I’ve been thinking about reliance this past week. The last time the stock market crashed in 1987, I wound up in the hospital a few days later, trying not to deliver twins prematurely. Their father was an equities trader, so it was a time of extreme stress. The babies came early regardless, and we lost the oldest boy. The next few months were spent in high drama with the littlest. The day to day of trying to save a very, very sick tiny boy trumped the economy then. We relied on the skill of medical professionals and the grace of God, with whom I made a bargain. Never overtly religious, I nonetheless turned to the Deity upon whom I could rely in the scariest crisis I had ever encountered. My prayers were answered, my son lived, and I performed the atonement I promised. But that is a story for another day.
Today’s crisis is the economy, of course. The cliche reminds us you won’t find an atheist in a foxhole. But when the market bottoms out and you’re hunkered down and wounded, what do you rely upon aside from the grace of God? With whom else do you place your faith? We’ve seen government leaders appear clueless. How can we rely upon them? We’ve watched our employers become uncertain or insolvent. Why should we think we’re safe in their employ? Who, in turn, relies upon us? In uncertain times, who appears in our foxhole to see us through the night?
Faith can be fickle. We turn to its source in times of need, and tend to ignore it otherwise. Growing up in post-war United States, we were led to believe in the wisdom of our leaders, and the truth imparted by the free press. In such was our faith formed. Much has happened lately to shake that faith. As politics and conditions become more uncertain, our world of trust and reliance shrinks. “Blood is thicker than water.” “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Who knows you best, if not your self? On self-reliance, Emerson wrote:
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
In the past week, those with the most to fear have generally been those who currently rely upon themselves the least. Those who have placed their future, and their self-value, in market-bearing accounts have seen that value dwindle. Those who rely upon ultra-passive sources of revenue are seeing those sources decline or cease to exist. Those who looked to credit to finance their ventures or their lifestyle are seeing it dry up. There has been a cataclysmic shift, a tsunami of market-driven change. Who will survive? Well, we all will, of course, in some fashion. Perhaps the best question is, who stands to maintain or improve their current standard of living with all the obstacles a recessionary climate brings?
For some, it’s simply too late, demographics being what they are. They’re the elderly, the weak, and the impossibly inert. It is they that society must turn to first with the appropriate safety net. Others are mired in self-pity, mourning their vision of a future that will not be. Many are angry, having gambled a lifetime of savings and performance in exchange for a payout that will not be what they envisioned, or even what they were promised. So many losses, such agonizing uncertainty, and so little idea or energy regarding how to proceed. On what can we rely? Where do we place our faith for a future that has been remarkably rewritten in the blink of a week, or so it would seem?
Is it really necessary to ask? The answer lies within ourselves, of course, and our willingness to press on. The winners who will emerge from the current darkness are those who are diversified in their talents and willing to play a little faster and looser. This means that if they’re employees, they might have a business or two on the side. If they’re conventionally retired, they’re looking to add revenue methods aside from passive investments and government entitlements. If they’re self-employed, they’re leveraging their relationships and maximizing opportunities with existing customers and prospects. How many will seek out opportunities and how many will stand by and let events control their destiny? Those who rely upon themselves tend to be optimistic and opportunistic.
This week, Pete and I will be sharing the steps we have taken to mitigate the impact of economic circumstances. We’ll discuss the decisions we face in dealing with tough times. Collectively, the actions we have taken have already made a difference in our dependencies. As city folk, we are limited in our self-sufficiency, but nonetheless, we are making a concerted effort to become more reliant on ourselves.
We are tightening our circle, and we’re planning for growth in our independence. We’d all benefit from and enjoy hearing thoughts about how the economic downturn is affecting you, as well as ideas and strategies you are implementing, in the comment section below.
It seems as though we do live in interesting times. Stay tuned.