This weekend I spent some time looking through economic reports the way that I’ve looked through health reports in the past few weeks. Economics was one of my college majors and I have an MBA so I actually enjoy reading financial reports as much as I enjoy reading novels. I know this is yet another pastime that makes me an absolute weirdo, but hey, I gotta be me!
What the future of our economy looks like is as certain as the date when we’ll have a vaccine (aka – no one knows), I’m thinking about the following questions and ideas for my own future. I hope that they help you through this time of reflection as much as they’re helping me.
1.) What do I actually care about doing with my time?
2.) With a blank slate, what would I actually put into my life by choice? Not by momentum, not based upon my experience. Just me and the potential blank slate that’s our economy now. What would I do with that if I could do anything with it?
3.) If we may experience economic fits and starts for the next 5 years as some economists suggest, can I see that as something freeing? Can this be a reminder that the time will pass anyway, so I might as well do what matters most to me?
4.) The future is so uncertain now that how my life and career unfold from here is largely up to me and my actions. These days, as difficult as they are for so many reasons, really matter. They might matter more than any other days I’ve ever lived. Like it or not, this is a turning point for all of us so what do I want my life to turn into now and how do I make that a reality?
5.) I’ve had a few points in my life that clearly marked a then and a now. My father’s death. My apartment building fire. When I went into intensive therapy. Starting my own business. The publication of my novel. My education decisions. My life before and after each one of these events was radically different. They spurred meaning in my life that didn’t exist before, even if at the time they were tragedies. And now this virus has, too. It’s changed everything, and will continue to change everything. How do I direct that change as best I can to make it matter, to make it mean something?
On the surface these ideas might not look like economic thoughts, decisions, or ideas. They might look fluffy or contemplative or even spiritual. Here’s something that’s always stuck with me from my studies of economics: economic systems are not built on cold hard facts. They’re invented, by us. They’re largely driven by sentiment. And yes, that sentiment is usually created, at least in part, by data. But that’s not the whole story. The data is never perfect. It’s aways open to interpretation.
A lot of economics is gut, emotion, and prediction. A lot of it is fear, hope, uncertainty, and confidence (or lack there of). Economics is much more art than science, much more interpretation than unbiased facts. And like public health, it’s driven by our individual actions aggregated into collective actions. Deciding what role do we want to play now in how we build back may be the most important decision we ever make.