Coronavirus changed your life. Now what? How to create your future


You are social distancing. You are wearing a mask when you go out. You are working from home. You have extra food supplies. Now what?

Over the last six weeks, I've spent dozens of hours understanding the Coronavirus and the impact it will have on our lives in the coming months and years. Here's how I'm thinking about what comes next... (feel free to add your thoughts on how to prepare in the comments)

1. Map The Future Better With Mental Models

Most people right now are primarily tracking current events via mainstream and social media platforms. They're getting constant updates on case counts, viral spread, politics, stimulus updates, etc.

In my experience, consuming information like this can quickly lead to feeling overwhelm and actually not lead to change in day-to-day actions. So what's the point then?

What I've found profoundly helpful though is creating better and better mental models of:

  • What is happening
  • What the second-order effects will be
  • What the potential future scenarios are? Probabilities of each? Impact of each? Time-frames?
  • What would need to happen in order for social distancing to be relaxed
  • How institutions like the WHO, governments, and the media react to unprecedented events
  • How individuals respond to change

For example, I co-created this second-order effects document, which has now been read tens of thousands of times. It tracks the health, cultural, and economic consequences of the virus across families, technology, businesses, government, and the economy. The consequences are both surprising and far-reaching.

By going through this process of modeling, I realized very early on that the Coronavirus wasn't just a temporary blip. It was going to last a long time and lead to a new normal. This realization led me to...

  • Stop waiting. So far, our online education company has not been impacted. Now, I'm just assuming it's a matter of time before it is. As a result, we're "pre-adapting" so that when the change comes, we'll be as ready as we can be.
  • Start experimenting. We've 10x'd the amount of experimentation we're doing at our company. As events and education moves online, there will be an incredible amount of experimentation that happens before a few best practices and formats are solidified. So, we're attempting to find what works.

Having a model of what's happening also helps filter the news. If I come across something in the news that's surprising, I use that information to update my mental models. This then updates my understanding of what will happen in the future.

In addition, by creating a mental model of what's happening in the world today, you create an "asset" you can bring with you to other situations further down in life. For example, as a result of going through this modeling process, I have a much deeper understanding of how technology, government, science, and culture are all interconnected. I also have a much deeper understanding of how we humans react to uncertainty and how those reactions can be mediated by personality types.

In short, without mental models, people tend to have shorter time horizons and more of uncertainty/confusion. With mental models, people to tend to have longer time horizons and more clarity.

The models you create will always be wrong. But the goal is to make them less and less wrong as you update them with more information. Having a better map of reality serves as a foundation for everything else.

If you're interested in going deeper on mental models, I recommend our Mental Model Club.

2. Make Yourself "Antifragile" At Every Level

The #1 book I'm finding helpful right now is Antifragile. In fact, I find it so helpful that I'm re-reading it for the third time.

This book introduces the idea of antifragility. The idea that many systems in our world actually grow stronger when they are stressed rather than weaker. In fact, antifragile systems become weak without stress. The simplest example of antifragility is our body. The more we stress our body with exercise (up to a certain point) the stronger we get.

In the book, author Nassim Taleb suggests that we can make systems more antifragile by creating buffers. For example, if you have $100,000 in the bank and you lose $10,000, you will be ok. You can look for the best opportunities and have a long time horizon. But, if you only have $1,000 in the bank, and you lose $10,000, life will get difficult fast. You will need to put 100% of your attention on getting money in the door. This might mean taking worse opportunities or paying high interest via credit cards. Getting "squeezed" causes us to mortgage our future so we can survive in the short-term.

So, what we can do now is start to build buffers across our entire life to the best of our ability...

  • Build deeper relationships with loved ones so you're there for each other as the stress increases.
  • Get healthier than you have ever been (diet, exercise, sleep, micronutrients), so that you can stay positive and high-energy through difficult times.
  • Save as much money as you can in case your income disappears.
  • Learn like crazy (focus on mental models and other key skills)

Everyone has different means. What matters is that you do the best with where you are. This extra money, knowledge, relationships, and health will help you weather whatever happens next.

We're likely going to go through a period of rapid change and uncertainty for 1-2 years . So, get ready to fight a war, not a battle.

3. Prepare For The Worst Psychologically

“I would argue that it is not the recognizable, readily apparent external losses—of one’s health, home, community, or a loved one—that define an experience as traumatic, but rather the internal disorganization and disintegration that follows from our psychological unpreparedness. Traumas are shocks to our inner worlds.” — Ronnie Janoff-Bulman (psychologist)

This quote captures a fundamental idea in psychology called psychological preparedness.

In a nutshell, psychologists have noticed that some people experience stress and crumble. And other people experience stress and grow.

They found that one of the keys for the people who grow is that they had more accurate schemas of the world.

If somebody has a more accurate schema of reality, if a tragedy happens, it's still very painful, but it is not unexpected and it doesn't shatter their reality.

In many ways, the pandemic isn't creating more uncertainty. It's just making the uncertainty and randomness that life and society already have more obvious.

It is way better to assume and prepare for the worst than assume everything will be ok. Unfortunately, for the Coronavirus, this means that we may lose loved ones without being able to be with them in the hospital. It means that we may not be able to memorialize them with an in-person funeral.

In last month's mental model in the Mental Model Club, we did a whole mastery manual on the topic of antifragility / psychological preparedness.

4. Look For New Opportunities


When I say opportunity, I don't just mean financial. I also mean opportunities to make a difference, to educate others, to be a leader, to be healthy, to reconnect with your life purpose, learn new skills, start a business, etc.

From this holistic perspective on opportunity, this may be the best opportunity of our lifetime. Just believing there is opportunity primes you to be constantly looking for it across all areas of your life. Therefore you will be 10X more likely to find it.

No one has a crystal ball. No one knows exactly what the next year or two holds. But these four steps will help you thrive no matter what happens.