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Why Are We All So Anxious?
There has been one persistent problem with our economy for the past 20 years. Even when things are going extremely well for someone in their career or when business is exceptionally good for the owners, they tell me that they don’t TRUST the future to be as good as the present.
As I write this, we are in week 9 of the Covid-19 crisis and things are just starting to open up. Will the economy rebound quickly or will there be a prolonged recession or depression? No one knows. But even when things were booming before the crisis, when unemployment was at a record low and most businesses I was working with were making great profits, their leaders were unwilling to invest. There are trillions of dollars in corporate coffers sitting on the sidelines because CEO’s simply don’t trust the future.
I believe that the reason for this mistrust in the future is that we have built careers and companies that are not within our control. Let me talk first about individuals and their careers. Their careers are based largely on jobs given to them by large corporations. This is relatively new in the span of humankind on planet Earth.
We started as hunters and to survive we had to kill something. If we were good at it, we survived. If we weren’t we died. We were 100% in control of our destiny. Then we learned to plant and harvest. For thousands of years if we were good at farming, we survived and thrived and we were 100% in control of our destiny.
Then came the factories of the Industrial Age. We made a significant shift here because for the first time, we turned control of our careers and our lives over to someone else. If we worked for the right company, making the right things, the right way, we prospered. If we didn’t, we didn’t and we had to find another manufacturing job with the right company. That wasn’t too hard post World War Two because there was a long boom and most everyone prospered.
As we moved into the Information Age, there was a great disruption as careers moved from blue collar factory work to white collar information processing work, but for most of us our standard of living continued to rise and most of us were employed so life was still pretty good.
As the pace of change accelerated, the road got a lot bumpier. The unwritten social contract of working for a single company for life was shattered. Companies did what was in their best interests with little regard for workers. Worker with the right skills took their careers into their own hands and moved from company to company whenever they could get a better deal. That too, worked well as long as the economy was growing rapidly which it did through the 80’s.
But then the train went off the rails. The pace of change accelerated even more rapidly as the pace of technological development started to go exponential. Suddenly, it was more difficult to keep pace and careers were no longer guaranteed. But the die was cast, because this generation had never known anything other than working for someone else. If they lost their jobs, they didn’t know how to hunt or farm. How would they eat? How would they pay the mortgage? The answer is that if they couldn’t find a JOB working for someone else, they simply couldn’t make a living. They were NOT in control of their destiny. As I write this, 70% of working Americans are in fear of losing their job and their livelihood in the next 6 months! Yikes!
When you have no sense of control over your future, no TRUST in the future, you become anxious. The rise in prescriptions for antidepressants mirrors the changes in our careers. One out of every 8 Americans are now taking antidepressants. We are anxious because we are out of control.
What to do?
How can we take control of our future? The answer, I believe is pretty straight forward. We need to learn to work for OURSELVES. We need to learn to be self-sustaining. We need to be in charge of our incomes and our purchasing power just as we have been for most of our existence on Earth. We NEED to be in control to be optimistic. Depending completely on other for our livelihood is folly. It is an illusion. It feels great to get a consistent paycheck from someone else every two weeks…as long as we can trust that it will always be there. We now know that we simply cannot count on that happening… so we are anxious because we know that it can disappear without notice at any point.
There really is only one solution to our anxiety. We must learn how to start and grow a business where we work for ourselves. When our future is dependent on ourselves and our skills, our faith in the future will be restored. That’s why we built PartnerHere.com. We believe the future of our economy has to be built on the bedrock of ownership and control. We believe that an economy of entrepreneurs is the only way forward that will rebuild our trust in the future. Peter Drucker, one of the greatest management gurus of the 20th Century, said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s work together to rebuild our economy and our trust and faith in the future. Let’s become a nation and a world full of optimistic, forward thinking, hard working entrepreneurs who know how to create wealth for themselves. Let’s regain control of our own destiny…and then maybe we can relax and smile and enjoy the fruits of our labors with our loved ones…the way we were intended to live.
Now, let’s look at corporate fear. CEO’s and senior leaders aren’t in any greater control over their careers than you are. The average tenure for a CEO at the world’s top 2500 companies is just 5 years. They are petrified that after working their entire career to get to the top, that if they don’t produce superior returns, they will be replaced. Fear does not engender investment in R&D. Fear does not engender risk taking of any kind. Last year the S&P 500 spent nearly one trillion dollars on stock buybacks, presumably because they couldn’t come up with any better ideas for the investment of that money. There is another 1.4 trillion in cash sitting in their coffers, again presumably, because they can’t come up with any better ideas for investing it. In other words, they simply don’t trust the future.
These companies have become so large that they have forgotten how to innovate and they are risk adverse. They buy innovative companies rather than grow them in house. They are not the growth engines of the economy. 14% of the Fortune 500 lost money in 2019. Just 10 companies in the S&P 500 took 20% of the total profits. This concentration of wealth is hurting our economy. If they suck up all the profits but don’t reinvest, that means fewer jobs and fewer new kinds of jobs from new industries are being created.
The bottom line is that we need to become a nation and a world of entrepreneurs. We need brave risk takers who are willing to take their ideas to market and make them work. We need to take back control of our livelihoods and our destinies…and that is why I built PartnerHere.com. To enable everyone to start or grow their business, without cash. We can do this. We are going to have to think differently. We are going to have to work hard. We are going to have to work together. We are going to have to co-operate, but working creatively together, we will succeed.