Optimism central to the American way
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
I manage money for a living for people who are the very fiber of this great nation: the mom and pops who own and manage small businesses. The ones who work hard and worry.
I call them “B-17s,” after the great bombers in World War II that went into battle with four engines and a crew and came back with one engine and some of the crew, the hull of the aircraft shot up but still proud and flying, ready to be patched up and sent, again, in battle for yet another day. My “B-17s” provide jobs and scrape for capital. They are successful, bright, crafty and provide goods and services for everyday use for most everyone.
My clients are concerned about our country, our economy, as they should be. They are wary of the stock market and have been through a very rough time over the past 12 years. Many of these people have become somewhat negative about the investing climate, given this country’s various problems, its current leadership and our ability to continue as the greatest economic nation in the world. While I understand the negativism, I attempt to assuage their fears by providing them with a longer term perspective of this nation. There are countless times in the past 200 years that we’ve faced seemingly impossible situations, only to resolve and overcome those situations. We went on to become even stronger than most people during those periods could have ever imagined.
The first thing I tell them — and my children — is that we must be positive. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Nothing.” The second thing I tell them is that, “There are no members of the ‘Forbes 400 Richest Americans Who Are Pessimists.’” If you’ll read the biographies of the people on that list, you’ll find tons of self-made people who refused to listen to all the doom and gloom surrounding them at the time they risked their money, went against the grain and eventually made it big.
A client was saying how bad things are and how “we’re never going to get out this time.” I told him that was B.S. “Can you think of anything worse for a nation than a Civil War?” I asked him, “Americans killing Americans? Had you been in the Civil War in 1863, you would have, no doubt, seen no end to this country’s problems, no future, after it. Yet, the worst atrocity that has ever occurred in on this soil in history was resolved, and the start of the greatest business cycle in history consummated with the Industrial Revolution.” While he pondered that, I added, “So we’ve got some financial problems. If we can come back from a Civil War, several Wars, the Great Depression, an assassination of a President, another Civil War that was the 1960s, the threat of Nuclear War from Russia and various bank failures and collapses, don’t you think we can figure out how to get through this situation, too?” He now allowed that was possible. I told him it was a cinch.
I told him to forget who gets elected. “It makes no difference. Long term, the nation is stronger than even its weakest leader, its worst crises. Worrying about that is an excuse not to take action.”
What the current data doom and gloom cannot measure nor predict is the incredible will of a nation of innovative and hard-working people. Since people cannot SEE that in some report, they can’t fathom yet another comeback. Show me a negative situation and I will show you a great opportunity. The optimists recognize this while the pessimists never do.
Larson is a SMU alumnus from the class of ‘82.