That’s the age-old question… usually asked by “highwaymen” a.k.a. robbers.
Well, COVID-19 is a new kind of highway virus, and we’re asking, “Our lives, or our money?” Well, I’ll give you a typical MBA answer: It depends.
This novel coronavirus is highly contagious, may already have 30+ mutations, causes severe illness (and sadly death in some cases) for the high-risk population: 60+ years old, respiratory issues, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and compromised immune systems. While the mortality rate has been low, the volume of illness still yields a high number of deaths. Plus, from people I know who’ve had COVID, it’s been quite an @$$ kicker.
Unfortunately, the WHO and CDC fear the worst is yet to come… but will arrive this Fall/Winter during a second wave (much like the Spanish flu pandemic) where COVID and influenza will tag-team the human race. Thankfully, though, we have seen that social distancing and stay-home has been a powerful tool for us in flattening the curve and saving lives. Despite the growing cabin fever, we’ve done a good job sheltering in place, and it is paying huge dividends with the general health of the population.
On the global economy, we seem to be teetering on a worldwide meltdown. While the coronavirus has impacted a good chunk of the population from a health perspective, almost everyone has felt the economic impact. Millions of jobs are lost each week. Non-essential business is closed and in desperate need of cash to stay afloat. Many entrepreneurs can’t take advantage of government payroll plans because they’re often not paying much (or at all) for salaries in their startup companies. Demand is down so much that the hospitality and travel industries will be crippled for years. Even U.S. oil prices (temporarily) turned negative because they’re out of storage space. Without a steady paycheck, many people are worried about having food and shelter… and maybe toilet paper too.
Unfortunately, there is no right answer here. We each have different situations and priorities. People are very good at reacting to immediate threats (not long-term, exponentially growing ones which are truly ironic given the pandemic we’re now in.) For some, the immediate threat is health.
For example, if they’re high risk, death is a pretty big impact. Likewise, if they’re a missed paycheck away from being unable to buy food, then that’s a pretty big impact as well. So, the answer really is it depends. It depends on each person’s unique situation. Regrettably, that’s going to make incredibly difficult to coax each person onto the same page. (Just look at the protests and counter-protests now happing in the U.S.)
The Bright Side
Despite the subjectiveness of our answer, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about other people or the impact on society in general. While there is a lot of gloom and doom in the news, there is a lot of heart-warming stories out there. I’ve seen people step up to help neighbors and even strangers who have high health risks by shopping for them or just being a friendly, social-distant companion so they’re not lonely. I’ve seen small businesses take big pivots to keep their people employed or switch to producing and giving away PPE to help their local healthcare professionals. I even know of some of the big (non-essential) companies continue to pay their employees’ salaries and benefits even though they’ve had to shut down its operations.
I’ve also seen the Earth “heal” itself because of reduced pollution and vibrations.
I believe that light at the end of the tunnel is actually the end of the tunnel (and not an oncoming train.) In a post-COVID world, we’ll have challenges with jobs, mental health issues, rebuilding industries, etc. However, we will also have opportunities. We can build a more sustainable future and a circular economy. More importantly, we have the opportunity to build a stronger sense of community and collaboration. My friend Steven Koetler talks about flow: the optimal state consciousness. One of the best and longest-lasting natural euphorias people get is from helping other people. So whether you’re choosing your money or your life, let’s keep helping each other through these difficult times and keep our eye towards building a bright future.