HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF THE NON-SENSE

by 
Johannes Mahler

Media has taken over and the coronavirus is on everybody's radar but the real challenge might be just ahead of us. Do everything that is important and emerging right now but don´t take your eyes off the follow-on effects in your decision making process. 

It's most likely the geopolitical, macroeconomic and the climactic ecological causes that are going to be “the real concern.” There are systemic existential risk experts that do a way better job of explaining those causes then we ever could, that's why we listed some valuable resources down below.

In the following article we are going to provide you with a useful map to analyze the current situation, so you can assess where you are right now and what lays ahead of you.

The tools & mental frameworks we are addressing in this article are inspired by Jamie Wheal, the executive director of the Flow Genome Project. Jamie has specialized in training people who are constantly exposed to extreme conditions, from the NAVY Seals over extreme sports athletes to top executives. Over the last weeks he’s been in direct contact with Harvard epidemiologists and existential risk experts and a valuable guidance.

1) Analyze the Situation

What’s it gonna be: 9/11, World War II, Black death or the end of humanity?

Throughout history humanity has survived some devastating crises and challenges and the one we are facing right now is not going to eclipse humanity but one thing is certain we're not going back to business as usual.

In order to address the seriousness of the challenge ahead, take a step back and have a look at the bigger picture. 

What time frame would you place the current happenings in?

Your assessment should give you a basic reference point in order to evaluate the next steps.

The emotional rollercoaster called human

Take a minute to think back to two or three weeks ago. 
What was your sense how the future will unfold and how has it changed over the past few weeks? 

The exponential effects of the challenge ahead combined with the massive consequences have surely impacted you and sent you on an emotional rollercoaster over the past weeks.

By using Lisa Feldman Barret's model of interoception you can take a look at how these changes influence your own view on reality.

Interoception is our capacity to feel and witness the environment inside ourselves, from the beat of our heart to the rhythm of our breath to the tenseness in our muscles.

Her thesis is that we are only ever in one of 4 places:
We are either active, meaning we have activation energy and go outwards and take action or passive so we retreat and go inwards inside ourselves. And both of those can be influenced either positive or negative. From there we assign emotions.

To make this easier to understand we can take a look at how different organizations are going about the situation right now and where they fit in this model.

Active-Negative: 
Fridays for Future - Those are the ones who have come to a negative conclusion,are active about it and want to address it. In this example they are rallying in the streets for change.

Active-Positive:
Singularity University - Typically the ones who say we can invent and solve our way out of this. They are positive about the situation and try their best to be active about it.

Negative-Passive
Deep Adaptation - Those who come to a negative assessment, stay on the inside and believe the time of changing is done and the only thing we can do right now is to accept it and get right with our relationship to the world. 

Positive-Passive:
Self Help Community - Those who are wired positive and change their internal ways in the hope to create external change.

This is an easy way to map most responses to the challenges we are facing and what's happening in the world right now. When you place some of the news organizations or people in your environment in any of those quadrants you can understand the emotional state they are coming from, including your own!

The question is which quadrant are you in / with which organization do you identify the most?

This can be quite a fluid process depending on what your news feed looks like every morning but it should give you a basic idea of where your actions & reactions are coming from. 

Once you understand the environmental influences that guide your decision making, you can start to separate your emotions from your decisions in order to think clearly & and act accordingly.

The Tale of the Hopeless Optimist

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”Friedrich Nietzsche

Victor Frankl describes in his book “Man's Search for meaning” the horrible experiences of Auschwitz and what they taught him about life, love, and our search for meaning. When all seems hopeless, why is it that some people push forward while others subside. 

Depending on what is showing up in your newsfeed you could either be surrounded with overwhelming optimism or extreme pessimism.

This is why we want to introduce a concept called the Stockdale Paradox. It was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, named after James Stockdale, naval officer and former Vietnam prisoner of war.

Stockdale was held captive as a prisoner for over seven years. During this period, he was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive but he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.

Unsurprisingly Stockdale reported that the pessimists didn't make it out alive. In a conversation with Collins for the book Good to Great Stockdale talks about the ones who didn't make it out of the camp and against popular belief those were the optimists

C: "Who didn't make it out?" 
S: "Oh, that's easy," "The optimists."
C: "The optimists? I don't understand"
S: "The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say,'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

The takeaway: Be ruthlessly realistic about short-term reality while remaining relentlessly optimistic about long term possibility. 

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2) Pareto Preparation

The 20% of preparation that saves 80% of your ass!

The Pareto Principle for many known as the 80/20 Rule, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In your situation you want to figure out what are those 20% of action steps to take right now.

What are the fundamental things you need when shit really hits the fan? 

Those are the things that you should´ve had anyways to be somewhat self sufficient and resilient in terms of access to clean water, food security, shelter, electricity & sustainable communication ability and medical safety.

A good way of thinking about it is: if it's repurposable or donatable why don´t just buy it NOW.

Worst case scenario, you didn't need it this time and you can give it to somebody who does. Best case scenario, you actually needed it and are grateful you did.

“Better to be a Warrior in a Garden than a Gardener in a War” - Unknown

If you have a hard time thinking about what to buy just make a list and run it through this simple structure. You just sort the supplies / objects you are thinking to buy cost, is it high or low cost and value, meaning would it actually help me a lot or just be a nice to have.

The 80/20 Pareto Care Package: (some suggestions)

These are just some of the obvious suggestions in order to sustain self sufficiency in any harsh environment.

  • Food / Water (4-6 Weeks)
  • Water filter / Purification Tablets
  • Medical Supplies
  • Hand Crank Emergency Radio
  • Rechargeable Batteries / Mini Solar Light Panel
  • Bug Out Bags

Valuable resources for further sense-making: 

Flow Genome Project (Jamie Wheal)
Situational Assessment: Right Now (Jordan Hall)
Mind viruses during a pandemic (Daniel Schmachtenberger)
The Sober Math Everyone Must Understand about the Pandemic (Jason S Warner)
The Implications of Hitting the Hard 0% Interest Rate Floor (Ray Dalio)
We’re not going back to normal (MIT Technology Review)
Hammer and the Dance: Containment  (Tomas Pueyo) 

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