Day 12

Day 12

Settling in was the feeling today. We’ve had two weekends and it’s the third working week we’re in. After my walk this evening I felt quite tired again, not sure why. Have I got Daylight Savings around the wrong way somehow!?

I suspect it’s running on adrenaline for too long, but it could also be all the walking – don’t tell anyone but I have got quite a lot of exercise done – or should I say more regular exercise during the lockdown. Even lost some weight!

Over the weekend I noticed lots of walkers, runners and cyclists out and about, enjoying the great weather in Auckland and getting their essential Lockdown exercise. Walking past the Olympic Pool in Newmarket a bus pulled up and the driver exited. I joked that it was a busy day on the bus today. “No one at all” he said. I commented that you can only get in the back door, and so I assume you can only use your Auckland Transport Hop Card. He told me there were three ways of travelling: If you’re an essential worker, it’s no charge, if you have a Hop Card, you swipe it, and if you haven’t got a Hop Card, you “just take a ride for free“.  Weird times we live in. Even weirder than the payment options, is where do you go, and when you get there what do you do?

Which is more or less what we’ll be asking in 16 days and a bit. We were told it was a minimum of 4 weeks and I’m picking it’s unlikely we’ll be free earlier, until all likelihood of risk is eliminated.

When we assess risks in almost any field that I am aware of we assess Likelihood of the event occurring and the Impact of the event (virus in this case) should it occur. So in assessing the risks of COVID-19 it is firstly necessary to assess the likelihood of the virus spreading.  So if nothing is done to mitigate the virus there is probably a strong likelihood that it will enter the community, obviously really.

One would then look a the actual impact. There seems little doubt that there is harm from the virus. In studies I have read, acknowledging that there’s still lots of research to be done, some general themes appear:

  • Most people suffer mild symptoms.  One Chinese study put this as high as 80%. This must mean that there are many more cases of COVID-19 than the records show, I would have thought. I wonder whether the figure is exponentially higher, globally. But that’s my speculation, but if it’s the case, the death rate is much lower.
  • The death rate increases by age. Although there was a media report recently of a 5 year old dying, it hasn’t come through in the statistics, and subject to that, the death rate for ages 0-9 is zero. By far the greater risk of death is to those over 60-70+ and those with underlying medical conditions. This BBC article suggests that many of those that died would have died from something in the short term anyhow, and argues that to attribute those deaths to COVID-19 is not realistic.  That sounds harsh, but everyone dies of something, and if COVID-19 is the final trigger, it paints a different picture of harm. Be that as it may, patients with cardiovascular disease are much more likely to die, so if you’re 75 with heart disease you’re at high risk of serious harm. Of course, death is not the only harm – being on a ventilator, struggling to breathe for an extended period is not exactly a picnic.
  • There are non-medical impacts too: If there were many cases, we might not have enough medical resources to manage it i.e. beds and personnel.

What we’re hearing a lot more of now is the economic impact of the Lockdown which, on the face of it, has tackled the risk by ensuring that virtually none of the impacts – barring a very small number of exceptions – have come to fruition. And this is where it gets really complicated.

Early information released was that there was the likelihood of 80,000 deaths in New Zealand alone, then it was adjusted to 14,000, then back up to 20,000+.  I doubt that many people think now (or even then) that those figures were even remotely possible, given the relatively small global death rate – I say small because it’s never going to get anywhere near the 1.8m people that died from the Spanish Flu in 1918, and might be within the ballpark of the 150,000 who die each year globally from influenza.

Taking an approach that has virtually eliminated all harm in New Zealand is attractive, but all risk decisions have winners and losers.  In this decision there are a probably relatively small number of winners (we may never know) and many losers, in economic and social terms.

Leaders make decisions on risk daily. No decision is perfect and leaders know that you can’t eliminate risk completely – be that regulatory, economic, timeframes, Cyber protection, or the myriad of other things that need to be assessed for risk. But there will always be risks that leaders determine the impact of is just too great to bear, and will take maximum steps, at the cost of other activities, to eliminate that risk. Physical workforce safety is one of those things.

Whether the virtually complete elimination of the impact of the COVID-19 was the right thing to do is a judgment call made by the Country’s political leaders. We won’t know whether the consensus that this was right or wrong until much later, when the economic and social impacts – the new harm caused to eliminate the virus harm – are properly known.

But I do feel more relaxed about it all having lightly analysed a decision making process!

And that could well be my longest blog – way too long – sorry about that!

Stephen

Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

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Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.

Day 10

Day 10

Double digits! 18 days and 1 hour to go. Maybe.

The rates of infection have levelled and there was hope today that we’re on the right track, meaning we might be able to reduce to Alert Level 3 in 18 days, and one hour. It will be a welcome relief but will not be enough for business to get back to where it needs to, to be productive. Business needs level 2.

I missed some things today. I missed a weekend breakfast in the Cafe on the ground floor of my apartment building. I missed the hum of activity in the city. In global terms, Auckland is a small city, but in New Zealand it’s large, growing and active 24/7. It felt sad that the energy, dynamism and production has been stalled.

I got out on my motorcycle today, to clear my mail – that’s an essential service activity right? – and to get some supplies from the supermarket. It was great to be out on two wheels again and was pleased I hadn’t forgotten what to do!

I also got out for another walk – it was a gorgeous day – and now I’m pleasantly tired from physical exercise.  The Maunga of Tamaki Makaurau are great for the heart!

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Not everyone is so relaxed though. Unsurprisingly tensions are flaring in supermarkets, although not where I’ve been. A person is set to appear in court after punching a supermarket manager in Warkworth. When it was first said we’d be able to get out to the Supermarket, my original plan was Warkworth, until the concept of “local” was put out there. Fortunately for me, as it sounds like a hotbed of frustration.

And there will be a lot of frustration. The housing crisis hasn’t suddenly gone away. They’ll still be large families living in homes that are too small causing untold pressure. They’ll be abusive adults with young children. Tragic, especially when you consider that not a single child under 10 has died, anywhere in the world,  from COVID-19. Who will be the first to say that this thing is a Boomer* thing? They’re the ones at risk, along with the Silent Generation. The economic and social victims are younger.

A warm message from the incoming Police Commissioner, who like his predecessor is taking a realistic Kiwi stance: “We allow people to undertake exercise because that actually is healthy for people, and this is hard. People are stuck in their homes and we’re only in the first week, so we need to be sensible about this.”  Empathetic Leadership.

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep tonight, and if you didn’t get it, enjoy a long day!

Stephen

*Baby Boomers were born after World War 2, 1946 up to 1960 although sometimes it refers to people born up to 1964. The 1960-1964 are “Confused Baby Boomers”. The Silent Generation are people born from 1925 to 1945. As far as I am aware there is no scientific or research basis for the generation descriptions and behaviours, which often surprises people as it’s spoken in common language as though it’s a thing. The only thing are the dates, all behaviours attributed to a generation are without a foundation.

 

Day 9

Day 9

We’re all bouncing around in our bubbles in anticipation of the weekend. So what better way to start the weekend than with a Day 9 Cartoon? It’s fresh off the press, with full credit and thanks to Peter Bromhead, New Zealand’s pre-eminent cartoonist.

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Some milestones today: the first full work week ended, end of “week two”, and an entire hospital building at North Shore Hospital is being repurposed for, um, the patients.

Awkward questions about the economic impact started to flow more readily today. You read it here first on Day 0 of course! There was an awkward ministerial bike ride too. The Finance Minister announced a change in the law to allow companies that are going to fold as a result of the COVID-19 ban on business, to be provided with a “Safe Harbour” for their business’ debts until the ban was lifted. Sounds helpful.

So looking back so far, I started the Lockdown feeling quite anxious. How would I cope being cooped up all day, every day? It brought back memories of anxious flying – claustrophobia – and Air New Zealand’s “Flying without fear” Programme which I am a graduate of. I know from experience, that conditioning is a key element of facing fears and this week has proved that again. Tonight it feels serene, calm and in control. The ability to have daily walks has been incredibly important for my physical and mental well-being.

Anxietyometer: Very Low

Have a great weekend, don’t get pricked by the ‘rona!

Make sure you have a walk, maybe three and celebrate that we made it this far.

Stephen

 

Day 8

Day 8

It really is the weirdest of times. Tonight I had that slightly surreal feeling, similar to what you have when you wake up in Europe really early, time-zone confused, but wide awake. Feels like a new beginning.

Quite quickly it’s become a completely different work routine, meetings are almost all on time, everyone on screen, clothes increasingly casual – am I really wearing a Nike T-shirt to a business meeting? you know the one with the very large logo across the chest –colleagues opening bits of their homes to the team without any explanation. What even is work any more? Is this really happening?

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There’s a documentary on Netflix The Next Pandemic, released in November 2019. The next pandemic will probably be a virus jumping from another species it says. Right. Bill Gates says on the documentary “We don’t know when the next pandemic will happen“. We do now!

Since SARS, scientists have been investigating bats in Southern China where it is believed that the virus started. Great work but it wasn’t bats this time. There’s work being done to develop a universal influenza vaccine but it’s said to be “years away”.

The next pandemic is inevitable, its said, but our technology has stopped a virus before, it says. One of the earliest uses of technology was during the Black Plague, when travelers were quarantined!

The story of COVID-19 is being told now. We don’t know where it will end, but it will end for sure. It will be a story of a virus that spread rapidly, with most people having no or mild symptoms. But when it struck bad it could be deadly, particularly to those over 70, or those over 60 with poor health. Most cases went undetected.

Global measures were implemented, but too slowly and inconsistently, to isolate people, but the quarantining of travelers was woefully inadequate and caused the global spread. Severe restrictions were shown to slow the virus’ spread in communities and eventually, after six months the virus faded and a vaccine was developed.

The political fallout was large. Governments all around the world were thrown out in elections that followed, not because the voters didn’t think they tried to do something, but because the economic impact was seen in hindsight, to be far greater than the problem. Ironically, one of the leaders who prevaricated for several weeks, but eventually acquiesced to strong internal isolation measures, was re-elected even though his country had the highest infection rate. President Trump went on to serve a full second term winning the popular vote, something he hadn’t achieved in his first election.

Whoops, just woke up again. Did I say I should be in Europe on my holiday right now? Barcelona at this very moment to be precise. Well lucky I’m not but I did have that time zone spaced out feeling for a moment like I was there.

I suppose I could be wrong in all of this.

Have a great day 9!

Stephen

Day 7

Day 7

You know on the late night American TV talk shows they take the mickey out of weird news items around the world. Right now, we’re probably lucky than there’s lots of other news.

Policing cauliflower pricing caught my eye and distracted me from what was otherwise another very busy day. All I could think of was mother’s white sauce and my stubborn refusal to eat the stuff! Much prefer Broccoli, but Cauliflower has gone very hot, so hot that we’re dobbing in the supermarkets for over-pricing. And that’s found its way to a press conference.

Other snippets from the press conference were that there were 61 new or probable cases with 2 people in serious condition and a further 12 also in hospital. Pretty soon, the entire New Zealand story on COVID-19 will be about two things: the border and the economy.

My local park had a relaxed pre Home-D feel about it this evening. Most people appeared ready to get back to normal life. What was being talked about today was the economic crisis that’s been created. This will almost certainly be the main conversation going forward, as we move to a more ordinary state of living and threat assessment.

Seven days! A whole full week and still going strong – felt a bit scratchy today – I think it was from too little sleep and non-stop video calls. A working from home challenge. And new ones will emerge. A friend tonight on a video glass of wine wondered how new people are integrated into the culture when everyone is working remotely. I’m not sure what the questions are on that one yet. But it’ll be a thing, with consultant methodology to go with it soon.

Eat ya veges!

Stephen

 

Day 6

Day 6

Today seemed lighter.

The sun shone all day, and work was busy, very busy from first thing until about 7pm. But there were walks for exercise and more freedom. We can now buy “essential” appliances, which means The Warehouse partially got their way. In other big announcements the Supermarkets will be permitted to open on Easter Sunday in a first, and we were warned not to flush “Wet Wipes” down the toilet!  Apparently they’re causing problems to the wastewater system, presumably that they weren’t causing prior to the Lockdown. Come to think of it I’ve never seen Wet Wipes at work, so that seems logical.

Despite the flashing red banners on every news site, breathlessly giving us advance notice of today’s COVID-19 developments, there wasn’t really much. 58 actual or probable new infections, but we were warned that the number would be greater when the increased testing comes through.  And  I guess all statistics, in every country are about who’s been tested.

The two statistics that probably aren’t so dependent on testing are those poor folk in serious condition, and deaths. They’re both still at, respectively, 2 and 1 in New Zealand.

Another figure came out today: 14,000 being the number of deaths we could expect without measures. At the time of the Lockdown it was 80,000, so we’re moving in a positive direction on predictions. I assume the Lockdown is a stunning success so far. Maybe it is!

Talk of the economic crisis increased today. My prediction is that before long the crisis will be talked of more or less only as an economic and social one. Long after the virus is beaten, we’ll be debating, suffering and trying to grapple with the new reality.

I received a sobering email from Air New Zealand’s CEO which reads “it is clear that the Air New Zealand which emerges from Covid-19 will be a much smaller and largely domestic airline with limited international services to keep supply lines open for the foreseeable future.” Welcome back NAC. Only a few weeks ago, it was discussing the launch in October of direct flights to New York. I found it a bit sad actually. I’m missing my regular flights and as a long term customer and shareholder, I’ll remain loyal and hopeful. Go Air New Zealand!

So it’s a sobering long term picture, which we’ll get through in time, but it will probably be a lot longer than we were all told to expect when the Lockdown was enforced.

So, for us individually, good humour, love and show some compassion to your neighbour, say hello on your walk to others – it’s a medical problem, we’re not North Korea – and continue to practice good mindfulness and breathing. Slow breaths in and longer – double the length – breaths out.

I’m hopeful that when I look back at this blog about wet wipes, published on April Fools’ Day, that we’ll go “hey they got us bad that day!

Stephen