The Saddle Point

Posted by Rick Osowski on April 01, 2020 in Personal

A saddle point is a term used in game theory that determines when a move in a game is most beneficial for all players. Think of it as the best worst-case scenario for one player and the least best-case scenario for the other player. I’ve used a number of game theory practices over the years, but I didn’t think I would be using it to unravel how we are all coping during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Some of us rush in and jump straight into the fire. Some of us wait to see what we’re jumping into to form a plan first. Neither are good nor bad, nor is one better than the other. Both are needed and inextricably linked. Depending upon where in the country (and world, for that matter) you reside, you are coming towards the end of your first few weeks of social distancing, self isolating, and unprecedented, extensive public health measures. The reason I say that the two types of people that I mentioned above are linked is because eventually the folks that ran in first will need a reprieve, to rest and recuperate, while those that stayed back to formulate a plan will now be able to take over for them.

This was the case for me in the initial onslaught of changes driven by the COVID-19 precautions. As someone who works remotely for my day job, seeing everything else in my life instantly switching to being remote and virtual was overwhelming and not something I could keep pace with, even if I had 720 hours in a day. I am grateful and thankful for everyone that ran into the tumult headfirst and set the stage for what our journey through this pandemic was going to look like. However, a number of those folks, in all walks of life, will be coming to their breaking point, to the natural point of exhaustion and burnout. So now the latter group can step up, continue to carry the torch, but also build for the long-haul while the former group recuperates.

It’s okay to be one or the other. It’s okay to be both at different times. It’s okay to not know which group you fit into. The main focus through all of these changes and precautions should be for you to take care of yourself and your family. Then figure out what your next steps are. In the Chicago area, supply chains have been catching up with demand (at least due to anecdotal evidence) for a number of stores. After the initial surge of securing the essentials for your family, it can now be time to look outward, when last week that seemed impossible. Many local restaurants are still offering take-away or delivery service, but have lost the critical eat-in business that was the majority of their income. Many local artists have lost gig after gig due to necessary but restrictive gathering constraints. There are numerous GoFundMes and related types of support initiatives that you can contribute to now that you may have a better understanding of your family’s needs, both in the short-term and long-term. If you can contribute now, do so. If you contributed a week ago, thank you very much. If you can’t contribute yet but are determined to once you feel comfortable, that is perfectly okay too.

We are indeed approaching the saddle point when these two groups will need to hand off from one to the other. Some of this hand-off will bring changes, some of this hand-off will hopefully bring improvements. Even though we are in a time of social-distancing and self-isolation, we are still in this together. If you still don’t know which group you fit into, that’s okay. It will become clear to you in time, but for now, be kind to yourself and others while you take it one day at a time. That’s all we were ever meant to do.

With hope, Rick