Thursday, March 12, 2009


“The point of living is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come.”
-Peter Ustinov

Assume for a minute you are the Guardian Angel of the Economy. It’s your job to guide the economy the way a film director guides a movie – you aren’t in the movie, but it’s your movie.

So along comes 2008: you’ve directed scene after scene, year after year, of economic expansion. So what is it time for? Something bad. That’s how plots work – hey, that’s how the world works. The garden must have a snake or there’s no story.

“Why,” we whine, childlike, “can’t our movie just go from jolly scene to jollier scene?” Because at some point we must test the characters in the movie, anneal them in a confrontation with disappointment and failure and in so doing, reveal their strengths and weaknesses… reveal them, which is to say, reveal character. (Notice the wisdom of the language here – “characters” and “character” both derive from the Greek “kharakter,” which is “a stamping tool.”)

Sure, the economy looks bleak. The stimulus package was old politics and, sigh, not all that stimulating. And that means no easy solution. So, ready or not, it’s character time.

Which brings us to the notion of making 2009 a great year. The very idea comes across as happy talk, but no, what I want to talk about is being handed the opportunity to separate “net worth” and “self-worth.”

Recently I spoke to a convention of Florida real estate agents. These were people who have faced one of the worst markets in the country, and for years they have watched their incomes plummet. I asked them this question: “How could this be your best year yet?” It took awhile to get past defining “best year” strictly by income – nearly no one could anticipate winning a game played by those rules. However, we soon had developed a marvelously robust list of ways to turn a dreary economic run into a time of triumph. For instance…

- 2009 is the year in which I started taking care of myself, and that while my youth is gone, my youthfulness isn’t.

- 2009 was the year I put time and energy behind my belief that it’s family that really matters – this is the year that we became closer than ever.

- 2009 is the year that I created the time to do volunteer work – I couldn’t contribute as much money as I have in the past, but instead I gave of myself, and discovered how much I have to give and how much remains to be given.

- 2009 is the year in which I began to experiment with how I do my work – I became more open-minded, made myself more tech savvy, and experimented with innovations, all making me more valuable to my employers and customers.

- 2009 was a time to re-examine my relationship to “stuff,” letting me peel away the materialism of the past decades, to discover the “joy of getting rid” as an antidote to acquisitiveness.

- 2009 was a chance to test my inner resolve and my spirituality – I learned that, given the chance, I can stand up to a bad economy, smile, and ask, “What have you got to teach me?”

Help yourself to a few of the above, add a few of your own, let me know how it goes.

2009 is the year of character. It’s as good a movie as you make it.


© 2009, King Features

No comments: