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 27, 2020

It probably will get old quick lol see what you think after a couple of months.

Mar 28, 2020

My wife and I feel the exact same way. Not shaving and putting on a suit everyday has tons of appeal.

Mar 29, 2020

You must listen to Jocko. GOOD.

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Mar 30, 2020

CHECK.

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Apr 1, 2020

Damn bro, I don't know what this forum did to deserve you but your posts are always top-notch. I was supposed to start a new gig but it's probably pushed back to May with all of this so I'm just taking the time to chill after for so many years. Treating it like a staycation: working on fitness the best I can without a gym, checking out some new shows, might start learning a language.

We'll get through this eventually.

Apr 2, 2020

Hugh, I've missed you! Thank you for your kind words sir, and yeah I completely get the idea of taking a sabbatical, just exercising and working on other skills.

hope all is well brother

Apr 9, 2020

Great post! thanks for sharing!

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Apr 9, 2020

thank you sir, hope you're holding up well

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Apr 9, 2020
Comment
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May 11, 2020