Mount St. Helens Eruption – 3 Life Lessons

Published by Robert W. Huntley, CFP®, CHFC®, CKA® Founder & Wealth Advisor

Recently we marked the 40th anniversary of Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens was a cataclysmic geologic event in North America where fifty-seven souls were lost and around 200 homes destroyed. Due to the impact of the blast and pyroclastic flows, thousands of animals died and the landscape on one side of the mountain transformed overnight into a stark lunar landscape-like appearance.

Read more on the eruption here.

The volcanic mountain is home to Spirit Lake which filled with thousands of trees from the blast and mudslides. Many of those trees sank to the bottom of the lake and stand suspended with root balls, destined to become petrified. A thousand years from now it will appear as an ancient, petrified forest, just like we see today in Yellowstone National Park.

In the past 40 years, scientists observed first-hand how a local environment can become decimated, and then to the casual observer, quickly recover and transform into something new and beautiful.

There is a rocky canyon located on Mount St. Helens called the “Little Grand Canyon of the Toutle River,” which is about 1/40 the size of the Grand Canyon. It didn’t exist before the eruption and was created in less than two years. Today you can observe the interesting layers of sediment and think they must have been deposited over millions of years.

Read more on this take here.

We can find three parallels to what we’re dealing with in this economy amidst the COVID-19 eruption, which are:

  • Expect the unexpected
  • Fortune favors the bold
  • This world is resilient.

1. Expect the unexpected

Just like volcanic eruptions which ultimately yield sudden and violent changes resulting in new river routes and different topographies, economic eruptions can feel the same.

The COVID-19 economic shock felt as volcanic as the Mount St. Helens eruption, and the events have all conspired to set the table for unknown outcomes. Immediate casualties have manifested themselves such as businesses closing permanently, forcing families to relocate their homes.

Some things will never return to the way they were before. We may see permanent changes to business models such as ride-sharing, room sharing, and travel. Large events like concerts, sporting events, and conventions, may become less common since people are continuing to adapt to online options. Office space is already impacted as companies realize they can evolve and allow more workers the option of telecommuting.

2. Keep learning, adapt, and remember, fortune favors the bold

I read a story today on how the live music industry is literally decimated right now. The businesses and workers involved in supporting live events and concerts are experiencing zero revenue today. Stagehands, lighting, sound, ticket sales, etc… were all shut down overnight.

Will it ever come back the same? Probably.

But if you’re someone in that line of business, you must immediately consider changing the way you earn a living. It’s time to adapt and overcome.

Here’s a link to that particular story.

We’ve absorbed the initial COVID-19 blast and it’s been a doozy! We may still see subsequent eruptions as news reports the story of our economic unrest.

But this is where innovation shines and is what American’s are particularly good at. We adapt and overcome. Always have, always will.

We are witnessing an explosion of innovation. New companies spring to life as human beings find opportunity amidst the chaos. Retail patterns were already changing before this and should accelerate. Existing brick and mortar stores are transforming into hybrid online operations and some buildings and malls will be repurposed into other uses.

That is what a living, breathing economy looks like. It adapts. Supply and demand are seismic forces creating stress. Free market economies allow for those forces to co-exist and opportunities are created from them; new fortunes and wealth are created, while older ones fade.

Today it’s crucial to be on the offensive! I challenge you to look for ways to lever your skills and experience to the path of emerging new companies and opportunities. Every day you spend lamenting what was, is another day someone else is moving ahead of you.

Look forward, not backward. Innovate. Evolve. Learn.

Most of all, have faith. This is not the first time we’ve experienced rapid economic change and it will not be the last. We chuckle but it’s mostly true, we have no guarantees in life beyond death and taxes.

Are you worried about the long-term resiliency of our free market system? It’s normal and expected to be concerned but we will adapt, new opportunities will emerge, and entire industries and technology will be born BECAUSE of this event. Other industries will forever change and alter BECAUSE of this event.

Will you be a spectator or an innovator?

3. Our Earth is resilient. So is the US Economy. We’re going to be fine.

Along the way remember to be kind, generous, and gracious. Look for ways to help those around you. Some are in worse places than others and our best is required to extend a hand to our fellow citizens who really need the help right now.

Forty years from now this event will be another dot on a mountain chart. The economy will heal and thrive, just as the resilient Mount St. Helens is thriving and teeming with plant and animal life.

Fortune favors the bold. Optimism is the sane way to live. We live in a world of unlimited abundance just waiting for you to grab hold.

Is it time to recalibrate and evaluate your options?

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