What I Learned from the Pandemic

I wanted to make a more personal video this week and just talk to you guys. We have just been through a worldwide pandemic. It has been hard and difficult on everybody, and a lot of people have lost their lives. We are at a point where vaccinations are starting to roll out. Communities are starting conversations on how to bring their economies back to life, and businesses are reopening. I thought it was a good time to reflect and talk about what I learned from the pandemic.

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Something everyone experienced during the pandemic was isolation. I know that I did. People went from office environments where they are constantly interacting with people, interacting with their communities, and attending social events to and people were suddenly isolated at home. I spent a lot of time by myself, meditating, doing yoga, journaling, and just thinking.

The way we do business has changed forever. A lot of people lost their jobs. Many of us spent time working from home. Everyone was suddenly forced into a different way of doing things. Something I always believe is that, even in the worst situations, you can find something positive. That positive aspect may be simply that you become more aware and understanding. Whenever you go through a situation where you are pulled out of your normal routine, it allows you to take a step back and look at your life in a different way. Because you are removed from your normal workday, you are able to evaluate what is working and what is not. So thinking about the pandemic, what positive thing has come out of this horrible tragedy?

Last week I made a video on Goldman Sachs talking about worker’s rights. Workers at Goldman Sachs are required to work 98 hours per week. Since I have made that video, the leadership at Goldman Sachs have responded to all the bad press they have received, by sending baskets of snacks to their employees. Snacks? I think they are missing the point.

We have a problem in America. Businesses are taking advantage of their workers by requiring them to work long hours without any extra pay. It is not right. And it does not have to be that way.

I want to spend some time talking about the deeper problem. It is true that business leaders sending snack baskets to their exhausted employees is part of the problem. But that is not all the problem. Part of the problem is you. You are part of the problem and you do not even know it. You are allowing businesses to get away with this. I think people are miserable at work, and exhausted, but they secretly do not want the situation to change because a lot of people are work-a-holics.

Let me explain what is going on. Everyone experiences trauma in their childhood or later in life. I do not care what your background is, everyone experiences difficult times. Rather than deal with the pain, it is easier to cover it up. And people who are high performers cover it up with work. If you are working, you do not have to think about it. Plus, when you make money, it feels good. Working hard and getting all these accomplishments makes you feel good about yourself. You can point to your title on a business card and say “Look everybody, I am an accomplished person.” Then with all your money, you can engage in consumerism. You can buy a lot of things, which also makes you feel good. But actually what you are doing is working 100 hours a week to distract yourself from your own trauma.

Think about it. How many people start their day with uppers by drinking caffeine, and end their day with downers, by drinking alcohol? You are fueling yourself with chemicals to keep you running on this treadmill. But what you are really doing is running away from your own pain. This is psychotic, addictive behavior, and everyone acts this way. It is engrained into the culture of America. Our culture is built on a really unhealthy attitude about work.

This creates real problems for people. People are trying to make decisions on how to live their life. It is really hard to know what to do if you exist in a toxic environment. If you look at successful people like Elon Musk, he is out there saying that if you want to be successful you have to work 22 hours per day, and only sleep 2. And then you have other successful people like Jeff Bezos who say sleep is really important. So which one is it? How many hours should you sleep? How do you structure your life?

People end up doing what their job requires which is to work insane hours. And people do not complain because it distracts them from their own pain. The end result is frustration, exhaustion, depression, health problems, and suicide. You are running so hard to get away from your own trauma that you do not realize you are running in the opposite direction of what you really want. What you really want is happiness. To get that you need to run towards your trauma, and spend time dealing with your own insecurities, so you can feel at peace.

I believe that we can do better. The whole business community can be better. Let me provide an alternative. When you go to work it can be part of a well balanced life. You can be happy and healthy. When you are working, you can feel inspired and full of energy to bring value to your customer’s lives. Work can provide meaning and fulfillment. But in order for this to happen, you have to be content with yourself first. You have to heal your own pain first.

This takes more than a one-time realization. It is one thing to realize what is going on, but just realizing is not enough. You need to spend time alone with yourself… lots of time. It is just like having a meaningful relationship with your partner or with your kids. You need to put in the time to have a meaningful relationship with yourself. I call this healing your soul. This allows you to spend time dealing with your feelings, thinking about your hopes and dreams, figuring out what is important to you, and spending time doing activities you find inspirational. You need to spend time filling up your soul so it is overflowing and you can give back to others around you.

This is why I talk about putting limits on the work week. Businesses are robbing people of the opportunity to spend time working on themselves. You cannot heal your soul while you are at work. I will always stand up for businesses to have the right and freedom to make money, but that should not come at the expense of their worker’s rights. I do not care what the job is, all workers have the right to work with dignity in a happy and healthy workplace environment. And I will continue to argue that giving worker’s rights will actually make businesses more money. You cannot argue that all the depression, and misery, and suicide is not costing our economy money. It may not be showing up on the financial statements, but I am betting those exhausted employees who are working 100 hour weeks are probably sabotaging your business and you do not even know it.

I have worked with a lot of businesses, and I have just seen too many businesses take advantage of their employees. They do it simply because they can, and the people in leadership are lazy. One common scenario is the boss will order everyone to work over the weekend so they can go play golf. That happens a lot. If you look at Goldman Sachs, do you think the CEO is working on Saturday, even though he is making his staff work? I doubt it. He is probably out playing golf. It is wrong, and I am calling him out for it.

I believe that people want to work. People want jobs. But work should be meaningful and fulfilling. You need to allow people enough time outside of work to have happy and healthy lives. And if you have a business with happy and healthy employees, you will make more money. I think we can change our economy, our society, and our culture for the better.

Now there are still people out there who are going to think I am crazy, because what I am saying is not your typical business advice. The typical advice from people is to work every waking moment on your business and grind your way to success. These same people are looking at their time and trying to use an optimizing equation. They are trying to optimize every little piece of their life. But what they do not realize is that they are optimizing using the wrong equation. The greatest increases in wealth throughout history come from moments of inspiration, and reinventing the way we interact with the world, not working harder. What happens to people who focus on work at the expense of the rest of their life is they do make a lot of money, but they end up miserable. It does not matter how much money you have if you are not happy.

These are just some thoughts that I have had over the course of the pandemic. I spent a lot of time alone thinking about business, and this is one way that I think we can run our businesses better.

Today is Easter Sunday. I know that most people are still in quarantined situations but I hope you are able to connect in some way with family and friends. I hope that you are able to spend at least some time healing your soul.

Leave a comment down below letting me know what you think!

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Neither Zach De Gregorio or Wolves and Finance shall be liable for any damages related to information in this video. It is recommended you contact a CPA in your area for business advice.

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