We’ve just turned the page and though a new year has begun, the landscape remains the same, bleak and depressing. The economy is in crisis, and it appears it will be some time before the sun shines again. Right now the rain is torrential and the prospect of a postdiluvian recovery may seem distant, but it’s belt-tightening time and there are precious few options to persevering. Actually, there is only one option: Throw in the towel, quit, give up. The ideal ploy here is a pep talk, an inspirational message to help one weather the storm, but most of us have had our fill of “win one for the Gipper.” Simple advice: Don’t complain, you’re not unique; the rain can’t last forever—open an umbrella.
One can navigate safely in a flood; it takes desire, resolve and courage. The operative word in that series is courage. Most people have the desire to survive, the determination to get past adversity, but how many have the courage? The dictionary defines courage as the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. I believe it is a precious possession that is embedded in the DNA. You can’t manufacture it, you can’t buy it and you can’t duplicate it. The good book says we get strength and discipline from our father and courage and love from our mother.
In this industry—I guess like in most industries—there is a paucity of young lions and many of the older have ceded their authority and too often lacked the fortitude to dissent when opposition begged for intervention. Laissez faire, let them be, is the rationale used by many decision makers too feckless to take a stand on anything. In times like these, rather than abandon hope, we should be working for solutions; rather than curse the rain, take the high ground and stay dry. Getting out of the mess we’re in won’t be easy, and it will take time. But, we will prevail, and so will you. When the stock market goes down, unemployment goes up, home foreclosures increase and retail sales decrease—think about how history treated people worse off than we are today.
Ludwig von Beethoven composed his immortal Fifth Symphony and other masterpieces while he was too deaf to carry on a conversation. Courage. Charles Steinmetz was an immigrant with severe body deformities, who rose from abject poverty to become a science genius and one of the founders of General Electric. Courage. Pierre Renoir, the great impressionist, suffered from crippling arthritis and painted while propped in a wheelchair with a brush strapped to his disfigured forearm. Courage. Leonardo daVinci, a genius in many areas, had a paralyzed left arm (although he was ambidextrous) and it did not in any way hamper his prolific output in major fields of art and science. Courage. John Milton, the eminent author, while totally blind dictated his epic novels to his daughters. Courage.
There are countless examples throughout history that illustrate courage in many forms. Overcoming handicaps, responding to emergencies, on the field of battle. Getting through the terrible economic storm we are in the midst of, up to our eyebrows in, will pass. And when it does, we all want to enjoy it. So, like Beethoven and daVinci and the others, summon the courage to control your destiny—say what you mean and mean what you say. Of one thing we can be sure: Skies will clear up; we know it can’t rain forever.