In the 1980s, in an earlier chapter in my life, I would stand before leaders of individual church congregations, and lead them through an exercise. I would make them write these years down:
1990-and the years that follow
I would ask them to circle the years that represented the best years for their specific congregation, and then discuss their choice with others in small groups. Many would circle different decades from the past. Others would circle the current years. Almost none of them would circle the future years, “1990-and the years that follow.”
I would tell them that there was only one right answer for the best leaders to circle: the future years, “1990-and the years that follow.”
This is sort of always the question. In your life, in your company, in your family, — are your best years behind you?; are you in the midst of your best years right now?; are your best years in the future?
I’ve been away for our annual family reunion. I heard my preacher say recently that “there are no normal families.” We’ll, we’ve got a great family. But with major business challenges, career shifts, life situation changes, it seems that someone in our family is always in the midst of a mild to not-so-mild crisis.
My brother raised the issue of whether or not the United States is “over the hump.” He used the phrase with the meaning of “in the midst of decline.” It’s an important question, a sobering one…
A few years ago I would have voted for the view that we are not in decline, but the rest of the world is catching up. (The view found in the first edition of The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria. It is his second edition that Mr. Zakaria is accused of plagiarizing. Is he “over the hump” after these latest accusations?).
Now, I do get the concern. Things seem to be tough, almost unraveling, in a lot of ways.
But when I got home from the reunion, I finished the last chapter – the last essay – in Business Adventures by John Brooks. (I’m presenting this book this Friday at the First Friday Book Synopsis). The chapter is: In Defense of Sterling: The Bankers, the Pound, and the Dollar. It was practically a blow-by-blow account of the assault on the Pound Sterling, and the Dollar, in 1964-1965. This quote, from one of the major players in the drama, provides the last lines of the book:
“That day in November, here at the bank, when a courier brought me the top-secret British document informing us of the decision to devalue, I felt physically sick. Sterling would never be the same. It would never again command the same amount of faith around the world.”
Well, Great Britain is still standing. And so are we. And so are companies that have been battered and bruised. And, some of the people who worked in companies that did not make it over the hump are now doing other things. It is a difficult time for many, and a boom-time for others.
Maybe there is always a new hump – the next hump. Maybe life, maybe business, maybe families — maybe entire countries — are simply called to keep going over the hump.
Yes, it may be nothing but downhill after that. But, maybe, instead, it may allow a lull before the next mountain to climb comes into view…
Life is difficult, yes…
It’s morning in America.