In this world, there’s nothing as stable as change. Spring adds new life and new beauty. Summer stands for sweet weather, sunshine and swimming in the sea. Then, all at once, summer collapses into fall and shortly thereafter:
Winter is coming!
While for “Game of Thrones” winter has already reached, in this post I refer to winter to that “thing” that happens to each and everyone of us – eventually. Winter, the seven bad years, disease, old age whatever we wish to call it: It’s coming to us all eventually!
You most likely have experienced or heard about some kind of seasonality in your life. Stories about changing times can be found plenty. The oldest stories are originating in the book of Genesis from the bible about seven good years followed by seven bad years.
Not much has changed ever since.
People as well as animals ought to build reserves during good times:
Winter is coming!
Just think of how certain animals are preparing themselves for tough times.
Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up. Throughout fall, they maximize food consumption and body mass. In winter, when food is hard to come by, these reserves will help them survive. Groundhogs spend the warmer months eating as much as they can to build up their fat layers needed to survive winter in hibernation. There are many more examples alike.
We humans have this “alertness” embedded into our culture – depending on where we live and how much we’ve been exposed to seasonality ourselves. But more on that later.
First, let’s read a story about a businessman who goes see a fisherman:
Once upon a time, there was a businessman sitting by the beach in a small tropical village.
He was observing a local fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore, having caught quite some big fish. The businessman was impressed and went to ask the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Why don’t you fish longer and catch even more?” The businessman asked.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman replied.
The businessman then wondered, “What do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman said calmly, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman felt he better offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I’ve got a MBA and could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village to the big city, where you can set up your HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continued, “And after that?”
The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
Once again, the fisherman asked, “And after that?”
The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
You guessed it correctly: For the fisherman, winter is NOT coming.
You may probably have read this story in one form or another before.
I love the powerful lessons within:
1. Life is not linear and everyone has their own path. Some paths are safer and more frequently used. Other paths might be shortcuts or even detours.
2. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same – don’t let schooling interfer with education.
3. Beware of the “deferred life plan” – money is renewable, time is not.
The main difference between the businessman and the fisherman is: Seasonality!
The businessman grew up with a different mindset and could not believe there is someone simply living day-by-day without worrying about the future and living a happy life.
When the businessman returns to his big city and fall arrives, the weather turns cold and the days get darker. This triggers a natural human instinct of preparing for winter.
Weather changes will activate our brains and concerns that we will not be having enough food or money to carry through a though winter.
As we all know, fear is one of the strongest motivators. Hence, we usually don’t get paralyzed by it but motivated to get busy preparing ourselves to pull through the dark times ahead. Bulk shopping before hurricanes, toilet paper shopping in 2020 and to preparing for a blizzard – winter is coming – is part of our DNA.
It’s our reptilian brain triggering the survival instincts.
In Europe we have countries high up north with very though, long, and dark winters. In the south we have places where winters are mild, and people are not that much bothered by seasonality. Coming from Switzerland I know that being landlocked and having survived two world wars without getting involved: We have our ways to prepare for bad times.
Like the squirrel, we are good in stashing resources.
I have met people from Scandinavia who strategically make use of winter to travel south for marketing purposes or recreational travelling when business comes to a halt at home.
Taking advantage and embracing winter to take actionable steps to move yourself forward are great ways to pass through tough times. Taking a well deserved break and flee the cold for tropical locations to “hibernate” are also legit reasons to do so.
Hence, there seems to be some sort of correlation between weather and the saving rate of whole countries depending on their exposure to seasonality. Just compare the northern with southern European nations to start with. In the north, people stash resources to empower them passing tougher times easier.
The one big exception with that regards that I’ve experienced myself is Singapore. Its founder Lee Kwan Yew [Singapore’s founding father] thought air conditioning was the secret to his country’s success!
When I started spending more time in Singapore, it was a new experience for me. Singapore is almost on the equator and weather doesn’t fluctuate too much; there’s no seasonality and most days have a similar amount of sunshine. Most days are mostly alike. Hence, less external stimulation is given and subjectively – time speeds up!
Personally, seasonality helps me put memories and events into relation with a timeline. I’ve got many memories from Singapore that I can’t assign a season or month anymore.
Sometimes it seems that just yesterday I was young and just about to embark the journey of my life. Luckily, I’ve made good use of the time given to me so far.
But still, I try to find ways to somehow “slow life down”.
You can do so by keeping life more “interesting”. Expose yourself to new things, experiences, learn a new language, new skills or do something you’ve never done before.
As for myself, I optimistically consider myself in very late spring or early summer – of my life.
Winter is not too close yet.
Readers in their early spring years have it the best. Instead of just saying: “Winter is coming” – get prepared. You know, time has a way of moving quickly, even speeding up somehow through life and ultimately catching you unaware of how fast its passing by. Build your nest-egg, start saving and investing now!
But if you’re not in your winter yet. Let me remind you: It will be here faster than you think.
When I turned 36, my dad (back then 72 y/o) called me and wished me a Happy Birthday, he said:
1. Congratulations son, you’re now already HALF my age!
2. You’re catching up!
3. The second half goes faster…
Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it timely. Plant your seeds now. Don’t put life on hold. Do what you can today. Nobody knows if you’re in your winter already or not. “Waiting for better times” is a lot like waiting for spring to come early while shivering through winter.
Life is a gift.
The way you live your life serves as inspiration to the people around you. It is also a gift to those that come after you. Live it well, make it a fantastic one, make it count!
Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.
The rest of your life starts right now!
Winter is coming!