Editorial: The Top 10 Embracements for Difficult Economic Times

This is a companion article to “Top 10 U.S. Economic Items to Monitor” by the same author.

Photo: Norebbo

Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and editor of The New York Times, once wrote: “In this restless new world, what is needed above all is a new mind-set, if America is going to sustain a high standard of living into the twenty-first century and to prevail as a global economic power in the long-run.”[1]

There are many Americans who believe we are not developing that mind-set. They believe we have a dysfunctional government one of the reasons we are witnessing such a dramatic U.S. presidential campaign and an educational system that undermines our stability and is not globally competitive. Many also believe that our industrial base is losing market share because it, too, is unable to effectively compete in the international environment.

America has the ability to change this mind-set, but must act now. With the passage of time, we will know the results. Regardless of the outcome, however, there are actions that individuals can take to ensure some degree of sanity and safety for themselves. The following “Top 10 Embracements” detail some of these necessary actions.

1. Embrace Change

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”[2]

~ King Whitney, Jr., business executive and former president of Personnel Laboratory

Change is not easy, but in this environment, it is change or perish. Of the three types classified by Whitney, only the confident can truly embrace change. Individuals must understand their own level of confidence to be successful in creating change.

Change can come only within the context of values; they are the necessary reference points for successful change for both individuals and society. The more confusion there is about values, the less likely it is that change will occur in an organized fashion. Individuals must strive to understand their own value structure and the value structure of society.

Remember that “nothing endures but change.”[3] To put it another way, successful individuals are the ones who consistently embrace change.

2. Embrace Capitalism

“The market is not an invention of capitalism. It has existed for centuries. It is an invention of civilization.”[4]

~ Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the communistic Soviet Union at the time of its transition to a capitalistic nation

Capitalism is a socioeconomic system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property, religion, and freedom. In theory, the state’s sole responsibility is to protect these rights; it is a system that depends on a laissez–faire approach to government.

The conflict between state and individuals over this socioeconomic system is longstanding. However, communism, the most forceful alternative, has only resulted in the usurping of individual rights. The complete and total failure of communism clearly reinforces the importance of capitalism as the system capable of providing individuals with the highest standards of living.

Successful individuals embrace capitalism by being entrepreneurial, either within their own organizations or the corporate world at large.

3. Embrace Challenge over Championship

“The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.”[5]

~ Martin Luther King, Jr., famed African-American civil rights leader

The culture of challenge is not a statement of defiance as many might believe. Rather, it is a state of stimulation. One must possess a desire to press forward with the neverending goal of investigation. Investigation must be conducted in a manner that invites all parties in a friendly way to achieve stated goals through group interaction.

It would appear, however, that the culture of championship is more prevalent. Winning has become a way of life at all costs; moreover, winning must be accomplished immediately. In today’s society, it makes no difference whether you are moral as long as you win and can take the credit. While there have been attempts to develop codes of conduct associated with positive championship, there is a lot more talk going on than practice.

Develop a culture of challenge that takes into account the positive elements of championship with an operational code of conduct. This ideal value of conduct is quite often referred to as “an English sense of fair play.” You do not need to win the championship overnight by taking what might be a big plunge. Be content to gradually catch up with others and surpass them in a moral way.

Photo: Photobank.ch

4. Embrace Continuing Education

“Education remains the key to both economic and political empowerment.”[6]

~ Barbara Jordan, African-American civil rights leader and former U.S. congresswoman

“Education is the best provision for the journey to old age.”[7]

~ Aristotle, Greek philosopher

The age of communication and globalization has facilitated exponential discovery and change in the rate of competency. Today, the face of medicine is changing so fast that a medical doctor becomes completely outdated in a few years without ongoing education. The same case can be made for almost all other professions, although perhaps they exhibit a less rapid pace of change.

Continuing education takes into account the fact that many jobs are becoming obsolete in very rapid time frames and helps individuals adjust to new realities by quickly developing new and financially rewarding skills. Truly, the only way to stay on top is through continuing education. Ideally, the progressive business or organization will aid in this endeavor. Unfortunately, businesses tend to pay lip service to this idea without actually embracing it. Thus, individuals must take on personal responsibility to embrace continuing education, often at their own expense.

5. Embrace Competency over Loyalty

“Football is a metaphor for the kind of country we want to create. It’s based on merit.”[8]

~ Jack Kemp, U.S. politician and former NFL quarterback

One need only substitute the term “organization” for “country” to understand the full impact of the above statement. Football, while a team sport, depends on individual capabilities, especially for key players, such as the quarterback. The last thing one wants from a football team is for the quarterback position to be occupied by a loyal player without skills.

Be competent and associate yourself with competent groups that value meritocracy. Do not get involved with groups that simply want your loyalty. You must be a team player in today’s environment, but you cannot take action simply out of blind loyalty.

6. Embrace Personal Responsibility

“People need responsibility. They resist assuming it, but they cannot get along without it.”[9]

~ John Steinbeck, noted American author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

Accept responsibility willingly and at every level of activity, be it at the workplace or the home. World-renowned medical humanitarian Albert Schweitzer noted: “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn to exercise his will his personal responsibility.”[10] At the workplace, there are often people who do not take their jobs seriously because they lack personal responsibility. More often than not, this lack of responsibility extends to the home not planning for retirement, healthcare, or proper consumption, and performing poor debt management.

In today’s less stable economic times, it is almost impossible to accomplish these necessary objectives without solid planning and a serious commitment to personal responsibility.

7. Embrace Global Competitive Employers Only

“In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.”

~ William Knudsen, U.S. industrialist and former president of General Motors

It is time to recognize the new 21st century reality. The world is truly global. Your competition is no longer in the next town or the next state; it is in the next country and the next country after it. This is a major economic shift that cannot be put aside. Now more than ever, individuals cannot afford to spend their time working for losers as losers today have a greater likelihood of failing and failing fast. One must only work for winners. The winning firms will predominantly be those that are committed to remaining globally competitive. The other firms will gradually falter. Look for companies that embrace the six-stakeholder strategy:

  1. Maximized Shareholders
  2. Empowered Employees
  3. Enlightened Leadership
  4. Customer Drivers Satisfied
  5. Suppliers Satisfied
  6. Community and Social Responsibility in place

8. Embrace Positive Thinking

“I’ve always believed that that you can think positive as well as you can think negative.”[11]

~ Sugar Ray Robinson, famed African-American boxer

Think in terms of advancement, not retreat. This can only be accomplished with a positive outlook. However, do not ignore negatives they must be faced and the only way they can be overcome is with a positive attitude. One of America’s great industrialists, W. Clement Stone, stated: “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”[12]

9. Embrace Action

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”[13]

~ Anthony Robbins, motivational speaker and authority on leadership psychology

Do not spend your time just talking about things. Once you make the decision to do something, commit to doing it.

The economic fact is that an individual cannot waste time today as they could in the past. The returns of the marketplace are far more competitive so one must move quickly to capture them. Opportunities, likewise, will fade more quickly. Time is of the essence in being or remaining competitive.

10. Embrace Respect for Yourself

“They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”[14]

~ Mahatma Gandhi, major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement

To demand the respect of others, you must respect them as well. On many occasions, you will be called upon to stand up for yourself and your beliefs. That does not not mean you have to take it to the extreme everyone must practice the art of compromise but it does mean not taking unwarranted “stuff” from individuals or groups.

Epilogue

The times are changing, and they are changing more rapidly than anyone could have forecast. It will be necessary to possess character to cope. The ten embracements should be helpful in these difficult economic times for one’s long-term successful endeavors. The acceptance of these embracements will hopefully help with the continuation of the “American Dream.”


[1] Hedrick Smith. Rethinking America, (New York: Random House, 1995).

[2] James B. Simpson. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988).

[3] Heraclitus. Wikiquote.com, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Heraclitus.

[4] Krishnan Kumar. 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).

[5] Martin Luther King, Jr. BrainyQuote.com, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html.

[6] Barbara Jordan. WorldofQuotes.com, http://www.worldofquotes.com/topic/Empowerment/1/index.html.

[7] Aristotle. Quotationspage.com, http://quotationspage.com/quotes/Aristotle/.

[8] Jack Kemp. Creativequotations.com, http://creativequotations.com/cgi-bin/sql_search3.cgi?keyword=jack+kemp&boolean=and&frank=all&field=all&database=all.

[9] John Steinbeck. DailyWisdom.com. http://dailywisdom.gospelcom.net/dw_static/quotesall.html. (no longer accessible).

[10] Albert Schweitzer. Brainyquotes.com, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/albert_schweitzer.html.

[11] Sugar Ray Robinson. Thinkexist.com, http://thinkexist.com/quotes/Sugar_Ray_Robinson/.

[12] W. Clement Stone. Brainyquotes.com, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/w_clement_stone.html.

[13] Anthony Robbins. Thinkexist.com, http://thinkexist.com/quotes/anthony_robbins/2.html.

[14] Mahatma Gandhi. Quotegarden.com, http://www.quotegarden.com/self-respect.html.

Author of the article
Darrol J. Stanley, DBA
Darrol J. Stanley, DBA, , is a professor of finance at the Graziadio School of Business and Management. He is well-known as a financial consultant with special emphasis on valuing corporations for a variety of purposes. He has also rendered fairness opinions on many financial transactions, and he has been engaged by corporations to develop strategies to enhance their value. He has served as head of corporate finance, research, and trading of four NYSE member firms. He likewise has been the principal of an SEC-registered investment advisor. He has completed global assignments as well as having served as Chief Appraiser of International Valuations/Standard & Poor's in Europe, Central Europe, and Russia.
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