In the second half of 2008 the world’s financial systems all but collapsed, fueling widespread predictions of the most dire economic crisis in eighty years. Orthodox thinking anticipated retrenchment, reduced investment, lowered consumption and widespread hardship. If you accepted the conventional wisdom you’d agree this was certainly not a good time to launch a new enterprise. Rather, a time to wrap your dream carefully against breakage and lay it in mothballs on the shelf.
At the risk of being labelled imprudent and irresponsible, I want to state that this thinking is exactly wrong. Not just slightly misguided, but completely, one hundred percent in error. There are many reasons why now is as good a time as any to make your dream a reality; here are the most immediate.
- The only certainty is uncertainty. I went for a run this morning, listening for the radio news with one ear and the surrounding traffic with the other. I smiled as I noted that all the economic stories had taken their adjectives from the same thesaurus entry. They all spoke of expectations, forecasts, predictions – things which haven’t happened yet! But they spoke of them as if they were unarguable fact.
If we examine the history of economic forecasting, we come to the inescapable conclusion that most predictions never come to pass. “Oh,” say the pundits, “but on balance most of them will.” No they won’t. Consider again the melt-down of late 2008 – how many forecasters predicted that? On balance, most predictions were absolutely wrong.
Because economic trends usually move slowly, forecasters have the luxury of progressively revising their initial predictions to bring them into line with reality. It’s not until we’re confronted with a sudden shift in circumstances that much of what passes for informed opinion is shown up for the crystal ball gazing it really is.
Please note that I’m overstating this principle for effect. We should not discard prudent advice, but we should not allow the realisation of our dream to be ruled by what is at best an uncertain science.
- Economics is not everything. The world economic system is driven by negotiated self-interest. In every context, self-interest narrows our view and constrains our options. This is not necessarily right or wrong, it just is. While economic considerations play a part in much decision making, they never represent the whole picture and ought not to dictate which solutions are acceptable.
If we take the broadest view, what passes for economic orthodoxy is a very small, short-term slice of the prospect. In that larger picture there are far more pressing issues that should command our attention, many of them at odds with the short-term thinking that passes for “economic reality”.
No dream worth pursuing is just about self-interest. If it is it’s not a dream, it’s an ambition – and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. But a dream which inspires us with a passion for its fulfillment touches a deeper, broader chord in the human spirit. The inflexible yardstick of economics is not big enough to measure its worth.
- Predictions are self-fulfilling. My colleague Craig’s Skype profile quotes Henry Ford: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” Self-talk and self-belief are powerful tools. Once we’re convinced something is going to happen we will, often without being aware of it, act in a way that makes it come about.
For this reason the world is going to have a recession in 2009. There’s no question about it now – we’ve talked ourselves into it. Was it inevitable? No. How will we climb out of it? Well, eventually we’ll have the confidence to believe in a better future. Eventually we’ll let that confidence seep into our conversation. Eventually we’ll believe ourselves back into comparative prosperity.
I’m a cynic, aren’t I? But one thing I’m not cynical about is the empowerment that comes from having a dream. Regardless of what those around you are channelling, with self-belief and determination today is always the best day to make your dream a reality.
- Hope trumps despair. The doomsayers may have the marketplace all to themselves and most of us may have reluctantly accepted the thin economic gruel they’re peddling, but the human spirit always hungers for hope. The deeper the despair, the greater the hunger.
By living your dream, by charting a determined course for its fulfillment regardless of the circumstances, you become a beacon and inevitably draw other people to you. Hope is universally attractive, and no great enterprise is ever accomplished without it. Support and resources always flow towards hope.
Hope is also the essential dynamic at work in all true leadership. And here’s a warning. You may not plan on being a leader, you may not want to be a leader, but if you dare to live your dream, you may find the mantle of leadership unavoidable.
A closing thought, my adaptation of Mr Ford’s tenet; “Whether you know where you’re going or not, you’ll get there.”
Why allow your journey and your destination to be determined by the collective fears and narrow thinking of others?
Face the future. Chart your course. Live your dream.
Do it today.