By: Jake Sheckter, Business Editor
These days, it seems like we can barely go a few weeks without breaking some type of record. We hear it in the constant barrage of news each day, from the world’s richest humans and their record-breaking divorce settlements to the “Once in a Century” storms and wildfires we seem to have been getting much too often lately. While the media may often portray the news in a negative or dramatized light, we must remind ourselves that there is good when we look for it. In many instances, world records and drastic changes are exciting, beneficial, and even commendable.
In this year’s 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, during a time when hot and humid conditions and COVID-19 restrictions threatened to hinder the performance of Earth’s athletes, contenders not only persevered but rather flourished to break over 20 world records. Team USA brought home the largest number of medals with 113, and Israel broke their own record by bringing home two gold medals in one year. Away from the global stage and a little closer to home, animal shelters are now more empty than ever. Shelters, non-profit rescues, and private breeders have reported that consumer demand for a furry quarantine companion has been through the roof. In a Nielsen survey, 20% of respondents said they had adopted one or more dogs or cats between March and June last year, an increase from less than only 5% the same time the year before. Additionally, a report from the non-profit ‘Shelter Animals Count’ stated that shelter intake was down 24% compared to the previous year.
Over this last year or two, the financial world has been no stranger to the effects of breaking records, increased inflation, and general volatility. Whether it was the cost of lumber literally tripling in 7 months before crashing back down to its original price 3 months later, the prices of houses increasing 15% over a year, or the stock market’s IPOs (Initial Public Offering) and SPACS (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, or “Blank-Check Companies”) hitting records left and right, volatility has remained the name of the game for pandemic investors. Recently, Goldman Sachs reported its revenue for the second quarter for this year, coming in at $15.4 billion. This is the second highest quarterly revenue report ever for Goldman Sachs, second only to… the first quarter of this year. This means that the 152-year-old investment bank managed to rake in more than $33 billion in the first half of this year alone (which is more than it brought in for all of 2017). Goldman, however, doesn’t flaunt their recent successes alone, with JP Morgan also reporting profits that nearly doubled. If you were to go back in time to the start of 2020 and tell someone walking down the street that US stocks would soar nearly 35% over the following 18 months, they would potentially believe you. But if you told them that somewhere squished in the middle of those 18 months was a global pandemic, record unemployment claims, and the shortest recession in history, they might begin to doubt your sanity.
At this point, you may have also realized that the push to break through boundaries and explore the unknown doesn’t apply to only “earthly” matters anymore. We’ve been entertained, shocked, and/or inspired by the trend of billionaires strapping themselves to rockets and launching themselves into space as of late. The debate on whether these endeavors have been a fair, efficient, or ethical use of Bezos’s or Branson’s expansive resources is definitely an interesting conversation to flesh out, but the contrast between the two individuals’ approach holds its own merit. While Jeff Bezos’s ‘Blue Origin’ launch did “beat” Richard Branson’s ‘Virgin Galactic’ trip to the outer reaches of earth, he did pay a penalty when it came to the quality of the experience. The ‘Blue Origin’ rocket’s total flight time capped out at about 10 minutes, while team ‘Virgin Galactic’ was privileged to enjoy roughly an hour of the monumental experience.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been pressured or even forced to adopt new and improved methods of communication as our physical interactions were to be kept at a minimum. We have unfortunately come to substitute texts, Zoom calls, and social media for genuine encounters and relationships between ourselves, co-workers, and loved ones. In this (somewhat) false reality, we tend to lose sight of the meaningful things we should be working on. Instead of focusing on the progress we make in our own lives, we compare ourselves to Olympic medalists and their miraculous minute or two on the track, but not the years of sacrifice and dedication it took for them to reach that pinacle. While many of us struggle to overcome the financial hardships introduced by the pandemic, we keep close watch of the billions earned by the banks or a company like ‘Microsoft’ joining the exclusive $2 trillion dollar club. Looking to star athletes, astronauts, and business titans for inspiration or strength can be an incredibly rewarding pursuit, and should not be discouraged. But, during times when reports of anxiety, insomnia, and issues of mental health are coming in at nearly 4 times the pre-pandemic numbers, we must remember the progress, goals, and accomplishments that truly matter. Our records and expectations of growth should remain our own.
For some, the next step in the journey is shaving a second or two off our best hurdling time at the Tokyo Olympics, or maybe even making that extra 70 thousand foot climb in elevation to improve the quality of our trip to space. But for many of us, just getting out of bed in the morning, managing to eat something for breakfast, or putting up an effort to battle mental health issues is a tremendous feat worth celebration, praise, and maybe even a medal. Regardless of how large or small your personal goals are, they must be taken seriously to result in genuine improvement. Don’t just break records, break your own records.