Changing the Economy

Dan Wallace and I had breakfast this week and were going through the regular “how’s your business” conversation when we swerved off into a broader discussion about the economy. We both agreed that we’re going through a “muddling” period while we try to overcome structural drags and start to create some new jobs.

We continued to talk and reflect on the changes we’ve seen during our 20+ year careers – especially the tougher times. Quickly we came to realize that these conditions look much like another time.

In the 1980s we faced a similar situation. The traditional growth engine – manufacturing –stalled and was showing no life. The recession had ended, but unemployment was still high and the recovery started without many jobs being created. It was a difficult time without much optimism.

The parallels with today are there: a tepid recovery, miniscule job growth, and stalled growth engines. This recession has shocked this economy and caused many of us to rethink our lives. It feels the same as that earlier recession.

There is one major difference.

In the earlier recession, we all know that manufacturing would never be the big driver in that recovery: the auto companies were on their butts and we were losing our edge across the board. Still, the technology and information sectors were starting to show their strength. The economy was quickly adjusting to this new reality and it was becoming clear that these sectors could pull us out of the slump.

This time it’s different. The growth sectors of the past few years are dead. Housing will not be growing for a long time. Technology looks more and more like a mature industry. The green energy sector may prove to be a driver in the long run, but there are no clear breakout businesses to drive this recovery. It’s unclear where the recovery will find its real growth fuel.

That presents different challenges to address. If you are an economist or a policy maker, it’s to decide where and when the next spurt will come. For the rest of us, it means working on our personal skills and finding our own ways to create value. It puts more of the burden on each of us individually to make a difference.

It’s a major change in our economy, but a positive one. Each of us has the opportunity to define our lives in a way that more aligns with our lifestyles, values, and talents. It causes more instability in the short-run, but longer term it will put us all on better footing for the future.






2 Responses to “Changing the Economy”

  1. October 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Great blog! I love the line “we all have the opportunity to define ourselves.” What’s best about it is we have that opportunity ever day to redefine ourselves, to pick ourselves off the floor and go at it again. The only time it will stop is when they put us 6 feet under.

    In the end, the only real thing you have total control over is your own outlook on life.

    Hope you are having a great week!


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