Today’s Monday Morning Mojo is coming to you from Shanghai, China after spending two full weeks in strict quarantine. I am writing from a more lenient hotel in Shanghai, under Covid observation, before I can fly to Beijing and do another week of quarantine at home.
There is an irony in the timing of my first two-week release. It came yesterday, Sunday October 10, the same day as World Mental Health Day. After two weeks of being by myself, I truly believe taking care of your mental health is of equal importance to looking after your physical health. Both of which I have room to improve :-).
Getting To Know Myself
After two weeks of isolation, with the only physical presence of people in hazmat suits, I have really gotten to know myself. In doing so, I have a greater appreciation for Lisa than ever before. She has spent the past 18 months of Covid with me almost every day, not to mention nearly 27 years of marriage.
I have been checked-in on by a lot of people, and many have asked what I am up to everyday. My response: “Well, I wake up and walk to the bathroom. Wash up. Get something to eat that is delivered to me. Walk to my desk in the room. And, travel often between the desk, the bathroom and my bed. I repeat this throughout the day, with a morning and evening workout in between. Not a lot to report.”
I usually get a sigh and comment from whomever I am chatting with, “I don’t know how you do it!” One friend joked “at your age, two weeks of quarantine is a lot of time.”
Quality Relationships and Good Friends Are The Key
What I can tell you is I am convinced, more than ever before, that quality relationships and good friends are central to good mental health and just getting beyond two weeks of isolation. I am grateful to my family and the people who have called and texted me making sure I was alive. And, I appreciate the care and handling provided by Toni Zhou, my assistant; Joe Yu, who leads Ogilvy PR in China; and the Ogilvy Talent staff. All have been fantastic.
Catching up and chatting with many of you helped the time go by. I loved watching the Dodgers Wild Card game with Samuel, who streamed it from his phone to me. I only cried once and that was when Lisa and Jacquelin Facetimed me enjoying a double-decker ice cream sundae while I had just finished one of my 3x daily rice, vegetables and indescribable meat bian dang (packaged meal).
During the two weeks I listened to two books on tape. I highly recommend Obama’s “A Promised Land”, where Obama shares his personal story of the lead-up to his presidency and the eight years he served as POTUS. Thanks Dan Krassenstein for the recommendation. I also read a fantastic book by Evan Osnos entitled, “Wildland, The Making of America’s Fury”. Evan is a fantastic writer, and this book provided an insightful view on what has transpired in America leading up to, and during, the Trump presidency resulting in a very divided United States. I also listened to Jerry Seinfeld’s very funny book, “Is this Anything?” for some comic relief.
Reading “Wildland” and listening to Obama’s “A Promised Land” has the potential to make anyone who cares about the state of the world, or developments in the United States, concerned. Yet, there are many parts of both books that give the reader (or listener) hope the future will be better than the past. Evan touches on the increasing youth involvement in the political process in the US, given current affairs in the US today. Obama’s book is filled with stories of optimism reinforcing the belief that anyone willing to work hard and with special skills can become the Chief Executive of the United States of America.
The Importance of Understanding Your Worldview
Context is everything. I was reminded of the work Chris Graves wrote about in last Monday Morning Mojo, detailing the growing field of neuroscience. One concept Chris discusses a lot is worldviews. I watched a Ted Talk by Alison Ledgerwood, a professor at the University of California, Davis, discussing worldviews and its effect on optimism and pessimism. It reminded me why I wanted to write the Monday Morning Mojo in the first place. The premise of her talk centers around how you view your day and your world has a net effect on your outlook as a person. You can view Alison’s talk here.
Watching the video I was reminded about a dinner two weeks ago I had with my son, Samuel, before leaving for China. I was talking with one friend at the dinner table, while Samuel was chatting away with two of his friends at the opposite end. These young people could not have been more optimistic about what the future holds. They are all pursuing their own entrepreneurial avenues that offer lots of promise along with a huge amount of risk. Their optimism was infectious, and my friend and I just looked at each other with amazement. It was a totally different discussion about the state of the world.
Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule
A few days ago, Samuel shared with me his new work schedule. He said, “Dad, I am applying Benjamin Franklin’s schedule to my work ethic.” I asked him what that was, and he responded, “look it up.”
Well here it is.
Benjamin Franklin would start the day with a question “what good shall I do this day?” And then, he would end the day with another question, “what good have I done today?” In between he’s working, reading, thinking, eating and having conversations.”
Reviewing this schedule relaxed me. I reflected on the past two weeks in isolation and felt I balanced intellectual, social, and entertainment well enough. In a few areas I did some good I suppose, and I reflected on the fact that I can always do better in that area. Since sharing this with me Samuel asks me daily “what good have you done today dad?”
All in all, I worked on both the mental and physical parts of being in quarantine for two weeks, with two more weeks of more lenient quarantine to go. The only thing missing was a really good meal, and one of those double-decker ice cream sundaes which you can bet is on my list this week. Nothing soothes the brain as good as a dose of ice cream, hot fudge, some peanuts and a nice cherry on top. Have a good week friends.
Thank you again for another most inspiring, informative, and interesting Monday Morning Mojo. I absolutely look forward to reading them. By now, you are almost done with your (basically) 3 week quarantine, and looking forward to going to your home to Beijing. We most definitely will keep in touch. Love you, and proud of you my handsome nephew.
Thank you Aunt Ricia. The Kronicks are blessed with fantastic influences like you. Thank you.
Dropping Ben Franklin into the mix! Love it and hope to see you in China next year!
Looking forward Richie.
The part about listening to your son and his friends reminds me of Warren Buffet’s letter in 2015 —
“It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
His annual letters are always worth reading.
Great reference Phil. Thank you for this addition.
You’ve got Ben Franklins “what good shall I do this day” down pat. Thanks for including me in your Monday Mornin Mojo series. I am inspired by your extraordinary friends and their extraordinary stories.
Covid isolation is definitely a test of fortitude. No surprise you took advantage of your “alone time” to catch up with yourself. I had a similar experience with a bit of a twist. I spent three weeks in the hospital battling it. I know what you mean about human interaction with people wearing hazmat suits.
Thanks to your Sam for the Ben Franklin reminder; every now and then a nudge in the right direction is a very good thing.
Yeah – I scored a reference!