Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Year of Living Anxiously

I've written many blog posts about the lack of civility in modern society, the uncertainty in the economy, and the mismatch among scope, resources and time in organizations facing profitability pressures.

The next year will be a year of living anxiously (a reference to a 1982 Peter Wier film)

As I think about the increased conflict, tension, and uncertainty we face every day, what are the causes?

*Increasing competition from a global economy at time when the US is losing is leadership role in math/science/engineering
*Increasing mismatch between the cost of living and wages earned
*Increasing costs of healthcare as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product
*Increasing costs of compliance/regulation/legal fees - we are a very legalistic society and we've created substantial increases in overhead over the past few decades to cover lawsuits/risk mitigation/legal consultation
*Structural issues with our economy. Robert B. Reich, secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, wrote a fascinating article in the NY Times on September 2, in which he notes "In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation’s total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income."

Instead of creating dozens of entry level jobs, we're paying hedge fund traders to put hot tubs in the Lear Jets. There is something very wrong about this.

Believe me, I'm not nostalgic for the simpler times of the 1970's - I'm realistic about the challenges and realities of the 21st century. However, there is a point when cannot continue the pace of work, the rate of consumption, and the lifestyle we've come to expect.

While the next year is filled with Stimulus fund projects causing people to work harder and faster, while the efforts to accelerate HIT in the US create more change management anxiety, and while people feel increasing tension to compete with each other for budgets, I will endeavor to stay true to my own beliefs.

*The nice guy can finish first.
*Treating people fairly is the right thing to do
*You can lose the battle and still win the war.
*Expressing negative emotion in leadership or business context diminishes you
*Joy comes from relationships and experiences, not from owning more stuff

I never know what tomorrow will bring or how my business and personal life will evolve. By staying calm, honest, and altruistic, I'm convinced good things will happen.

In the next year, try to reduce the anxiety level in your workplace. Let's hope it's contagious!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder about civility. It just feels like we are getting to the point of the Roman cries of "Bread and Circus" and haven't figured out that the fall of Rome wasn't far behind.

Chris Harding said...

Well said, John! Words to live by.
Chris Harding

Christopher Suleske said...

I appreciate your 5 beliefs - excellent characteristics of a leader, and even better, of a friend. Of course, there's no reason the two are mutually exclusive, if rare.

The middle-class is most threatened, if for no other reason, its definition is held differently by whichever interest is using it - and it, or rather they, are used (and used).

The study you cite, via Reich's piece, has caused quite a debate in recent years. A few salient links:

The so-called rising wealth-disparity (Prof. Larry Ribstein)

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez Respond to Alan Reynolds (Prof. Mark Thoma)

Emmanuel Saez's Medal (Prof. David Henderson)

Robert Hurst said...

Thank you! You raise alarming points to be wary of and offer renewed hope by staying true to values that were instilled in us while we were growing up in a time when family-community-country were our foundation. That is NOT going back to a "simpler" time, nothing came easy then or now. That's a cry for leadership in each domain (parents-business-government) to enforce accountability and a re-balancing of personal entitlements AFTER positive contributions. And above that, deliver with consistency to keep the message clear.

I believe that foundation has been eroded by media and lawmakers, selling stories and skewing intent for gains at the expense of those values -- breeding mistrust by over-exposing smear to every leader and hero we have, party propaganda, negative campaigns, divorce, lawsuits, over-regulation, etc. And explosive growth in information technologies these past 15-years has been the significant enabler to society's degradation -- something for which all generations must mature and find methods of integrating it back with our values and not allow it to confuse our core.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post. Thank you.

bev M.D.