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 ,Posted On March 31 , 2021

Posted on March 31 , 2021

Lessons from COVID-19 Part 5

Lessons From COVID-19 - Part 5

The most common feedback I’ve received from these blogs has been - while these lessons are informative in the abstract, how do they help practically? What can you offer for my daily life and my pocket-book? Fair point! So first let me take this opportunity to clarify something: these lessons are not just those I learnt during my bout with COVID but also those learned throughout my life on which my fight with COVID forced me to reflect. So let me spend today with a lesson I rediscovered in hospital. This lesson, first learned nearly forty years ago and at some point forgotten, is not only a boon to my daily life but has scaling potential from individual wallets to the world at large, ideally benefitting countless communities beyond myself. Naturally, the springboard for such a universal lesson would be the universal component of our living existence: water.

 

Lesson #5 –Keep it simple Stupid! (KISS) … 

 

The Water Cooler

While the treatment of my illness in Moscow’s Hospital 52 was exceptional, and I have nothing but praise for the Russian medical staff, their facilities and ancillary services left much to be desired. Chief among their shortcomings was the scarcity of food and potable water. Though, curiously, this apparent inconvenience turned out to be a most potent catalyst for thought. 

At any given moment, there were two theoretical solves if I got thirsty: get water from the fridge, which was chronically empty as it relied on my personal deliveries to be stocked (and the packages were chronically lost), or go to the water cooler at the end of the corridor. The hospital didn’t provide a means to retain water beyond a cup, but fortunately I had two empty water bottles in my backpack- the rare moment where sitting on trash pays off.                                               

A picture containing graphical user interface

Description automatically generatedSince my medicine made me especially dehydrated, I was going through the two bottles about every four hours. It quickly became a priority to refill them whenever necessary, often as late as 2:00 in the morning.

  From a distance this sounds trivial but I assure you it had a profound effect on my thinking and behavior. And surprisingly, instead of a thorn in my side it invited a series of welcome opportunities. 

  • Firstly, it gave me a purpose during those very lonely and sad days, so much so that I looked forward to my trips to the water cooler, especially during the quiet hours of the night.

  • Secondly, I discovered that the regular drinking of water kept my Blood Pressure (BP) at almost perfect levels, even on days I missed my daily medication. I’ve taken medication to manage my BP since my heart attack in 2007 for which I have three stents.   

  • Thirdly it kept me from drinking other beverages such as soda, concentrated juice etc.  It’s a common refrain these days that our food and drinks are oversaturated with sugar, but until my stay in the hospital I hadn’t made a proper habit of regularly drinking water as one should. Now I’d say that 90% of the time I’d prefer a glass of it over anything else. I have even reduced my previously sacred cups of tea to a scant once or twice a day having realized how simply conditioned I’d become. Years ago I’d been similarly conditioned to smoking two packs a day until my wife became pregnant with our first baby. I forced myself to quit, like many other parents, for the sake of the child. And just like drinking soda I had no idea how deep my conditioning had become until I got some distance from it. It’s amazing how passionately we can convince ourselves we need the nonessential, when in fact we’d be better off without it.

But the most important realization was saved for last. It came on the seventh morning in the hospital, my first shower in six days; six nights refamiliarizing myself with the taste of water and then finally, bathing in it, I had my Eureka moment:

The Path to prosperity is littered with artificial constraints, derailing us from our mission and often landing us in the land of poverty. 

The solutions to seemingly huge problems are actually quite simple, if we can just look beyond the artificial constraints that we develop throughout our lives.  A preference for soda over water; a rigid taste for gourmet food when our body craves basic nourishment; a longing for the massive validation of a mansion when a comfortable dwelling is all we really require.  Artificial constraints are unnecessary barriers, built and maintained in background thought, thereby wasting resources in upkeep and necessary navigation, when those resources could be put instead to progress and prosperity.

So then one wonders how and if we can extrapolate. For my money, the biggest crisis humanity currently faces is the infamous wealth gap between the 1% and the other 99. Health crises, environmental crises, geopolitical crises all lead through the wealth gap. A problem of unfathomable proportion, undoubtedly. But are there artificial constraints we can parse down? Can we perhaps illuminate a simple, elusive solution?

Absolutely, yes, but it necessarily requires the identification and definition of these artificial constraints, such that the 99% of us do not get derailed and can make smart decisions and remain on the path to prosperity.  Hence: these very Blogs. Sometimes getting on the path and then remaining on the path would require help.  Hence: HelpXchange.

The trouble with simple solutions is that while they are simple in theory they can be damn near impossible in implementation, especially when the implementation involves many people. It’s in our human nature to fixate on the worst-case-scenarios, such that our desperate attempts to guard against all eventualities become a paralyzing toxin. We often never get to even a dry-run of our solution. The problem of course persists. 

The remedy is not to ignore all possible dangers, but rather be aware of the threat of over-analysis, and establish boundaries. Moreover, keep in mind - now, at this moment, before the toxin sets in - that the boundaries against the over-analysis will yield more solution than the analysis itself. Internalize the boundaries as inoculation against paralysis. One of my sayings to my, High Level Mathematics students is:

    Don’t look for all the reasons why a problem can’t be solved but rather focus on two reasons why it must be solved.  If you have two good reasons (one is not enough) for solving a problem, Just Do It (please don’t sue me), and have the confidence that when you encounter problems you have the skills and resourcefulness to triumph.   

So to practice what I preach, I have started HelpXchange as vehicle for implementing the solution to “reducing the Gap between the 99% and the other 1%, NOT by redistribution but by helping the other 99% become prosperous, recognizing that “wealth is a zero sum game” is an artificial constraint.    

Alright. In the spirit of getting on with it, on-theme with an awareness of over-analysis, I will wrap up here, describing specific next steps in subsequent blogs, elaborating on a path to prosperity, and further identifying various artificial constraints. (Most people confuse the path to prosperity with the path to being rich.  This too is an artificial constraint!)

In my next post I will talk about “investing – path to prosperity or the road to poverty.” Suffice it to say that ‘investments’ is a broad term that can use some measured scrutiny. And I know there are still folks reading looking for pocket-book specific advice. I promise it’s coming.

My final saying for this blog : 

    “Neither you nor I can solve every problem, but together we can learn to solve any problem.”    

Next week,  I will explain how this can put money in everybody’s pocket. Thanks for reading. Please get vaccinated if you’re able and eligible.

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