The Unpredictable is the New Normal
When things are unpredictable or uncertain it causes a lot of stress. I interviewed Eliz Greene on the Repurpose Your Career Podcast in March of 2020 in the episode Dealing with Stress and Uncertainty with Eliz Greene. We were in the midst of a lockdown and we were all coping with things that were very uncertain.
We “thought” that by October of 2020 things would be different. Things are different but the only problem is the world is just as unpredictable as ever before.
Who would have predicted earlier this year the following:
- Mail-in voting would go mainstream
- The President of the United States would contract the Coronavirus by not following the CDC guidelines
- There would be a shortage of poll workers
- It is likely we will have a record number of citizens cast their ballots
We could not make this stuff up even if we were smoking weed and we were inhaling.
Our very divided politics and society have proven that the unpredictable is the new normal.
Divisions in our Society and Workplace
I just returned from a one-week visit to Austin, Texas where my wife and I lived for over 40 years. We arrived on a Thursday evening and on Friday night we went to our favorite restaurant Numero 28 in downtown Austin. We were greeted with open arms by the owners and staff even though I tried to apply social distancing. Italians are like Mexicans, a hug and a kiss are normal.
Divisions in Age
After we sat down, I noticed that everyone in the restaurant and walking on the sidewalk was young. I am 64 years old and anyone under 40 is young. After dinner, we walked over to Trader Joes and I noticed the same phenomenon. My wife and I were ancient compared to the people who surround us. These young people all were wearing masks and following community guidelines.
During the week, I had numerous phone and zoom calls with friends and colleagues. I even had a few face-to-face meetings with people, always outside, and with proper social distancing. I should say my wife and I were tested for COVID-19 immediately upon our arrival in Austin and the results were negative.
Everyone I talked to, who was over 50 years of age, had rarely gone to a restaurant. Many had not stepped into a retail store to shop for food or anything else in 6 months. This was in sharp contrast to what I saw at any of the stores and restaurants we shopped and ate at.
The reality of life for those who are in the 2nd half of life differs from those in the 1st half. What I experienced was a lot of people who were very isolated and that creates uncertainty and perceived unpredictability.
Divisions in Housing
When we drove into Austin I was amazed at the number of cranes that were still working the construction sites. I spoke with our property manager who manages our condominium that is being rented. He said the housing market was booming. People were buying up homes and condominiums sight unseen. Prices were rising.
Builders are building residential homes at a breakneck pace. Who is buying these homes? These are people with jobs who can work from home.
At the same time, we are seeing just the beginning of an eviction crisis. I listened to the Bloomberg Stephanonmics podcast The Inequality of America’s K-Shaped Recovery where they discussed the stark divide in housing in Cleveland. There are those who are solidly in the middle class who are buying homes in desirable neighborhoods with very low-interest loans. At the same time, the working class, think essential workers, who are just living paycheck to paycheck, are struggling to pay their rent. In some cases, rent makes up 70% of their monthly expenses. Many are just now getting eviction notices.
I have heard stories of people who have lived in their homes for 10, 15, or 20 years, having never missed a rent payment, now facing eviction.
Here we have an example of one class of people where life is very predictable and others who where life is incredibly unpredictable.
Will the US Congress come to the rescue? Got me! The unpredictable is the new normal.
Divisions in the Workplace
Remote work is rapidly becoming the norm for many professional jobs. Will this continue when the pandemic is over?
I think the bigger question is when will we go back to normal? It will be a while.
If you think a vaccine will make this all go away rapidly I suggest you listen to the Bloomberg Prognosis podcast What We Can’t Know About a Vaccine (Podcast).
A lot of the readers of this blog want to continue to work remotely for 2 primary reasons:
- They are finding they are far more productive
- Their health and the health of their family depends on not catching the virus
As I discussed earlier in this post, we are divided by age on how we are living our lives. This will play out in the workplace as well.
I interviewed Hannah Morgan, the Career Sherpa on the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Hannah has been hearing from her clients that recruiters are now setting the expectation that at some point in the future remote work will end. Will this actually happen?
Will There be an Office to Return to?
I interviewed Gary O’Neal and David Hughen on the Repurpose Your Career podcast where both of them stated that every company they are working with has been giving up their lease space. When this pandemic is over and when CEOs want to bring people back into the office, there will be no office space to bring people back to.
On the other hand, 25% of all retail workers are 55+. Check out the Washington post article Retail workers in their 60s, 70s and 80s say they’re worried about their health — but need the money.
There currently is a divide on who works remotely and those who need to go to the workplace. That divide will likely get bigger at some point in the future.
When will this happen? You got me!
What to do When the Unpredictable is the New Normal
There are 3 things you can do to make your life more predictable:
- Create alternative sources of income
- Change your focus to things you can control
- Make some conscious decisions on what in your life needs to stay and what needs to go
Many of us grew up in a time where a predictable income was an expectation from our employer. Those days are over!
It is time to diversify your income by starting something on the side. This could be an online business, a consulting practice, a service-based business like copy editing, or bookkeeping. This should be something that you can turn on and off as the world changes.
This will take time and probably some missteps along the way but we all need to do this.
Focus on What You Can Control
In the podcast episode, Dealing with Stress and Uncertainty, Eliz Greene told us to focus on those things you can control and let go of what you cannot.
Years ago when I worked for IBM, I traveled a few times every month. On one trip, I was going to speak to an Atlanta user group in the evening. The IBM sales rep asked me to fly in earlier in the day to talk to a major customer. I arrived at the Austin airport to catch an 8 AM flight to Dallas. When I got to Dallas the flight to Atlanta was delayed significantly. I fretted about how was I going to make the meeting with the major customer. I finally called the IBM rep and told him I was not going to make the meeting with the major customer but I would make it to the user group meeting. Fear gripped me as I thought he would be angry. His response was … Okay!
I did not control the weather. This taught me to let go of the things I do not control. This was such a valuable lesson that I still cherish to this day.
What is Really Important in Your Life
Now is the time to do some real soul searching and reflection on what is really important in our lives. What can you let go of or what behaviors or relationships do you need to end? A great book to read is Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. Dr. Cloud says that often for new things to begin, we need to end old things. This book was one of the instigators in getting my wife and me to move to Mexico and become expats.
Another good book is, Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life, by Richard Leider and David Shapiro. The authors’ premise is that you need to periodically unpack your bags of life, throw things away that no longer work for you, and repack with things that you need now.
Now is the time to focus on your future and make a plan A, B, and C. Only you can make things predictable in a time of unpredictability.