4 words people need to hear

'Good Will Hunting,' reader reaction, and a reminder (not a rerun). Also, 7 other things worth your time.

I'm going to take one more day away from my new experimental format, because I feel moved to share a specific message.

That message is: “It’s not your fault.”

  • If you’ve lost your job recently, it’s not your fault.

  • If your clients are scared and scaling back and you're afraid about keeping things together, it’s not your fault.

  • If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night afraid, it’s not your fault.

It's Not Your Fault GIF - GoodWillHunting Notyourfault No GIFs

I know not everyone needs to hear this. But, our readership here at Understandably is diverse, and these days, I'm hearing from at least three kinds of people:

  • The ones who've worked hard over the years but have now been hit hard by Covid-19 and the economic aftermath. Some are holding it together. Others are having a hard time.

  • The ones who are OK for the moment, but who worry about what might be coming around the bend.

  • The ones who are actually doing quite well, or well enough, but who are concerned about everyone else—and who often display an admirable sense of empathy, and sometimes even, “there but for the grace of God...

In the long run, I think (and pray) that my family and I and everyone we love will be OK. But in my darker moments, I don’t think I’m alone when I find myself asking Why didn’t I see this coming?

Well, this is a reminder that almost nobody saw it coming.

Even those who did predict it, like Bill Gates for example, couldn’t have told you whether it would happen in 2020 or 2025 or 2030—or possibly much later.

A reminder, not a rerun

Five months ago, December 3, I wrote something called, “The Dignity of Work.” Quite a few people have cited it back to me lately.

Two sentences remind us how quickly everything changed:

“The unemployment rate is as low as we can ever remember it being, and the stock market is at an all-time high. On paper we're in the middle of an amazing economy…”

The story wasn't about the high times; it was about the people who weren’t riding so high even in our recent boom—and about critical people in history who nearly got clobbered, economically. Examples:

  • Winston Churchill was flat broke when he became prime minister during World War II. (A banker bailed him out so he could concentrate on the war.)

  • Mikhail Gorbachev lost everything and wound up doing a Pizza Hut commercial. (“I had some financial problems,” he said in an interview.)

  • Ulysses S. Grant, the general and president, was in dire straits before the Civil War. He made money later, but then lost it all, and spent his final days frantically writing his memoirs (while dying of throat cancer) to try to leave his family some kind of financial inheritance.

(Grant died days before publication. Do you know who marketed and sold the book for him? Mark Twain. Then, 10 years later, Twain was bankrupt himself. Then he made it all back.)

I wish I’d had more time, both in December and now, to think this through, since all the examples I used were men. But the point remains:

There are so many fantastically successful people -- good men and women who do great things in many different fields -- and who other people assume get rich in the process.

Sure, some do. But for others, life happens.

So if you find yourself doing things you never thought you'd have to in order to make ends meet, or if your business isn't quite what you hope sometimes, or if you beat yourself up for bad financial decisions, I think there's something inspiring in these stories.

I hope you’ll hold your head up high, and remember you’re not alone.

The day after tomorrow

Our current situation would have been unthinkable six months ago. And there will be a point—I hope sooner than later, obviously—when we’ll look back at now and think of it as history.

It helps for me to look at my life, and think about some of the incredible, positive things that have happened—and then realize how many of them came out-of-the-blue.

My big professional milestones, my family ones—getting together with my wife, adopting our daughter. Almost all of them are situations that I could hardly have imagined, never mind predicted, six months before.

I’ll bet that if you think back on your milestones too, you might see a similar pattern.

There’s hope in the unknown. We’ll figure it out. We’ll do the work. We’ll persevere.

And if today looks hard, and you’re in that group that needed to hear the message— “it’s not your fault”— then dig deep, and pray for tomorrow. Or maybe, the day after tomorrow.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, was admitted to the hospital Monday for a "benign gallbladder condition," according to the Supreme Court. She’s expected to remain for a day or two, and will participate in oral arguments today via telephone. (CBS News)

  • Two-thirds of Americans think the official death toll for Covid-19 is inaccurate. About 44 percent think the true numbers are higher; 23 percent think they’re lower. (Axios)

  • 44 million US adults now use ‘borrowed’ accounts to access streaming services. (TechCrunch)

  • A Dallas salon owner is spending 7 days in jail after being found in contempt of court Tuesday for violating an order to close her salon during the coronavirus pandemic. (Dallas News)

  • Delta Air Lines will limit tickets sold to 60 percent of economy and 50 percent of first class, in an effort to socially distance passengers. It’s moot on a lot of flights that are flying with low customer volume anyway. (Bloomberg)

  • Home prices are up. Wait, what? (“Demand absolutely just got a kick in the gut, but at the same exact time, so did supply,” says an industry economist.) (Wall Street Journal, $)

  • NASA says it will cooperate on a movie filmed on the International Space Station (apparently starring Tom Cruise). (The Verge)

Photo credit: A .gif from Good Will Hunting, you remember it right?

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