New Year 2020: Dealing with fortunes and misfortunes

There is no tradition more widely practiced in the world than the passing of a new year or a new cycle of the seasons.  Through thousands of years of civilization, the questions passing through everyone’s mind at this time are: “Will this year be better, will it be worse? What should I do or not do?”

2019 was an extraordinarily turbulent year. There was the trade war that induced a worldwide economic slowdown, just reaching a phase-1 deal between the United States and China as the year ended.  The United States sent drones to assassinate Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Iran, in Iraq, launched out of Qatar, almost starting a regional war as Iran retaliated with an attack on US bases, then accidentally blowing up a Canadian passenger airline.  Hong Kong descended into chaos, with the US actually legislating support for activists engaged in violence and penalizing those trying to control them. Venezuelan embassies were taken over, with the US backing opposition forces. Saudi Arabia oil fields were decommissioned by drone attacks, as well.

This January 2020 in the Philippines, the Taal Volcano emissions destroyed large swathes of homes and crops in the Batangas and Cavite provinces, creating hundreds of thousands of evacuees and making the lands infertile for years to come.  There are major concerns on the coronavirus spreading, as well as new issues between the Philippines and US governments, and a new intensity of domestic politics.

While 2020 as the Year of the Metal Rat is supposed to have much opportunities — given the charm, intelligence and financial acumen characteristic of those born in rat years, it is also a year that may have much uncertainty.

How to plan to deal with the coming year? 

Let us draw on advice from some idioms, the gems of wisdom collected over millennia that are a legacy to everyone who would want practical advice for this year, and for always:
In times of safety, plan for danger.  That is, never be complacent, accumulate buffers and make action plan for contingencies, i.e., don’t over-leverage if times are no longer solidly on uptrend.  On the other hand, leverage and bet more when you are just at the upturn of a cycle.

In crisis, there is opportunity.  Is it time to buy from a weak stock market? When people are fearful as in Hong Kong or elsewhere, is it a good time to acquire assets?  The disruptions thru digital are creating new business models, are we riding the waves?

Profit and greed may cloud the heart.  For those who are in big business especially dealmakers, or those in government, you may not be objective anymore, or you may be hurting many others.

Generosity leads to luck and prosperity.  The Chinese believe in the principle of attaining the harmony of opposing forces, and balances of nature, epitomised in the yin and yang… if we do not manage our luck by sharing it, nature will take the fortune away from us.  It is our duty, and in our interests, to share our good fortune.

Alternatively, for those in misfortune, endure it and learn from it, you will have your turn to be productive and prosperous. To some extent you can work for, and even negotiate for your luck or fortune.  You can have your turn, but you must both prepare constantly for it, and be humble enough to pray and sacrifice for it. The part you pray for is given to you by your destiny; not everything can be obtained by your efforts alone.  But prayer alone is not enough; you have to strive, sacrifice, endure for what you want. Pay the price forward and backward.

Winters are followed by springs, summers by winters… There are cycles of nature, of prosperity and decline, that can be extended but cannot be eliminated.  Your time to come or to go will arrive, there are things your efforts will affect, but there are things that cannot be changed by what you do.

A confluence of Heaven’s will, the world’s circumstance and people’s agreement can create great changes.

Now is the time to accomplish your plans, not yesterday or tomorrow. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb.

For pundits, critics who claim they can do much for the country, show your abilities first: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

“Sacrifice your smaller self for your bigger self [for society].” For those who would achieve much for themselves or for their country, they must know how to give and take priorities, and put collective good above self.

“You have to throw your hat and efforts in the ring, to have a chance at winning.”  You cannot always play safe, you have to put full heart and effort into a goal.  Kibitzing and critiquing won’t get you far, action will.

“Begin with the end in mind.”  as Stephen Covey would advice us all.

A highly respected Chinese official said that a good life goal is when we go to the other world,  people say in their hearts, “ It was good to have you with us,” rather than “It was good that you have left us” — pointing out that we cannot take our bank accounts or hectares of land with us, we can occupy only the same space as the final resting place of a poor man.

The good memories one makes can create positive ripples well beyond one’s journey.

George Siy is a Wharton-educated industrialist, international trade practitioner and negotiator, serving as director of the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI). He has advised the Philippines and various organizations in trade negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan and the United States.

New Worlds by IDSI aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities, and attempt for common good, culture and spirituality.

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