2020 has been quite a year ...
Doug provides his thoughts looking back on the year and insights for the year to come.
To cap it off, Doug wishes everybody a merry Christmas and happy New Year.
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Welcome to the terminal value Podcast where each episode provides in depth insight about the long term value of companies and ideas in our current world. Your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.
Doug: Alright! Welcome to the terminal value podcast. This is actually a special holiday edition where of course as I'm sure you can tell I don't have anybody interviewing. I am just going to be talking to you all by my lonesome reflecting on 2020. Now if there is one thing that 2020 is most assuredly going to be known for it is the pandemic. The covid 19 pandemic is pretty much the item of the year. I think very closely associated with it and related to it is the US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Much of which centered on the covid 19 pandemic and so when I look back at the year, there're a couple of things that I think about. And there's a few thoughts I wanted to, that I want to take forward and I wanted to share those with you. So the first thing that I think of is that okay now first of all is that I'm you know any loss of life of course is tragic. But what I just can't really get past is how there's been a laser focus on mortalities from covid and a complete and total lack of acknowledgement of anything else. So for example one of the things that I saw recently is that although the covid fatalities have been going up fatalities from other causes mortalities from other causes have been going down because what happens is if somebody goes into a hospital and they get diagnosed with covid and they should die even if it wasn't because of covid. If they died with covid, it is logged as a covid death. So you'd say well why is this? Well it turns out there's a financial payment reimbursement for covid. So there is a financial incentive to document more mortalities is covid. Now, do I believe that it's a vast conspiracy? of course not. Do I believe that the numbers are maybe not as that there's some wiggle in the numbers or that they're fuzzy? Absolutely. And another thing that actually really concerns me just personally is that mental health really isn't getting enough attention and I think that it's actually going to be a huge problem. Suicide rates in a number of areas are very very high. Your drug addiction rates are going up. Alcoholism rates are going up. Depression rates are going up.
You know the fact that so many kids are being stuck at home and not able to go to school. That's a big problem and if you're an affluent family it's only a problem in terms of scheduling because like for example my wife and I, we have two kids and they have been at stay-at-home school for the entire year and that create that is not the most conducive environment for learning. We're fortunate to have a home where we can have a setup that's pretty easy to do school in but it's not easy to learn from your parents. You know, it's not easy to have that lack of separation between where you're doing school and where you have your home activities. But think about how this would work for somebody who has a rough home life. I read a wonderful article from Alonzo Morning in Miami about shortly after the pandemic broke where he was talking about how when he was young the reason why he got so good at basketball is because he spent all day when he wasn't at school at the local basketball court. And the reason why is because he his mom had an abusive boyfriend and both of them were drug addicted and he didn't want to be at home while either of them were awake. Unfortunately there are kids who grow up in those kinds of situations and when we do a fourth state home order they get to where they can't escape from those environments and even further there are a number of kids where unfortunately the school lunch is the only nutritious meal they can count on getting every day. And so when we have this perpetual lockdown, what it does is it creates an equity wedge that's even bigger than there was before. You know not that people who are affluent are getting better off by this. They're not but the impact that their kids are feeling is actually less than the impact that the more impoverished kids are getting which of course is the exact opposite of what we're trying to do. We're trying to help kids who come from more modest or impoverished backgrounds to be able to better and further their lives through education. And the impact of all these actions is actually the exact opposite of that.
Now of course I don't know what I personally can do for it other than I want to find every opportunity I can in my community to help people to lift themselves out of poverty typically through education but also through entrepreneurship and hard work. And to me that kind of comes back to what is it that I want to do in 2021 and what I really want to do in 2021 is you know of course I want to find such professional success. I want to continue growing my business. I want to continue growing the affluence of our family. But I really want to serve the community too and that's one of the reasons why I joined up with the local chamber of commerce and the local rotary club because the idea of service over self I think is something that, that society has really kind of gotten away from, you know. I don't know maybe I'm romanticized in the past which is easy to do but, there's so much what's in it for me that happens that I think that there's a lot of people who need a lot of help and that help can't really come from the government anymore because government doesn't have any money especially with so many local businesses shutting down. Occupancy taxes are going away. Property taxes are going away. Local business revenue taxes are going away and so that means the funding base for a lot of these local governments is just disappearing and so that means that private organizations really have to pick up the slack and that's going to be religious organizations it'll be community organizations just all these private entities are going to have to have to come together to really figure out how to care for the most vulnerable people in the community. And just personally I actually think that's a more sustainable model it's because of course right. Anytime that you're dependent on a government entity it does two things that I think are destructive. Number one is it puts the care of the most vulnerable people in at the mercy of a political system and you know I'm not trying to do a Glenn Beck Bash the government here but the fact of the matter is that the government has certain processes and procedures it has to follow that makes it necessarily behave slower. And two is that it's run by people who are elected which means they're subject to politics. And unfortunately when you have elected officials long-term planning typically means the time between now and the next election. And so a lot of times you have the there's the proverbial can that just gets kicked down the road and that happens year after year after year after year after year. And again it's not an indictment of any of the individual people that's just the incentives they're faced with you know. It's you know because you can take one person in and substitute about with another. The incentives are the same. The incentive is to focus on the short term when you're dealing with something political and then I think the other reason why I really like the idea of a you know a more more of a private mix in community service and community outreach and community health is because then I think it connects people in a community together. Of course there was a by gone era when everybody knew their neighbors. Usually because most people didn't move out of the place where they grew up. I don't know that we can necessarily go back to you know, Andy Griffith and Mayberry per se. But I do think that communities can be tighter can be more involved and that people can really get to know the people who are in their local area more because when a person you know when you actually know somebody they stop being a number on a spreadsheet and they turn into a living breathing human and then you start to get to where you feel an obligation to try to help the people in your community improve their lives and I think that the more of that we can have in 202. I think that will actually hasten what I call the real recovery. So of course most people are going to look at the S&P 500 which just had tesla added to it and is heavily weighted by the large capitalization companies. So if you look at the quote stock market uh which is capitalization weighted uh 500 largest most significant publicly traded corporations in the US. That is not going to give you an accurate barometer because it is increasingly divergent from main street. You know main street is the restaurants, the retailers, the specialty shops. They're all struggling mightily. And also local and main street is also the people who are trying to figure out how to make sure their kids don't fall behind a grade. How they're trying to figure out how to pay their rent or their mortgage or to make sure that you know that their kids can grow up to be able to support their family. Those are all things that are, those are big problems that a lot of us don't really know how to solve because just because of everything that's going on and so if i can ask one thing of all the people listening to this podcast is that as you go forward into 2020 find a way to get involved with your community to help people better their lives because also the things. I think is really important with helping people better their own lives is to teach people that self-reliance so that they can not only provide for themselves but then get to where they can help more people.
I think that the more we can create that spirit of not just self-reliance but also of community action and responsibility the better off main street is going to be because I think there's two big dangers that we're running into right now. Number one of course is that there's so many people who are in such you know in such bleak circumstances. But number two is that we have such a concentration of wealth and power now and of course right in you know in the old occupy wall street protest days they were talking about the proverbial one percent and there's actually even greater concentration of wealth and power now than there was then and that tendency that trend just seems to be accelerating and of course what ends up happening is that when you have such great concentrations of wealth there can tend to be big riots and protests and other very economically unproductive things. and so one of the things that I think is really important about getting back to more of a community-minded just general mindset among people is that it will help to stem that tide and get people to use more of their resources to help their community. You know ideally not from an ivory tower. You know because like for example you know there's a big thing you know with Bill gates and Warren Buffett you know saying that they're going to bequeath their fortunes to charity and that's great. But the question then becomes which charity? What are they going to do with it? Who's going to get what funding for what initiatives etc. And I would say that you instead of just writing a big check find a way to get Involved. You know, if you're going to write checks go out and talk to the companies who you or the entities that you're looking to contribute to. Learn about what they do. Learn about their mission. You know I think that that involvement is going to be a really important part of creating a of revitalizing the local economies and is going to need to happen in 2020. If there is going to be a main street recovery.
So anyway let me just conclude by saying that I hope everybody has a happy holiday and I’m just going to say it a merry Christmas. I know that's faux pas but if it's if it's something that is not your thing. That's cool, I think no less of you but it is my thing so I'm gonna say merry Christmas and a happy new year and I'm looking forward to talking with you again next week and going forward into 2021.
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