Thursday, October 6, 2011

WE are the Economy


"Every man is the architect of his own fortune." -- Appius Claudius


Is anyone else tired of the onslaught of doom and gloom about the financial future of the city, the state, the nation, the world? Even as much as a realist as I am, I know I've long since been "done" with the wave of collective depression and helplessness. When I see the words "economy" and "recession" in the same sentence, my eyes just glaze over and I pull my attention elsewhere.

That's why, despite what I just wrote, I did watch the recent Charlie Rose segment with Warren Buffet. This is a man who looks like he could be someone's kindly uncle or grandpa (he's 81 now, still active, and looks damned good). From what I've read, he's driven the same car for a long time, and lived in the same house for forty-plus years. He's not someone who advocates extremes--living in a tent on one hand, or pulling some series of crazy schemes to get that mansion at others' expenses.

Mr. Buffet's biography reads like an inspirational American-boy-makes-good story. This is a person who started at age 13 with a paper route, started making money as a kid beginning with one pinball machine, and is now a billionaire. Yesterday we lost a visionary, Steve Jobs -- another who started with simple ideas, and wasn't afraid to dream big. Who knows what Mr. Jobs would have achieved had he lived longer, but his legacy, his ideas, will be seed for grander innovations to come.

My 9/10/10 post, "Back to Small," spoke of the potential power of independent businesses. Our country was founded on this kind of sheer hard work. It seems we've come full circle. And yes, even us in, or facing "retirement," need to be considering that we still have much to contribute in terms of energy and creativity. Bluntly, we gotten to be a country that's lost much of its vision, courage, and initiative. We have to make our own lives happen. The times of relying on "someone" (government, 40+ years in one job with cushy retirement to follow) to rescue us are gone. Like someone who gets dumped in a relationship -- once the initial pain and fear subside, the possibilities of independence begin to unfold.

Remember the anti-drug slogans, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste?" I have personally committed to actively work past age 100, like that inspirational Hedda Bolgar (written up in last Sunday's L.A. Times). I believe the incredible knowledge, experiences, and wisdom of older Americans is also "a terrible thing to waste." Along with our younger generations, each of us who willingly defies the roles ascribed to older Americans can assist in pushing our country past this current collective despair.

Let's stop thinking of "THE ECONOMY" as some self-propelled blob of evil, ready to consume everything and everyone in its path, like the monster in that cheesy sci-fi flick. The economy is simply the sum total of us, and our decisions. It is our past and present purchases, jobs, and financial portfolios. It is our wise investments, and our foolish impulses driven by greed, fear, or ego. It is each of us, and at the same time, all of us.

Mr. Buffet stated, in the Charlie Rose show, that things will be better -- someday. He spoke of us (collectively) as having been on a spree, and now we're paying for it with the inevitable hangover. Each of us should take his perspective to heart as a call to action. It's not necessary to aspire to be another Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs, but each of us can take responsibility for his or her own life.
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