In this digital age in which we are bombarded every waking day with all sorts of messages, it is understandable that you may come to the conclusion that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
My advice to you on this Fourth of July weekend is quite simple. Take a break from the negative. Go ahead and have a hot dog guilt free, and maybe, for at least a few days, avoid watching or reading the news, which by its nature focuses on conflict.
In other words, chill. You deserve it. As a friendly business consultant, I would even advise it. And then hit the ground running next week.
I know I have a couple of books that I want to relax with and look forward to spending time with family.
The Bright Side
And being that this is the 240th anniversary of the United States, I will sit back, possibly with an adult beverage, and read Time Magazine’s latest issue, which is being billed as 99 percent politics free. I will pay particular attention to the cover story on “240 Things to Celebrate About America Right Now.”
I might need this article, precisely because we live in an age of digital upheaval, when many if not most Americans are distrustful of our institutions. I think we all need a little restoration of faith.
David Von Drehle, in an accompanying article entitled “The Bright Side in America Today,” wrote that “it has never been easier to amplify strife.”
“In the space of a generation, we have transformed ourselves from a culture of shared experiences to a radical democracy of personal choice. We now read what we want, not what some powerful publisher chooses for us. We watch what we want, when we want it. We build communities of our choosing no matter where we actually live, and if we wish, these virtual town squares can endlessly reinforce our existing opinions while redoubling our antagonisms. There are fortunes to be made and careers to be built on fostering tribes and nursing grudges.
“No wonder the national mood is sour. The way we work, the way we communicate, the way we mate, raise children and grow old: everything is up for grabs. Such rapid change entails a heavy dose of psychic violence.”
A Nation of Gamblers
And yet, despite all that, America’s faith in individuals remains an essential element of our cultural DNA, who we are as a people.
That really hit home with me when I spent time last month in Dayton, Ohio, where two brothers, bicycle mechanics, figured out how to fly. A suggested good read for this holiday weekend might be The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.
The good news is that we are still a country where world-beating companies are birthed in spare bedrooms and garages. Wrote Von Drehle:
“America is unplanned, nimble, fake-it-’til-you-make-it. It is tons of spaghetti thrown at thousands of walls in the confidence that somewhere, something will stick.”
My hope is that we remain at heart a nation of Mississippi riverboat gamblers. I think Americans, maybe more so than any other people, understand that failure is a necessary ingredient to finding success.
Most of our new businesses will fail, most of our ideas will be half-baked, but that is fine, so long as we keep betting and occasionally winning big.
Our faith in the individual means that we are not a top-down people, but that most of our solutions come from the bottom up. We remain a “git er done” nation so long as government fosters and unleashes our people power.
First generation immigrants, no matter where they come from, are the most entrepreneurial among us. It’s not easy for them to come to America and to essentially become Americans, but they do.
For them, the American Dream holds true, and the rest of us should take note of that true grit.
Make Mine Brisket
Now I am biased by the fact that I reside in Texas. I moved to the Lone Star state seven years ago and have come to love it for reasons that I cannot fully explain. You don’t just move into Texas, it moves into you. Read What Makes Texas Texas.
I happen to believe that one our distinct gifts to the nation is Texas barbecue. Let me tell you, it’s a whole nuther smoke. Make mine brisket.
But I have had the pleasure in my capacity of being a citizen and consultant of traveling all over this country. I’ve not been everywhere, but I have gotten around.
Along the Wasatch Front
I recently spent time in northern Utah, where I discovered a cluster of aerospace and composite companies as well as 21st century digitally based companies.
Two things struck me most about northern Utah – the people were very nice and I think quite industrious. Also, the sheer beauty of the place, characterized by a mountain range called the Wasatch Front. I couldn’t take my eyes off the mountains.
Our Best Idea
I think certain people in certain places are inherently lucky by the fact that they live in places that are marked by physical beauty. And most do not take that for granted.
As Americans, I think we recognize that the physical beauty and nature is worth preserving, which is why we have parks.
Often called “The Dean of Western Writers,” Wallace Stegner called our national parks “the best idea we ever had.”
In their own right, the idea of having national parks are as radical as our declaration of independence. They represent a public trust.
“When we say “My country ’tis of thee” – it’s my country – are we talking about city streets? Are we talking about industrial cities? No. We’re talking about the land we have and there’s so very little of it that’s unspoiled or that doesn’t have a fence through it,” said historian Ken Burns, who made a documentary film on the national parks in 2009.
“Here in these special places that we’ve resolved together as a people to preserve, we feel a sense of commonality. You come to a national park and all of a sudden some of the barriers between people, between classes, even between nationalities are broken down and you share and have the experience of an essential, collective humanity.”
I won’t be going to a national park this holiday weekend, but I hope to visit several this year. You may want to do the same. They truly are our nation’s crown jewels as they bespeak of us as a people.
We celebrate the Fourth of July a national holiday, but the actual legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted on that question.
After voting for independence, the Continental Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author, which it approved on July 4.
Wrote John Adams, who would become the second president of the United States, to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.”
Well, he almost got it right.
I’ll see you down the road.
Postscript: I will be on a long road trip east of the Mississippi in late July and early August and will be available to visit certain communities. See “Clifftop or Bust!” for more details.
Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a location advisory and economic development consulting firm based in Dallas. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 972-890-3733. Mr. Barber is available as a keynote speaker.