Sunél's Blog | It's not you

Sunél Veldtman, | 17 May 2024

Perhaps you’ve been thinking something is wrong with you as you try to navigate a world that now feels strange and difficult. Perhaps you believe you are the only one who finds it hard to keep up, exhausted from battling all the information coming your way.  You might feel people are touchy and relationships are tricky. Perhaps you feel that you’ve already met too many deadlines and it’s not even halfway through the year.

You are not imagining it.

I know I’ve written about the changing world many times over the past few years, but I still don’t think we grasp how fundamentally different the world is and how much we’ve changed. I was reminded of the current collective struggle while listening to a recent podcast conversation between Esther Perel and Brené Brown, two of the world’s leading experts in social sciences.

The pandemic demonstrated that a catastrophe can shake our foundations in a blink. We learned that our income streams can dry up instantly and our businesses can falter. Despite our best endeavours, decisions entirely out of our control and made by leaders in unprecedented circumstances can derail us, financially, socially and emotionally.

As a result, we have become anxious about our money, relationships, job security, and the future. We feel under pressure to build and preserve, and everything feels urgent. Hence, the deadlines. It seems most people can’t cope with the demands of our day, whether at work, through our children’s schools, or in society.  

In addition, small acts can have massive repercussions. One sentence spoken out of turn can destroy your reputation, while a presidential candidate can have a multitude of legal actions and allegations against him, yet his name remains on the ballot paper. International money laundering legislation demands that we get FICA’s for everything, yet criminals can move billions out of the country without recourse.

We struggle to make sense of it all, and the overwhelming amount of data rarely helps to ease decisions.

This post-pandemic world is described by the acronym BANI – brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible.

It’s not you. We are all blindly navigating our current world with outdated tools. No one has it all together.

Is it possible to better navigate this world we find ourselves in? The question sounds preposterous, given what I have just described. But I believe we can.

We should start by admitting that we don’t know. There is no past roadmap, career path, or financial plan that will guarantee success. No expert or leader will save us with their brilliant answers. It’s not an environment for high conviction and rigidity, meaning it’s not wise to make high-stakes bets on particular outcomes or have a rules-based approach to decisions.

On the contrary, we should embrace diversity for protection – in our investment plans and with our viewpoints.  We need flexibility and options.

We should embrace our humanity, allowing for our collective fear by employing empathy and fostering belonging in our workplaces and homes.  

Oddly, at a time when we find ourselves in a world of artificial connection, it is the human connection, coupled with humility, vulnerability, and learning with and from others, that will save us.

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Kind regards,