I think it is a truism of us British that we are not at our best when things are going really well but put us in a situation where our collective backs are against the wall – and you tend to see the best of us. Call it the ‘Dunkirk or Blitz Spirit’ but when things get tough we knuckle down and get on with it.
That is no less true than through the last 9 months or so of the pandemic where things have been pretty grim you would have to say, but I have been hugely impressed by one common feature that tends to be overlooked by the media and perhaps society as a whole. That is how impressively so many people have responded to how things have been and the resurgence of a trait that we seem to have forgotten about -that of self-reliance.
During the pandemic over 13,000 new businesses have so far been created and there are now over 5 million people who are self employed (15% of the working population), and I have been impressed by the numbers of people who have used the pandemic to good effect as it has allowed them to reflect on what it is they want to do in life.
I know people who for example were laid off working in the hospitality industry who then decided that they would set up a home cooked delivery service and with the help of friends, family, and social media, they have turned it into a business that supports them. Another person was furloughed from work and during that time he decided he wanted to do something that was a passion for him which was to run a smoked salmon business- the time on furlough had allowed him to really think what he wanted to do in his life.
Other people have discovered during the lockdown that they have skills they didn’t know they had and have used them to set up new businesses – they have ranged from running a chocolate factory in their own kitchen, running a floristry service, making and selling hand jewellery, sewing and selling the all-important face masks, to more sophisticated things such as running a ‘virtual gig’ service for people. The list appears endless!
A number of people have found that they can be self sufficient without having any obvious academic qualifications, employment record or life skills- I know of people who have during this period become ‘ebayers’ – they started out by selling on the website eBay things they did not need such as DVDs, books or clothes and then realised that they can make a business of it by buying say DVDs for as little as 25p at charity shops and selling them for 10 or 20 times that online. Others have changed careers by being couriers for the likes of Amazon or DHL- I even know someone not that far away who makes money delivering copies of the free magazines and leaflets put through our letterboxes- all they need for that is a bit of mobility (and shoe leather).
In a way these are examples of the old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention”- without the pandemic a number of the above people may, I suspect, have just continued doing what they did before, working for someone perhaps in a job they may not have really liked. If there is a positive side to COVID-19 it may be that it has encouraged some people to rethink their lives and what they want out of it. I am aware of a number of mothers for example, who are now running such enterprises from home without the need to find childcare for their family.
When I have spoken to those who have started these businesses they have talked about the new confidence they have in taking more control over their lives, of the attraction of working for themselves and the hours that they want- and how their quality of life has improved as a result.
Now not everyone of course may have the inclination or drive to change course in their lives, but I think life presents opportunities to us in these difficult times and sometimes through real adversity comes opportunities to ‘reset’ our lives, to think what is it that we want to achieve and what are our real passions and gifts are for.