Trouble Focusing

An advisor came to me with a concern that struck a chord.  He said he had trouble focusing on his business.  When I asked him to elaborate, he said: It seems like the world is disintegrating.  The pandemic.  Race discrimination.  The polarization of Americans.  There’s so much hate.  Sometimes it feels like evil is winning over good.  In comparison to these issues, gathering more AUM seems so trivial.

I can relate.  I often feel the same way.  The business issues that confront me, and often define my day, pale in comparison to actual (and projected) deaths from Covid-19.

I researched this issue because I wanted to learn more about it.

Here’s what I found.

Avoid the news

The concerns expressed by the advisor are legitimate, but his perspective may not be.  The news plays to our fears.  Negative news sells.  “Feel good” stories don’t.

If you watch the news, your perspective may become warped.  You can easily believe the world is about to implode.

You can find a more balanced view in this book, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler: Abundance:  Why the Future is Better Than You Think (discussed in this article). The authors note the increase in lifespan and the sharp decrease in infant mortality, among other positive facts.

As Robert L. Leahy Ph.D notesNo one is going to get a Pulitzer for describing how people got to work safely, their families went to college, and they paid their bills on time.

Michael Hyatt makes this astute observation: How much of our fear and anxiety is driven by cameras pointing the wrong direction?

Don’t trivialize, but contextualize

Of course, we are confronting meaningful challenges.  It’s important to recognize them in an honest and candid way.  Doing so in context is critical.

The last 500 years has seen us overcome pandemics, wars, a depression and many other challenges.  Try to be objective about the current situation.  Covid-19 will either disappear on its own or we will find an effective treatment or vaccine to deal with it.  Americans holding hateful, racist views are a small minority.  We still have a vibrant democracy.

The will of the people will be expressed in the ballot box.

Wallowing in negativity and catastrophizing is counter-productive.  It has no effect on the outcome.  It only exacerbates the problem by making us more anxious and upset.

It’s easy to lose perspective.  Let’s make an effort to gain it back.

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