Well, folks, it’s that time of year. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas and a new year is near. It’s a time when Ol’ Dean tends to look back and count his blessings … no matter what has happened.
Probably because I am a bit of a sentimentalist (and an optimistic fatalist), I seek some quiet time on what I am doing and why.
As many of you know, this blog is written for a business audience as a business resource. I am a business consultant who is compelled to write on issues relating to the economy, manufacturing, unemployment, economic development, site selection (my particular bailiwick) and other such things as to put you to sleep. (Good bedtime reading at no charge.)
Maybe this is an ego thing and I am simply a glory seeker trying to drum up business for myself, and there is probably some truth to that. But I would like to think that I am also offering up some important, topical subjects related to financial news and trends in the marketplace that is important to your business.
I do not expect (nor want) full agreement on any ill-thought conclusions that I may make, but if this blog sparks thought and debate, well, all the better reason for me to provide the flint.
But take heart, I am too weary and in no mood to write about the European debt crisis and how that could come back to bite us. I just don’t want to go there, not now.
But more and more, it looks as though the U.S. economy is faring somewhat better than most industrialized nations. As I heard one analyst put it, “We’re the cleanest dirty shirt in a laundry bag of dirty shirts.”
Most of the economists that I give some credence to, which include a Haitian witch doctor and an Appalachian moonshiner, predict sluggish growth for the coming year, probably less than 2 percent.
A Wisp in Time
When the Rev. Bill Graham, now 93, was asked what was the biggest surprise in life for him, his response was, “the brevity of life.”
It is so true. We are but a flash in the pan. Here today and gone tomorrow, a wisp in time.
“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14.
“Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” Psalm 39.5
Even those who seem secure. I had to read that one a second time.
We are on this earth but a micro-second in the larger scheme of things – a mist that will vanish. If you can get your head wrapped around that, it poses a question, actually many questions: So what should I do while I’m here? How should I act with what time I have?
My wife and I this past week watched a documentary called “Waste Land” about the “pickers” at a landfill in Sao Paulo, Brazil. These were men and women who earned about $20 a day climbing and rooting through mountains of garbage for recyclables. Incredibly, this was not a place of despair.
Not only was there a dignity about these people, but they were actually optimistic about life. Despite their circumstances, their abject poverty, they could laugh and smile and love. We were touched.
The next night, for reasons that I don’t fully understand, we watched “Housewives of Atlanta,” and I was both repelled and saddened about how materialistic these women were. Much of their lives were centered on the outward display of wealth, as if that is supposed to demonstrate that they have their lives together. I am almost certain these women were not a happier lot than the garbage pickers.
The older I get, the more the bling, bling does not impress me. Mind you, I am not resentful of those who have so much. If you want to wear a $10,000 Rolex watch or drive a Lamborghini (One actually passed me earlier this week. It looked like a spacecraft), man, have at it. All I suggest is that you count your blessings and consider where that may take you.
Giving It Away
It took a while to come to this realization, but wealth accumulation is no longer a big deal or a motive for me. I already consider myself blessed in so many ways, so why would the dogged pursuit of money provide for me great happiness. And if I was truly rich in monetary terms, could I garner the strength and courage to give most of it away?
I would love talk to Warren Buffett and Bill Gates about this. I would want to know what has compelled them to give away most of their wealth. The two appeared together at a news conference in June 2010, asking other billionaire Americans to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth to charity.
Real estate and construction billionaire Eli Broad and his wife Edythe pledged to give away 75 percent of their wealth during and after their lifetime. Forbes has estimated Broad to be worth $5.7 billion.
“We agree with Andrew Carnegie’s wisdom that ‘The man who dies rich, dies disgraced,’ and we also believe ‘he who gives while he lives also knows where it goes,’” the couple said in a prepared statement.
These people are not only very rich, they are also very wise.
Buffett is opposed to transfer of great fortunes from one generation to the next. Buffett once commented, “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”
A Noble Profession
I always thought there was something noble and altruistic about the profession of economic development. When I worked for economic development organizations, I felt that I was a part of a crusade of sorts designed to give back to the community through job and wealth creation. Somehow I also figured out that I was a dream maker as well.
As a result of a manufacturing plant being built, a son or a daughter of a plant worker there would be going to college. How do you measure that? How do you measure hope and aspiration?
Today, as a site selection consultant, my primary and immediate role is to assist senior management in finding the right and proper location for future operations. As such, I can only hope that my efforts will trickle down, creating opportunities in any given place.
My first goal is to satisfy my corporate client and improve my business. My second goal, dream maker. That is what motivates me. That is why I am doing what I am doing. So it’s not all about the money, although the money helps. It’s about making some sort of difference, impacting lives.
The Great Erosion
This past week we learned from newly-released census data that a record number of Americans have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The original story by the Associated Press reported that one in two Americans are now officially classified as either low income or impoverished. The Los Angeles Times took a look at the same census data and concluded that it was closer to one in three.
Well, that certainly makes me feel a whole lot better, one in three.
Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family’s income. We have been witnessing the great erosion of the middle class. It’s got to stop.
A survey of 29 U.S. cities shows hunger has risen in most of them in the last year and is largely expected to increase in 2012, the U.S. Conference of Mayors said on Thursday.
Eighty-six percent of the survey cities reported requests for emergency food aid had increased in the last year, the study by the mayors’ group said.
It’s going to be awhile before we dig ourselves out of this rut. But despite the dysfunctional nature displayed by our federal government, never, ever, bet against America for the long term.
Is That So Crazy?
The need is great. But you already knew that. And whether you like it or not, we are in this boat together. You can avert your eyes, shut yourself off from the suffering of others or you can try to make a difference in a way that only you know how is best.
Instead of solely concentrating on yourself going up the corporate ladder, chasing that elusive thing we call “success’’, consider going down the ladder to help those in need.
I am not asking you to be Mother Teresa. But I am suggesting that while we are here, while we inhabit this very broken world together, let us think of ways to make it better, kinder. Is that so crazy?
While we are here, let’s make the best of it, for all of us.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy New Year, everyone.
Need a partner in results-oriented site selection? Contact me, Dean Barber, at 972-890-3733 or at email@example.com Barber Business Advisors, LLC, is a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Plano, Texas. Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com