The Proverbial Hamster

The Proverbial Hamster

I was talking to a friend and client the other morning over video conferencing, of course, and he asked me “how I was finding the lockdown?”. Whenever someone uses the words lockdown, I cannot help but make the association to the film Shawshank redemption and prisoners, being confined to their cells after a riot, or even, to avoid one.

I would not say or suggest lockdown has been a riot for me, within a humorous context; however, it has had me laughing at myself frequently. Having spent the last thirty plus years working in organisations without taking a sick day, it is surprising how programmed the guilt can be if I decide to take the afternoon off, or to indulge in a glass of wine in the afternoon. Having a certain level of freedom and an ability to choose has been liberating as a lesson, even when it clashes with expectations, ambitions, and imposed views; whether your own or those of someone else.

Of course I am grateful and fortunate to be fit and healthy, never has the importance of ones health and the avoidance of any virus been so present peoples minds. I am also grateful that I have the means to explore the innovations in technology that has made it simple, perhaps not easy for all, but to work from home. Taking the opportunity to reflect in my garden, I have questioned whether technology and social media, will be the panacea to all future difficulties and whether it could be the creator of some hidden ones.

Like so many people I have fully embraced shopping online during the lockdown, even to the extent of getting up early to ensure my food delivery slot, “why risk going out”?. Whilst Amazon has been the hidden messiah of online consumerism, I could not help but reflect on our friends in the high street. The argument that outdated models and lack of innovation should lead to their closures and the self-filling prophecy that the high street is dead, seems to be unfolding.

As Governments around the world grapple with a new form of Covid quantitive easing or CQE, and talk of public debt climbing, which really means our debt to them via taxes is rising as who else will pay the piper. There is now a focus on growth, consumerism and build, build, build, to stimulate the economy; Innovation through Keynesian economics… yet the clash of who and how to pay remains. The unearthing of new jobs, and placing people into work, are based on the foundations of an old economy, using the same economic models, the same thinking, is perhaps, like reintroducing the concept that herd immunity as a good strategy for Covid 19.

Change is inevitable, and my approach can also change. Perhaps the Italian philosophy of “Il dolce far Niente” or the sweetness of doing nothing, should be my new personal mantra. That is not to suggest I should actually do nothing, rather I should recognise that doing a job and doing meaningful work are not the same thing. I recognise that work and life after lockdown will be different and in the present, setting goals should be momentarily short. Why? As lockdown has meant that living in the moment and setting mini goals has never seen more important even if they are not work related.

A “rebel without a cause” star James Dean said, “Dream like you will live forever, live if you will die today” Perhaps Il dolce far Niente should be the aspirational goal; as to live this philosophy after lockdown is over seems to require a massive amount of self discipline and self reliance, and that reduces the need for dependancy on others and perhaps increases my personal choices.

Perhaps tongue in cheek, creating the ten C’s is my answer, as who knows what is on the other side of lockdown.

1 - Control

“I accept that the day to day responsibility for my life, is mine to control through my conscious choices. I know there is a difference between my sensory experience and my linguistic response to it. I know that my personal experience and therefore my choices change with the shortening or widening of the gap between my actions and the sensory experience. This allows me to move closer to the cause and in controlling myself through thought, word and deed, whilst moving away from the effects that I personally endure when control is lost.

2 - Conformity

“I recognise that surrendering to the conformity of others without questioning why I am doing it, has always seemed, like living my life as someone else. Ultimately, I believe it limits my freedom to choose.” I am not certain that the experience of herd mentality, is the way to go. Who am I if I have to be like, or liked by someone else, but can’t like myself, especially if authenticity is to be believed and implemented. Conforming for the greater good has to sit with my own ethics, values and beliefs and not because there is social pressure.

3 - Consumerism

“I know that consumerism is merely an economic concept, a questionable illusion that imposes a belief on me that suggests I should keep consuming goods to improve my life. The thought that by continual consumption will create innovation and move me personally towards economic growth is nonsensical to me. At a simplistic level, I look at my life now and ask myself whether more stuff is going to change my life and move me towards personal freedom? I feel that the flip side of this argument is that consumerism will lead me to the depletion of my resources whether natural and otherwise. It could lead to my degradation and perhaps create mental health issues, through higher debt levels and an unsustainable life irrespective of Covid 19.

4 - Credit (and Debt)

“I recognise that at a personal level they are the same thing, irrespective of the semantics, because they both create a set of circumstances and a dependancy that will enslave you to do, or to commit to, someone else’s whim and you give them power over you and your choices. It is a quick way to keep yourself from personal freedom” 5 - Cash

“Cash is king, so save it.” Pay yourself first, always buy things that create wealth, spending it on things and stuff keeps you in the points above. At a personal level I am not responsible for the economic output or creating value for others. I am only responsible for adding value to me and I know that for me the road to personal freedom is access to cash or at least income and capital.

6 - Compounding

Building capital is secret to financial freedom well, at least the income from that capital is at a personal level. The concept of compounding in simple terms is what you need for your saved cash over time. Finding the appropriate savings and or investment products to do this is important with the recognition that taxes and fees are likely to have the biggest impact on my ability to compound my cash. The simple rule, is the rule of 72 that says basically says that at 7% net return my cash doubles every 10 years. I need to consider volatility and risk especially as cash is presently running at almost zero. Asset allocation will also be important for me to consider when managing returns and further consideration of alternative and real assets is a consideration. I remind myself that the system is heavily waited to the rich and access to meaningful products is constricted until I have some level of capital.

7 - Cut off

I am willing to unplug from social media and recognise how it can become an addiction. I have personal discipline and the freedom to choose when to use it or not. My addiction is recognisable when I am compelled to go on social media and feel a chemical change or negative sensation that takes away my choices. I respond and feel bad or anxious and recognise that my justifications for my insistence to use it are excuses and freedom to choose has gone.

8 - Communications

I recognise technology and innovation helps me with personal choices and freedom. It is a positive thing in my life and gives me freedom to work from home with autonomy and allows effective and efficient working patterns. This of course is provided I remember it is a tool, it doesn’t own me, it is an enabler to allow me to change. To generate more flexibility and freedom rather than an alternative method to get myself to work longer hours. I also recognise that technology companies are businesses and they have a vested interest in keeping everyone including me, playing their game, promoting their causes and playing by their rules for which I know I have a choice to play or not.

9 - Connection

Even though self-dependency is a requirement, I recognise that there is something bigger than myself, I am part of a larger eco system. Calibration to this system is imperative to enhance my true sensory experience. As the saying goes ‘ stop and smell the roses’ actually is not about smelling the roses, it is about taking in the full experience of see their beauty, the feel of the petals, the smell of them, as well as, the enjoyment of the setting they are in, whilst keeping out all other thoughts in that moment through conscious focus.

10 - Commitment

“Simply put I must commit to the new life, the new philosophy and personal freedom, refuse to allow others to impose their beliefs, values, and habits on me, as I promise not to impose mine on them, I know my reality is my own and accept that I must make it meaningful if only to me”.

Perhaps the proverbial hamster might need a new wheel to run on, or perhaps he just won’t get back on at all.

Stay safe and enjoy your freedom.

Nick Savastano

Founder, Beyond Thinking Limited