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[II] Gateways | Embracing a Corona Life Rather than Enduring a Cancelled Year


Marc J. Halsema, Managing Director and General Council with Pennington Partners & Co., New York

Marc J. Halsema is Managing Director and General Counsel with Pennington Partners & Co. in New York, a global private investment office and boutique strategic advisory firm in service to complex families and family offices around the world. He is also the first art collector who came to visit our art salons and purchased our artist’s work at their inauguration event in 2019. A couple of weeks ago, as we started discussing our newsletter series plan with people on our network, he was the first who spent a Saturday afternoon to draft down his gateway ideas for a Corona lifestyle and sent them to us. His letter filled with beautiful ideas, positive energy, aspiration for joy and kindness, and wise guidance for a well-structured life and career made us feel that the good life has never left us, and the self-quarantine never existed.

We are sharing Marc’s letter here with you in the second edition of our Newsletter Series, hoping that it will cheer you up as much as it does with us. Lawyers, bankers, accountants, Wall Street traders, and all our friends who earn their lives and reputation with ration, logic, rigor, and calculation are very often mistaken for being “cold-blooded” creatures. In reality, they can be big dreamers and idealists full of emotions, sensitivity, passion, and sense of humor. Coronavirus crisis is the best time for us to connect with each other through generosity, mutual understanding, and kindness. In the meantime we applaud for the brave healthcare workers who strive daily to save thousands of lives, let’s also remember to be kind and understanding to our accountant, lawyers, and bankers who work hard to protect our businesses.

While no one can possibly fathom, accurately know or authentically predict when the COVID-19 pandemic will wind down and life will return to normal – or a new normal gradually presents itself – looking ahead to the remainder of 2020, we can choose either to stand still or to leap forward as the world shifts beneath our feet.

I was on the phone with a colleague of mine in London earlier this week who shared with me that she has effectively written off 2020 and is waiting to see how the remainder of the year presents itself. After hanging up, I felt her words weigh on me like an anchor. Write off the next nine months of life? Fail to consider coloring outside the lines? Not take an imaginative approach to this strange bend in the road?

One of my favorite films of all time is Shawshank Redemption. Now is the perfect time to watch the film again or to discover it for the first time. Two memorable quotes from Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) stand out for me and capture what a remarkably engaging time in which we live now:

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

I can only speak for myself, but I choose to live and embark on a new journey whose conclusion is uncertain because that is what makes life worth living. Rather than write off 2020, I choose to join Red and embrace the opportunity and the promise of the road ahead. April is just the first month of a new year with an abundance of hope.

Five pillars of life joyfully beckon my attention on this new New Years’ Month (April) 2020…


Virtual Art & Culture | A world of online art exhibitions, galleries and concerts awaits. Being quarantined does not necessarily equate to being marooned. There is so much art and culture to be enjoyed at the click of a key. Learn from the experts and create your own virtual experience to be shared with others on social media.

Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927

Recommended reading: How artist Edward Hopper became the poster boy of quarantine culture, by Lydia Figes, in ART & PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURE, March 20, 2020

Art Management | With additional time on my hands, I can finally focus on managing my own art collection and electing to buy or sell as I reevaluate which artists and genres resonate with me now as opposed to what was important to me ten or twenty years ago.

Mastery | Like many of you, I have my favorite artists and am always curious to learn more. My favorite American artist is Edward Hopper and so I have dedicated the month of April to learn more about Hopper’s life and oeuvre through online learning and the number of books I have on my bookshelves dedicated to this iconic American artist.


Watch, Listen, Learn | Learn a new skill or brush up on an existing skill that has become rusty over time. Videos and webinars are exploding around us with valuable and thought-provoking content. But don’t just watch. Take thoughtful notes, build a career library and step back to consider how what you have learned or refreshed can take shape in your career in the week ahead.

Cultivate Trust | If your career involves sales or adding new clients (and let’s face it, most of us fall into that category), put yourself in the client’s shoes and think critically about adding value rather than pitching a product or selling a service. Clients want to hear from you and often times the clients may need assistance that does not translate into a billable hour. Be there for clients.

LinkedIn | LinkedIn serves as a universal metaphor for the business networks that enrich our lives, but how many times do we invest the time to examine our networks and authentically connect with a call, Zoom video or other form of opportunity to get to know one another better? Or to get to know one another at all? Speaking for myself, rarely. However, that is changing as we speak. Those LinkedIn contacts and business cards collected from meetings and conferences over the last few years are receiving a lot of tender loving care these days.


Be Authentic | Too often we take the time that we spend with family and friends for granted. Pick up the phone, write a letter (yes, a handwritten card or letter sent in the mail rather than an e-mail or text!) and reconnect. Find a friend that you went to school with 30 years ago and light up his or her life with a call. You cannot imagine how that will make you and your friend feel.


Spring into Spring | If you happen to live in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is coming…or may already be here. If you happen to live outside the New York City area, the time is here to hike, ride or walk. Take a step away from the refrigerator and see what spring has to offer in your world.

Joie de Vivre

Hobby | Our lives are endlessly and ridiculously weighed down with work and to do lists. Revisit a hobby that you loved as a child or a young adult…or, better yet, discover a new hobby. Chess, photography, singing, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sports. Take up painting, write a short story, learn a foreign language. Whatever tickles your fancy, but actively make room in your life.

Comfort Zone | It is said that life begins the moment you step outside your comfort zone. These days one’s comfort zone may be defined by the front door. Leaving aside the obvious need to stay safe and be healthy, think through where your comfort zone in life lies and take a step across. Or maybe two steps across.

Whatever it is that demands or beckons your attention, embrace it with the same excitement of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

Think creatively, stay safe and be well. Onward!

J. Yuan & Associates New York provides consulting services to art collectors and enthusiasts and helps them to own the art that aligns with their identity, values, and goals. Our current newsletter series encourages people in our community to remain healthy and strong and to overcome the difficult time with us together.

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