We ran to find toilet paper.
We panicked when the stock market crashed in March.
We have never seen more fights on our Facebook news feeds.
And we never spent time alone and in isolation again.
It's safe to say that we will never forget in 2020. We've all been in great pain this year. I've learned that pain is one of life's best ways to teach us.
However, it's not free. You have to sit down and think to extract these gemstones.
That's why I thought for several hours as part of my annual planning.
I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from experiencing 2020.
1. Build your financial resilience
People think of money as a tool to buy things or experiences. This paycheck is rented out. This paycheck finances my next vacation!
One area people don't think about is their financial resilience.
Shit always happens. Robustness is your ability to deal with the unexpected. It is your "buffer" against the suckers of life that hits you. This is the "safety margin" for your personal finances.
We are all familiar with micro-emergencies like replacing your tires or having your pet operated on. An emergency fund means you don't have to go into debt to deal with it.
Most people, however, are not prepared enough for macro, black swan, and holy shit scenarios that are going on with the world. And these “one-off” crises occur more frequently than we think.
I was born in 1984. Since then there has been:
- The dot com crash
- The great recession of 2008
- The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic
There are many more, depending on where you live. Hurricane Katrina ruined many lives in Louisiana.
We will soon overcome this pandemic. But get ready: There will be more crises in our life. We don't know what they will look like or how devastating they will be.
We underestimate the impact of the macro events. I remember having a friend in college who didn't believe in saving money.
If he had an emergency, he could always work extra shifts in the restaurant. But what if he had an accident and couldn't do any physical work?
Or what if the state made it illegal for restaurants to offer dine-in services? This is the reality we faced in 2020.
I have always believed in financial "defense". The pandemic made me realize how much more important it is than I originally thought.
Here are a few examples of building greater financial resilience:
- Accurate savings on both your personal and business accounts. (I have 3 months of expenses on my staff. If I actually had an emergency, I have credit cards or I can write a distribution check from my S companies. I don't like my money standing around doing nothing.)
- Insurance that goes beyond the bare minimum. We have high coverage of our cars because the Atlanta drivers are insane lunatics.
- Safety nets in the event of death. Do you have life insurance? Do you have a trust and will you establish yourself? Does your family have access to your money if something should happen to them?
- Avoid unnecessary debt.
- Multiple sources of income.
- Have a diversified portfolio. (Domestic stocks, international stocks, BTC / ETH, real estate)
- Some countries have unstable governments and economies. Have a game plan in case shit hits the fan.
It is not easy. Financial robustness costs money. You have to make some tough choices and sacrifices.
It means not having that "dream wedding" if you have to go into debt for it. It means not buying too much home, although the bankers and real estate agents are encouraging you to do so (I wonder why).
It means living with roommates for a couple of years to repay your student loan.
Robustness is the difference between throwing a punch and dodging and throwing a counter blow.
2. Do you eat too much intellectual junk food?
Eating junk food is bad for your physical health. No arguments there. But how many times have you thought about the information you are consuming?
The ban took place and it was “OK” to join Netflix.
My Facebook news feed was full of trash. Too much politics, masks versus anti-masks, etc. Every time I logged on to Facebook it felt like "spinning the wheel" of emotion.
I noticed that I was slowly losing focus. I was more easily distracted. It was easy to blame the lockdown, but I realized I was consuming too much "mental junk food".
That is why I made an effort to increase the type of information I was consuming.
- I removed several social media apps on my phone
- My newsfeed was removed with Newsfeed Eradicator
- "Entertaining" shows
- Video games
- Quality podcasts
- It is more difficult to read books like Think, Fast, and Slow
In college I drank two cans of Coke every day. Then I gave up. I haven't had soda in over a decade. You could pay me $ 500 to drink a can and I wouldn't.
Now I'm trying to catch myself. I look at certain behaviors like a can of Coke and avoid them at all costs.
It is difficult to measure the impact of these changes. But I definitely feel more focused and have found that it is easier for me to complete more pomodoros.
Think about it.
Imagine spending an hour a day scrolling Instagram. Instead, replace it with a one-hour podcast for your downtime.
How much better are you after a year? After a decade?
3. People are dependent on influence and status
We have always been status-oriented.
Have you heard of the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses"? It's been around since the early 1900s.
It means you should be as good as your friends.
That feeling has increased tenfold because of social media.
Back then, people were just trying to impress their friends and neighbors. Now it feels like everyone is trying to impress everyone. (And Louis Vuitton stock has done tremendously because of it.)
I remember when the lockdown started I made a joke on my fiancé, "Oh no, how are Instagrammers supposed to show how amazing their lives are when they can't travel?"
People were allowed to stay home and be "boring". Still, they found ways to signal. It doesn't matter whether it's "throwback" photos of yourself or travel.
Why the addiction to status?
It boils down to uncertainty. Social media has made us more insecure than ever. It's so easy to see how "great" everyone else's life is and feel down about it. Then there is this pressure to keep up.
There is also this innate desire to "get noticed". Nobody wants to be seen as average or mediocre. Some people use social media to scream to the world …
”I am not basic. Look at me eating this amazing donut !!!!”
How does this apply to business?
People are desperate for influence and status. How can you position your product or service in a way that increases its status?
Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, luxury car companies, etc. That's pretty much their entire business model.
And it works. Giving people status means higher profit margins.
How can you link your product to the status?
- When I lived in NYC I loved going to Cha Cha Matcha. Her branding and store designs were super Instagram ready. Everyone wants to be seen as "interesting".
Your average person cannot travel to the Turks or have a Hermes handbag like their favorite influencer. But they can have the same drink or desserts as them!
It's no longer "cool" when someone can access it. Think high-end nightclubs in Las Vegas.
You can create limited edition or drop models like Sneakers / Supreme.
The clubhouse is becoming increasingly popular. You can't just sign up. Someone has to invite you. There is an immediate status there, which depends on who accepted you and how early you joined.
- Influencer. Influencer marketing is still in its infancy. Influencers are the new brands.
Interested in more?
Read:Increase Your Prices: 5 Strategies Luxury Brands Are Using to Increase Their Perceived Value
4th investment for 2021
According to a chart from the Federal Reserve Bank, 35% of all existing US dollars have been printed in the past 10 months.
There were government bailouts and several stimulus checks. Somebody has to pay for it. The government will continue to create more money.
This affects everyone as the world is run on US dollars.
Here is a simple example of inflation:
Let's say there are 1000 rare Pokémon cards in the world that you own several of them. The company is making more of these rare Pokémon cards.
There are now 2,000 rare Pokémon cards. Congratulations, your Pokémon cards are now worth less.
The same goes for US dollars. As the government creates more dollars, the ones we have are worth less.
Even if you put cash into a savings account, it will lose money due to inflation.
What to do?
The protection is relatively easy.
- Don't sit around with too much money. You need to figure out the right amount for an emergency fund.
- Invest in stocks and real estate. You will beat inflation.
- I'm not that keen on precious metals. I think there are greater returns in Bitcoin.
My personal playbook for 2021.
- Maximize all retirement accounts. SEP IRA, IRA, HSA. Maximize my lady's 401k. All of my investments go into index funds. 75% USA and 25% INTL.
- Everything else goes into the average cost of Bitcoin. I find it difficult not to let Bitcoin make up more than 15% of my portfolio.
Warren Buffet believes in investing in your core competencies.
I don't have an advantage in stocks, so I invest in Vanguard index funds. I have no real estate advantage, so I don't own any property other than REITs.
Could I learn more about stocks and real estate? For sure. But that's the time I could spend becoming a better business owner and marketer.
I'm a 2/10 in stocks or real estate knowledge. I suck in these areas. That's okay for me.
Let's say I'm an 8/10 marketer.
I'll be making a lot more money taking my 8/10 marketing skills to 9/10 than I could improve my stock or real estate knowledge from 2/10 to 5/10.
There are asymmetrical rewards for being the best in the world at something.
In any case, this is not financial advice. I only share what I do.
5. The ingredients for mental health
I consider myself an introvert. I was a little excited when the lockdown was announced.
“Ah yes, a break from the people. I can catch up in video games. "
But those times of isolation were tough. I don't know how I would have done it without my fiancé or my cat.
I actually had to sit down and create different routines for my sanity. Here are some of the things I came up with.
- Go outside and get sunlight. After lunch, I went for a walk every day.
- Avoid gluttony. It was so easy to consume junk food and media. So I set some limits on my consumption.
- Daily exercise. I had a routine where I went to Jiujitsu and lifted weights. I started running more and doing yoga at home.
- Get in touch with people proactively. I've made the rule of talking to someone on the phone every day.
- Avoid negative news.
- Daily journaling.
Even if things get "normal" again, I will stick to many of these routines.
Everyone gets more stressed. The news makes money by getting attention. The easiest way to get more exposure is to focus on more click-bait and emotionally-motivated articles.
And social media has multiplied a hundredfold over the past ten years.
So the ability to stay calm is a competitive advantage. Keep calm and you will be able to make decisions with logic.
6. Now plant the seeds
Many companies exploded due to the pandemic.
The zoom level increased by leaps and bounds.
Rogue Fitness was sold out.
I've seen so many of my favorite yoga and cooking channels receive millions of additional views.
Here's the thing:
The zoom started in 2011.
Rogue Fitness was founded in 2007.
The YouTube channels started years ago.
If you bet on these trends now, you are just catching up.
This cliché is overused, but it's so true: "Skate where the puck goes, not where it was."
Think about the trends for the next five to ten years and plant your seeds now.
You may be wondering, "How can I predict future trends?"
The good news is that there are plenty of tools and companies out there based on it.
Read More: The 6 Best Tools to Discover Business Trends
7. Temporal inequality
Everyone is talking about “wealth inequality”. I think a lot about "newspaper equality".
I was at a traffic light in 2010. I saw a number of people waiting at the bus stop. The coin laundry beyond was overcrowded.
It was then that I first thought about the concept of "newspaper equality". The people at the bus stop don't have a car. Those in the coin laundry do not have a washing machine at home. I save a lot of time because I have a car and a washing machine.
And that's why I've mostly worked remotely for the past 13 years. I didn't want to commute to work for hours on end. I saved thousands of hours by not commuting.
Now everyone has discovered the possibilities of remote work and most employees do not want to go back. Unfortunately, some offices will force their workers to return.
They have these leases that they can't get out of. The old leaders think: "This is how it was always done!" Or these companies never had the formal training to understand how to work efficiently remotely.
People consider salary, vacation time, and health care as part of the compensation package. It is equally important to be able to work remotely. If I had a job, I would even consider cutting wages to work remotely.
Technology has accelerated. The culture is a little different. Think about how you can buy more time.
- I hate meetings. It is more efficient to send people voice memos or detailed tasks.
- I rarely shop because of Amazon Fresh.
- I bought a couple of kettlebells to work out at home. That saves me time going to the gym.
- 95% of my purchases are online.
- I use technology to automate tasks. Zapiers, IFTTT, Apple Shortcuts etc. It drives me crazy that it can take 5 minutes to set something up and save me hours in my life.
- I jot myself a note every time I'm upset. This is a signal for me to delegate or set up a system for this.
- Software. I'm so much faster with emails with SuperHuman. I set up text macros with TextExpander. The right software is an advantage.
None of this should come as a surprise as this is a younger and tech-savvy crowd.
But there will still be a lot of people attuned to their own way. You will be at a time disadvantage compared to everyone else.
Now people are taking remote work and ordering everything online.
I think what are the newer methods of creating newspaper equality for myself?
8. Influencers are underestimated
Influencer 1.0: You make money from AdSense earnings. Sponsorship offers. And maybe a couple of goods.
Influencer 2.0: You start brands in what they are famous for.
Michelle Phan is an OG beauty expert and now owns Em Cosmetics.
Emma Chamberlain is known for her coffee addiction, which is why she started Chamberlain Coffee.
Influencer 3.0: Now we see some influencers grabbing the attention of mainstream celebrities.
They may not be that "famous", but I would argue that people are far more engaged and connected to them than traditional mainstream celebrities.
Some of them have enough influence to do what they want.
Mr Beast makes YouTube videos viral. He started a fast food chain called Mr Beast Burgers. He's not a cook.
The Paul Brothers. They make more money boxing than 99% of boxers … but they are not "boxers".
The next wave will be alcohol, IMO.
It has a high profit margin + is mostly image based + has lots of “pipes” for plug-n-play.
We already see this with The Rocks Tequila, George Clooney's Tequila and Conor McGregor's Whiskey.
Wait for a TikTok party to own-label their version of White Claw. Or a female influencer labels her own red wine.
Influencers are only getting more valuable anyway. People are starting to look for traffic sources outside of Facebook, and influencers are viable.
There is a chance to find the sweet spot. Someone on YouTube or Instagram may have raised prices since being around.
But maybe another influencer has gone viral on TikTok in the past few months. Their value has not yet been "tapped".
9. Outstanding in attention economy
It becomes more difficult to capture and maintain someone's attention.
Right now you are reading my article. I compete with email popups, loose messages, your smartphone and the various vortices of distraction. Now imagine trying to keep someone from Gen Z's attention going.
You don't have to be an influencer or media company to get attention. Brands are starting to step up their organic diversification efforts away from Facebook.
The "old way" of creating media should therefore be consistent. Little did they know which article or video of yours could appeal to the audience.
Things are different now. There is more content to consume than ever before. Every platform has an algorithm and they send their distribution to "Blockbusters."
Blockbusters is a mental model that I got from a book about the entertainment industry. When given a choice, people tend to turn to the most exaggerated productions. Before the pandemic, I wasn't interested in going to the movies to see a small independent production.
I would only be interested in seeing either a Marvel, Star Wars, or a Christopher Nolan movie.
This applies to online content. People can tell if an item is outsourced or half-hearted.
Do you remember when I mentioned clout and status? Sharing good quality articles or videos with others signals that you have access to good content.
If you want to better understand attention, study the YouTube landscape. It's very competitive. Here is a framework for how I think about it.
- You can leave Extreme. Do something unique that no one has done before. Mark Rober created a glitter bomb trap for porch pirates. This is unique content that no one else can duplicate.
- You can go with Quality production. I watch cooking videos every day. It is unbearable when I have to look at poor quality production.
There are hundreds of videos about cooking a steak on YouTube. However, their algorithms prefer the "best videos" because of the higher playback time, higher engagement, etc.
I know when I look at a recipe from Binging with Babish or Joshua Weissman that I'm not going to waste my time.
- Unique ideas. Your audience learns machines. You want to learn New Things.
Nobody would care if I wrote a post titled "10 Ways To Get Started With Affiliate Marketing". They have unique experience and unique talents. Show them.
- Unique personalities. That's why Joe Rogan is the best podcaster in the world. There is no one like Joe Rogan. His opinions are different from the mainstream.
Nobody is interested in listening to someone who has a 9 to 5 job, likes to watch the office, and likes bacon. You are just like everyone else.
Now that I think about it, unique personalities are pretty much modern day cult leaders.
10. Changes and pivot points
For some companies, they couldn't continue as usual. Either regulations made everything difficult or demand was drastically reduced.
It felt like 10 years of acceleration in 10 weeks.
I've learned that no matter how bad things get, there is always a "best move".
Some examples of pivot points:
- Uber's transportation business was hit during the pandemic. They stepped up their efforts on their UberEats program and bought Postmates for $ 2.65 billion.
- All have stopped these travel plans. Airlines and hotels suffered as a result. Airbnb has lowered its booking rates. They looked at the dates and found that people were booking Airbnb & # 39; s within driving distance.
Basically, people were tired of being stuck at home all day and wanted to travel closer. That's why Airbnb adjusted their algorithms to show more local stays.
You have also started a new category for “virtual experiences”.
- In some restaurants people could no longer dine. How could they make up some of this lost revenue? Some have created family-sized take-out options. Other created foods for freezing. Some even started selling raw materials and acted as additional grocery stores.
Life is not fair. Shit happens. We can only control how we react to situations.
An unforgettable year
The picture I have in my head in 2020 is that of bamboo.
"The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists." – Japanese proverb
I have conflicting feelings when people say they can't wait for things to get "normal" again.
In a way, things are going back to normal. Everyone was fucking scared after 9/11. But after a year people started flying again. The only thing that changed was that the airports became a thrill at TSA.
Within a year or two things will be "back to normal" once the vaccine is better distributed. People will go to concerts again and keep traveling.
But for me, I'll keep the 2020 lessons in my head.
Unfortunately, there will be more black swans in our lives. I will be prepared for it.
What did you learn in 2020?
Cover photo from Pixabay.