What is Essential?

I’m going to try something different with my writing. As I write this, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Like many other people, I’m feeling more tired than usual, my sleep is disrupted, and I’m doing whatever I can to keep anxiety at bay. One of my go-to things is writing. But I’m really short on time. I don’t have the time to synthesize the information I’m reading and receiving. I haven’t had the time to reflect and contemplate ideas thoughtfully. I certainly don’t have the time to edit and format my posts well. So I end up not writing.

So I’ve decided to try to write, think a bit, but not over-think and to try to get the ideas down in one sitting. I’m going to aim for 30 minutes of writing each day. Let’s see how that goes. This is my first post, written with this approach, so please forgive me if it’s not very polished and doesn’t flow well. I’m working on getting better and faster at doing that with the limited time and brain capacity on a given day.

I’ve been thinking about what is essential. For years, I’ve been referring to Access to Essential Resources. It was a concept I developed as a way to think about what startups we needed. In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, only essential businesses were permitted to continue operating. It included things one might expect such as supermarkets, banks, and businesses providing transportation and telecommunications. But it also included liquor stores. And more notably for working parents, schools and organizations providing childcare were mandated to close.

Undoubtedly, with a global health crisis, the first thing we have to attend to is ensuring people are kept safe and reducing the risk of exposure to this virus. It isn’t just about individual health, but rather the stability and capacity of the healthcare system. When I wrote my book, Integrated Investing, I wrote about six categories of Essential Resources and one of them is Essential Resources for Managing Change. And that’s the category under which healthcare falls. Healthcare is essential for managing changes in our health and also changes in our environment, ecosystems, and community that impact our ability to do other things – like interact in person with others.

Isolating at home has challenging impacts as well. People are social creatures. We need connection. For some, connecting digitally or virtually has sufficed. But for the most part, not being able to connect in person has been hard and disorienting at times. Resources for Connection – such as restaurants, cafes, parks and playgrounds – are also essential. To leave them off the list of essential businesses and activities is a misnomer.

It’s May 2020, and we realize that wearing a face mask when interacting with others helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus. I wear one whenever I go out and expect to cross paths with other people. Aside from my breathing into the mask causing my glasses to fog up, it also feels awkward because people can’t see my expression. I feel hidden, erased, expressionless. Which made me think of another Essential Resource I wrote about – Essential Resources for Expression. But until we know more about the virus and have a vaccine, face masks are going to be commonplace.

The need for Essential Resources for Connection and Expression got me thinking. Here is a thing that I didn’t cover in my book – sometimes Essential Resources are enablers for other Essential Resources and sometimes we have to prioritize. Essential Resources for Managing Change takes precedence here.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that we also need Essential Resources for Connection and Expression. We just need to find alternatives and make sure that they are accessible to all.

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