Are you still waiting? It’s the week before the US election. There’s a lot of waiting going on. People are waiting for the election, ah, the Electoral College, ah, the start of the new year, ah, the Inauguration, ah, the first 100 Days (assuming a peaceful enough resolution and conclusion to the election), ah… Add them all up and find yourself at April 10, 2021. Look back to April 2020. What were we waiting for then? With infinite time and immortality, waiting forever can work. Mere mortals can only wait a finite amount of time. At some point it makes sense to get back to living.
I can’t say that I’m immune to waiting. Sometimes it is necessary to follow that phrase from Sun Tzu (paraphrased from The Art of War); “Only move when it is to your advantage to do so.” If it isn’t to your advantage, then wait until it is to your advantage. But there are limits to that. If what you’re waiting for is never going to happen, then you’re trading living for waiting for nothing.
Many people are waiting. Waiting for political shifts. Waiting for economic shifts. Waiting for pandemics to shift. Waiting for things to shift or be shifted.
Think back six months. An impeachment had no effective change in politics. The economy was shifting, yet since then the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer. The pandemic, which was hopefully only going to last a few months was now obviously only getting started.
US politics may settle down in a week, but I don’t expect that. The economy won’t stabilize for quarters or years because the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going away, any vaccine seems to be something that will take a long time to administer, and people continue to not wear masks.
Few expect things to get back to normal, but a new normal isn’t going to be delivered on one day in one announcement for everyone. The new normal will be defined by those who do something more than wait – and they may not realize they’re doing it.
For the last six months we’ve been experimenting with new lifestyles. First, the idea of staying home was like an unpaid and uncertain staycation. Now, we’re redefining work, and school, and socializing. A few weeks of adaptations could easily be rewound. A few months have revealed real reasons to accept new ways to work, learn, and meet. Maybe waiting through those times made sense, but those changes happened because some people didn’t wait. Either they couldn’t or they decided not to.
It is easy to imagine almost every aspect of life continuing to change for the next several months, and maybe years. Waiting might have felt fine for a while, but wait too long and it gets to become difficult to move.
Throughout this post I’ve used the word “you”. I really meant “me”. I could argue that I’m not waiting. My work schedule certainly hasn’t consisted of just waiting; neither has my writing routine. But I’m recognizing that I should take some time and consider what changes I have avoided because I was waiting for something to change.
I’m old enough that it is apparent that there are a finite number of seasons left. I haven’t hiked or skied much for the last few years. Not a problem for someone in their twenties. But, even if I live thirty more years, I don’t know how many of them I’ll be able to hike, or ski, or dance, or whatever. My knees are already vetoing some excursions. Rather than waiting for them to recover, I’m shifting to other exercises like walking and bicycling. If finances improve enough, maybe I’ll add rowing and sailing.
It’s happening in investing. The markets are uncertain. Maybe it makes sense to wait for things to settle down. Ah, if you haven’t noticed, the markets are always uncertain. A good investment strategy is probably still a good investment strategy; if not, maybe it is not a good investment strategy.
It’s happening in real estate (required disclosure: I’m a broker with Dalton Realty, Inc.). People don’t want to move until it is to their advantage to do so. But the advantage expected six months ago may never happen. Instead of moving from one house to another similar house, it might be time to consider moving from a house to an RV, or a boat, or to a property that is defined more by what projects can be tackled. Instead of a condo, how about a house with a garden? Instead of a house with a garden, how about a place with room for building things, or growing crops, or tending livestock, or finally creating a personal retreat?
I challenge myself to consider what I could do if I sold my house. At least on Whidbey Island, small houses on small lots sell relatively quickly. Mine even has a view and is in a neighborhood with a marina. As a real estate broker it is easier for me to estimate how much I’d make. With that much, could I try a new lifestyle, one that is better suited for such an uncertain world, or am I already in the right place for such a situation? (A thought work in progress.)
Conventional jobs, in conventional offices, for conventional pay and benefits are no longer conventional. Unfortunately, we can’t know what the new conventions will be. We have to define them, and lives must be lived in the meantime.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Six months from now, most people will be living where they’re living now, they’ll be in the same jobs, they’ll probably be in the same schools. We might still be wearing masks and missing personal social contact. (How long until we can hug each other, again?)
The only constant is change. While many accept that, the rate of change is accelerating, with harder ratchets clicking in behind us as we leave behind conventions that are becoming anachronisms.
Some reasons to change, now, instead of waiting: interest rates are low, there are so few houses for sale that new listings can get more attention, as businesses are disrupted new opportunities are produced, innovation will probably rule over convention, and people are eager for answers.
Waiting is time. Time is irreplaceable. Time is precious. Waiting is spending something irreplaceable and precious. Only move when it is to your advantage; but not moving sometimes means spending something without gaining something in return. Move when it is to your advantage to do so; but keep in mind that not moving isn’t free, spends something valuable, and may miss opportunities that can’t be seen without a change in perspective. Live.