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Americans need to be more empathetic to recover from COVID-19

Americans need to be more empathetic to recover from COVID-19

  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is his recent blog post, republished with permission. It originally ran on his blog, “No Mercy / No Malice.”
  • Galloway says COVID-19 is an opportunity for people to reevaluate what matters most, reject material priorities and billionaire role models, and start over from scratch.
  • Now is the time, Galloway says, to invest in fellow Americans, and focus on creating a healthier and more empathetic culture. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by André Cassagnes of France. Two knobs move a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The genius of the toy is aluminum powder. A child only needs to flip the toy and shake, redistributing the powder over the screen.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

Courtesy of Scott Galloway

COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to envision our lives when turned upside down, powder redistributed.

We can start over. We hoard relationships and the accoutrements of a life others have fashioned for us. We often don’t know any better, or don’t have the confidence to draw outside the lines until we’re older.

My colleague professor Adam Alter has done research on the regrets of the dying. One of the biggest: not living the life they wanted to lead, but the life others chose for them.

etch a sketch scott galloway

Courtesy of Scott Galloway

In 2000 I left my marriage, my career in ecommerce, and San Francisco. I hit the restart button and left a lot behind. The period was lonely, rife with collateral damage, and the right decisions. COVID-19 presents society, and each of us, with the opportunity to design a better life with … less.

What do we leave behind? Some thoughts:

Emissions. Or at least, a lot of them. I’m not an environmentalist, and mostly believe after the last human draws her final breath, the earth will register a 20-year belch and feel fine again. To be clear, I do believe climate change is man-made, as I don’t have my head up my ass, but I also believe the move to renewables will be expensive. Just as trickle-down economics is a lie, so is the notion that the Green New Deal would pay for itself.

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In Florida, like many places, the water has been so clear, the sky so blue that I wonder if this is a time to move away from coal, cars, commutes … even if it’s really expensive. The last several weeks have convinced me it’s worth it. A spectacular home is worth a ton of money. Why wouldn’t we decide that a spectacular backyard (sea, sky, land), for all of us and our children, is also worth a huge investment?

NM_Economic crises Courtesy of Scott Galloway

Courtesy of Scott Galloway

Essential workers. The term essential means we’re going to treat you like chumps but run commercials calling you heroes. Just stop it. We lean out our windows and applaud healthcare workers, as we should. We don’t, however, lean out our windows to salute other front-line workers — the guy or gal delivering your groceries or dropping Indian food through the window in your back seat.

Why? Because, deep down, we’ve been taught to believe that we live in a meritocracy and that billionaires and minimum wage workers all deserve what they got. We’ve conflated luck and talent, and it’s had a disastrous outcome — a lack of empathy.

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