It’s really hard to listen to the news these days and maintain an optimistic outlook. Times are really tough. Fear is so de-motivating. It sucks up your positive energy and can leave you feeling so helpless. But I sustain myself by understanding that life’s trials can lead to triumphs. If I maintain a view that the future is not yet written, so a positive outcome is possible. This doesn’t make things better all the time, even the biggest optimists have bad moments. So call me a “realistic” optimist or just plain pragmatic. I know I will have bad days, but I chose to not dwell on them. I know things are difficult right now, but I chose to see the possibilities. It really is a conscious choice – one could say a leap of faith – to believe that there is always hope for the future.
So much of any situation is determined by the way we view it – the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. That’s the strange little secret about consumer confidence, successful marketing and effective communications – if the vast majority believes things are good, they are good. Witness the giddy euphoria that struck investors both in the US and abroad during the major market booms in the ‘80’s, 90’s and beyond. We truly believed in the possibility of our own wealth even though it was built on an unsustainable foundation. Conversely, if the vast majority believes things are bad, the downward spiral accelerates. It’s so hard to know how much of the current crisis was impacted by falling consumer confidence. It’s a chicken and the egg problem. What comes first? Too much consumer confidence and people feel invincible. Too little confidence and people despair. It’s schizophrenic – driving the economy way, way up and way, way down at lightning quick speed.
And it’s even more complicated than ever before. The world we live in today is so integrated that the majority is now a global majority. America might be at the head of the line (at the moment) in setting the direction for the majority opinion, but that can certainly change as other countries gain confidence and continue to develop. News gets around fast, information is everywhere and it moves at virtual speed. Going forward collaboration, communication and business will continue to have a global, culturally diverse face. Innovation, competitiveness, managing risk and adopting change will be done in a global arena and it’s going to happen rapidly. It’s a fascinating business problem to manage and a huge opportunity for executive leaders who have good future vision. Isolationist thinking, while somewhat understandable given the current market uncertainty, is an unsustainable business position unless we are willing to drastically reduce our market potential.
So what does the future hold? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. But Pandora’s Box is open wide and shutting down the flow of global information is hardly an option. In fact, “clouds” are available to businesses everywhere. Changes are definitely on the way. Whatever they may be, ever the “realistic” optimist, I continue to hope for the future.
Photo by Jehyun Sung