Saturday, January 17, 2009

Looking for the Silver Lining

It may seem crazy, but I see some benefits to the current economic situation. I know, I know, people are losing their jobs, their homes, and their retirement income. It's happening to people near and dear to me too. But, sometimes systems have to fail for new ones to surface.

For several years I've been concerned about the future of the US economy, and now it looks as though those concerns were valid. As a teacher of twelve to sixteen year olds, I've seen a disconnect between work and reward. Young people showed off their material possessions (iPods, cell phones, Ugg boots, and the sneaker-brand-of-the-month), but never seemed to associate them with any kind of work. Parents seemed to be in the same dreamland, charging luxuries to major credit cards and maintaining a high monthly balance. Houses were getting bigger, cars more expensive, and dining out became a regular routine. Plastic ruled; reality was replaced with instant gratification.

The same lack of discipline became evident in school. Kids thought they deserved to get an A with minimal effort. They expected to go to college and land terrific jobs, without expending any energy. As a teacher I found it hard to get students to understand that eventually they would have to "pay the piper" because their limited experience said otherwise.

I believe the current economy will stimulate American inventiveness. It's a great time for entrepreneurs who are willing to work hard to grow new companies, just as our predecessors did during the Great Depression. The message to reconnect behaviors and consequences came in time for us to turn things around. Another decade of heedless spending and living the good life and it may have been too late. We still have Americans who lived through cycles of hard times and know that good times will return, but not without rediscovered effort and discipline - that seems like a silver lining to me.

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