Two Things Can Be True At Once

“How are you holding up?”

That may be the most common question being asked around the world these days.

I’ve posed it to dozens of people. Several have asked me the same.

Two answers are common.

“Devastated,” or something similar is one.

“I have good days and bad days” is another – a toggling between optimism and pessimism.

I find myself in the latter. I can go from seeing optimistic signs of progress in the morning to feeling like we’re doomed by dinner, repeating the cycle the next day. Sometimes the shifts occur minutes apart. On net I’m still confident we’ll get through this. But occasionally I recalibrate what “this” means, and it’s exhausting.

When emotions swing from one side to the other it can be tempting to not trust either. But sometimes it’s fine to have conflicting emotions, because two opposite things can be true at the same time.

A few I’ve been thinking about:

We might be overreacting in some ways and underreacting in others. Both can be true. Given the incentives of early denial and later fear it seems inevitable that we’ll underestimate both risk and recovery.

Good and bad news can coexist. Progress isn’t like flipping a switch. Someone who points out progress who is rebutted by someone pointing out setbacks might not be arguing – they’re probably just choosing to look at different parts of the world.

It’s OK to be terrified about the short run and optimistic about the long run. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. But it can feel like they are, especially when expressing optimism publicly makes you look oblivious to today’s reality.

It’s OK to be both confident about your decisions and humble about how little we know. “Strong opinions, weakly held” is probably the best philosophy when the stakes are high and the uncertainty is vast.

It’s OK to want to stay informed while also wanting to tune everything out. Information can be vital and overwhelming at the same time. I find myself switching between outbreak statistics and wanting to watch stupid YouTube videos with my kids.

It’s OK to have been dead wrong about something you believed days, even hours, ago. Don’t beat yourself up, and try to empathize with others. We’re all figuring this out as we go.

You can want to “secure your own mask before assisting others” while desperately wanting to help others. Both are natural, and it can be so hard to find the balance in a given moment.

As an investor, it’s OK to see more opportunity than you’ve seen in years while wanting to protect your downside more than you’ve wanted to in years. It’s understandable if your personal philosophies around risk-reward have been altered by the experience of the last month.

It’s OK to have a plan while acknowledging you have no idea what the world will look like tomorrow. There’s a healthy zone between “prophet” and “fatalist.”