The big one

Well, it's here. The big one. The one we've all been waiting for.

And it looks different than we thought. We also knew that that was likely. So let's not act surprised.

When the markets came tumbling down in 2000, I was an intern at a hedge fund in NYC. It was an exciting time, not least because it was a commodities and cyclical equities focused firm that felt like it was in the process of being proved right. 

When the twin towers fell, I was sitting in a finance lecture at university. We asked the professor to switch to CNN (back when CNN was watchable). A friend of mine - now Managing Director at a major investment bank in Europe - whispered to me: "this means war." I thought it was prescient, and it was, and there are still lives being lost in Afghanistan (and for what?).

In 2008 I had just been in venture capital for a year in London. My friends were out of work and their world came tumbling down. But we had a fresh fund and just kept going, and honestly early-stage venture felt a very insulated place. Some growth financings fell through, some M&A deals seized up, but that was about it. 

2000 and 2008 felt like corrections, like something within the system had gone awry and was righting itself. 

9/11 on the other hand felt like a paradigm change - like the world had changed in a key way and it was no longer clear whether our existing mental models could last.

Today feels more like 9/11. It's a shock that's external to the system but that strikes at its very core. It changes some assumptions that everyone was operating on. And what's worse is that there is no quick resolution to that uncertainty - no enemy to strike back against, no cause to rally behind, no quick fix to assuage emotions. 

I wish I were an optimist, but I'm not, and that's probably why I'm a person of faith. I like to try and control the things I can. To do them to the best of my abilities. But I have also learned over time to let go of the stuff that I can't control. And I often get lucky and I'm grateful for that.

If you want my personal prediction, things will get very ugly. Our healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Quarantines will be draconian. Too many people will die. The most disadvantaged will suffer disproportionately. And those of us who have the means available should help - with their time and their treasure.

COVID-19 will reveal a world without slack, one that's too interdependent, and too optimized for efficiency. 

This is a time to keep a level head while others panic. To share when others have little. To be the best person you can be. 

Stay thoughtful, industrious, courteous, honest, loyal, and brave. Love your neighbor. Control what you can, and let go of what you can't.