February 28, 2009

Failure to Act Leads to a Slow Death

It’s a recession! It’s Official. It’s also a fact! Now is the time to be productive and prosper or wither on the vine.

The question for now - what are we prepared to do in response to the challenging times we live in. From the wisdom of the caveman, our conventional productivity response would be to hunker down in our cave and wait out the storm. Sharpen tools, grind corn, whatever.

The financial implication of this thinking today would be putting our money in safe investments like government bonds. Later we might discover that the low yields on these safe investments are only slightly better than putting our hard-earned money under our mattresses.

So perhaps it is a good time to look at the times we’re in from the viewpoint of personal productivity and see what options we might want to pursue. Also, what can we learn on what has traditionally been the benefit of similar economic times like these?

What our survey shows us is that deep recessions always open the doors to deep changes in our culture. Let’s look at a few.

You can’t think the recession of the 30’s without the iconic images of the dustbowl refugees heading to California with all they have lashed to their model T’s. Tough times can often be a springboard for creativity; when no one's job is safe, no one's house is secure and no one knows exactly what to do about it, artists get to work. NPR did a feature on the impact of hard economic times and their results.

"That kind of stress often results [in] the need to scream, and art is a way of screaming," says Miles Orvell, an English and American studies professor at Temple University. "Difficult times like the one we are experiencing today can really bring out a kind of expressive culture in an interesting way."

This was certainly true in the 1930s during the Great Depression, when artists, actors, writers and filmmakers — some funded by the government — combined curiosity with creativity to find and tell the stories of people affected by the era's economic hardship.

It was the arrival of so many new residents into California during that period that paved the way for the new thinking, new fashions, new housing models and even new ways of living without the restrictions of where they came from that marked the new California.

As always, we have choices. Retreat into the caves (i.e. stay in jobs that don’t fit) or decide that this is a good time to make your moves.

U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett wrote his investors in between the news of Berkshire's sharply lower profit and a thorough explanation of its largely unrealized $7.5 billion investment and derivative losses, he still offered a hopeful view of the nation's future. He said America has faced bigger economic challenges in the past, including two World Wars and the Great Depression. He used his Geico Insurance Firm as an example of where to find success. "As we view Geico's current opportunities, Tony and I feel like two hungry mosquitoes in a nudist camp. Juicy targets are everywhere."

"Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time," Buffett wrote. "It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America's best days lie ahead."

It may be time for each of us to unleash our own human potential to find our best days dead ahead. Go Gettem.

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