💡 Focus on the problem, not the solution.
My obsession for needing to know "How much longer" has lead me further down the path of questions, not answers.
💌 The Letter
“It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.” - The Namesake
It’s been 6 weeks. 43 days that I have woken up and wondered - How much longer? It started first, more as an idle curiosity but has grown into an urgent, instant plea. I now find myself obsessing over imagining what it’s going to be like when we “get back to normal”.
And so I search for more clues that can tell me. Tell me when I can expect may kids to go back to school, when I can get on a plane again, hell, when I can eat in a restaurant again.
I want answers about what my world will look like. And I realized this week that my obsession has been pointed in the wrong direction.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned over the past 5 years of navigating uncertainty and traversing risk. Never enough information, but always the urgency to act.
Living in the world of startups have taught me, over and over again:
Focus your obsession on the problem, not the solution.
You’ll find more insight and inspiration in digging deep into the nuances of the problem, understanding it from every angle, every facet possible than you will pouring over different fixes divorced from its vital context.
This lesson is what I need to remember, here in the In Between. The Great Limbo. It’s less about the answers we want and more about the questions we should be asking. Because that’s the only way we’re all going to figure out our own, After.
We see it already with some people staying strictly indoors while others are using the outdoors. Each other shaming and judging the other. It could be that both are right under certain circumstances.
That’s exactly it - the After is going to look really variable, depending on a lot of factors that differ, place to place. We’re, each of us, going to need to educate ourselves on the whys so we don’t fight over the hows.
And given the work I do, I want to understand all these questions through the lens of what parents should expect because it’s not just us we need to plan for, but our whole families. And we’re the last people on Earth that have a ton of time on our hands.
So in the evenings last week, I turned to making a list of the questions I had and started reading up on them. The real questions I realized I should be asking:
What do we know so far?
Why are we doing this again?
What are we tracking and what are the nuances?
How will we know we’re ready to leave the Great Limbo?
What could the After look like and what determines it? Especially with respect to school, childcare, summer camps, grandparents - how do we think about these things?
Having asked these questions, I realized that I wanted to know the answers. It’s taken me down deep rabbit holes of epidemiology and supply chains and policy making and I’ve only quite literally scratched the surface.
And if there’s one summary statement to sum everything else up it’s this:
What we don’t know far, far exceeds what we do know.
We have to remember that it’s been mere months since we’ve started tracking the vital data needed make sense of what we should or should not be doing. Add in that the problem looks just a bit different in every place, with different responses, and well, questions are really all we have.
But I’m starting at the beginning: What do we know so far? The difference between coronavirus vs COVID-19 or treatments vs. vaccines. What R0 and Rt are and why they might be our best metric for guiding the next 12-18 months.
Those answers, coming up next.
This weekend I needed comfort but I also needed adventure. I found both in this recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodles With Chicken and Peanuts. And boy did it deliver. Simple, ready in 15 minutes, lots of adventurous zing and flavor packaged up in the comfort of noodles.
A couple of weeks ago I tweeted out a plea for more books - the kind that grab you and carry you into their worlds with the magic of their words.
The overwhelming favorite: When Breath Becomes Air. You’d think it’s a sad book but when you already know that the author doesn’t survive his words, it allows you to be fully present as you receive the gift he is giving. The tabulation of what a life amounts to and what time means, all written in a personal yet universal way. A quick but enduring read. Perhaps not surprisingly, especially poignant now.
“To the east, the full light of day beamed toward you; to the west, night reigned with no hint of surrender. No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night.”