If you saw the photo above without context, you’d be forgiven for assuming the worst. Perhaps this is 3-5 years after a devastating war- Picadilly Circus is empty, cranes in the background rebuild London and the Queen is reminding us that all is well in the after-life. In reality, Londoners sit peacefully in their homes while the world deals with the uncomfortable truths of a global pandemic.
For weeks now we’ve been dealing with these uncomfortable truths. COVID-19 has left few corners of the earth untouched- even reaching into the Amazon rainforest and appearing in communities barely touched by modernity. Uncomfortable truths about our supply chains, routines, productivity, arrogance, and speed have all forced us to pause and reconsider the fragility of the systems we’ve built.
The point is that the 21st century is unsettling in almost every way. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. There is a pandemic that has the legs to be a once in a generation event if handled poorly and economic activity has virtually stopped. The Queen of England and the Chancellor of Germany’s emergency address and the Americans invoking the Defense Production Act are both things that haven’t happened since WWII. We’re more polarized than ever because of our stupid phones and yet, it’s the best time to be alive in the history of humans.
How all of that can be equally true is a mystery, a gift and worthy of our time.
Perhaps what the pandemic will really do is cause us to reconsider everything. Am I convinced we will walk the long-road of change? No. I think we have short-term memories and tragedies become memories quickly. But I do think we are in an era where we have more potential than ever. Having potential doesn’t mean you’ll make the right call. This could turn out to be 2003 and we will once again metaphorically invade Iraq, or it could turn out to be Pearl Harbor and we will innovate, manufacture and science the shit out of this problem. America is now the epi-center of COVID-19, and it’s usually a bad idea to bet against America when it’s back is up against the wall.
I’m long-term optimistic, and short-term concerned.
The point of the Unsettled Newsletter is this: to reach people where they want to be found- in their inbox every morning. You won’t miss a post, podcast episode or Q&A and the links are all there for your choosing. Some, you’ll never see. Others, you’ll dig into, leave a comment for discussion and engage with others who are just as unsettled as you are in the current climate. The beauty is, it’s your adventure and thus your choice.
As Naval reminds us, the real way to provide value in the 21st century is to put your name on it, apply some leverage and crank it out.
The 21st century is very unsettling. Don’t go it alone.