The Recession’s Gift

Since 1994 to 2007 South Africa had an economy growth of about 6 – 7%. Then just as the rest of the world, we experience a dramatic downturn in 2008 and 2009. Currently I hear our economy is performing just below 3%.

So most of us, having changed gears and drawn our belts tighter, do still feel the effect of the “great recession” as some economist call it. The question arises – how do we respond?

Do we complain? If you want to, go ahead, but it will not change the situation.

Do we long for the wonderful past? Not a very good option as it is water underneath the bridge.

Do we put our heads down and just work ourselves out of this situation? I think this is a good option. It is a step in the right direction.

What I also suggest is that while we work, we also think and learn from the recession, as I belief it has a gift for us.

The gift is that of exposing the worldwide consumerism. Consumerism is a parasitical system at its worst and at its best an immediate gratification syndrome like that of a 2 year old baby.

To stimulate further economic growth the government encourages small business development. This is a good plan as small businesses are the highest employers in the country. We should however also remember the gift of the recession in this plan.

Observing small businesses I see that a lot of them are in business primarily to consume.

In a start-up phase of a business and for survivalist entrepreneurs, this is acceptable. What stands out is the consumption of profits when a business has “made” it. Expensive cars, big houses etc. A wise entrepreneur will wait until his/her business is mature, before they indulge themselves, if at all.

This consumption is not only restricted to business. Unfortunately the mentality also prevails in government and corporations. I am not only talking about the lavish parties that are held. I am also referring to the employees that come to work with a mentality of doing as little as possible for as much as possible.

Too really change this recession around, a fundamental mind shift has to take place in society.

We need to change our consumer thinking (what can I get) to one of adding value (what can I give).

If you consistently add value money will follow.

I take myself for example. Because my cash flow is under pressure, I tend to think carefully if what I buy, will add the most value to my life. If my business does not add value to my clients, I will not have any clients. If the business I am a client of, does not add value, I do not spend my money there anymore.

This is also true for being an employee. If you have a mentality of adding value, constantly asking yourself “How can I improve the performance of my company?” you will be the last person to be retrenched.

My invitation to you then is: Will you take the gift of this recession and use it to add value?

Striving to add value


Uphill and Downhill

Life is like riding a bicycle. At first you struggle to find your balance. You often fall over and need a lot of assistance. Until you get the hang of it, then the joyous freedom of riding like the wind makes us laugh with pleasure.

Once you have mastered the ability to ride a bicycle you never forget it either. Included in this experience of freedom, is the knowledge that you can still fall. My serious cycling friends divide the world of cycling in two:

  1. Those that have fallen and
  2. Those who are still going to fall.

There are basically only two reasons why we fall, either because of an accident or because we are too arrogant. The first fall is outside our circle of influence (and yes we can take precautions), the second fall is because we overestimate our influence.

In life it is the same. We have to master the art of living. In this process of finding our balance we know two things. We can taste the freedom and joy of being alive and we can anticipate that we are going to fall.

So we have the choice: Take the risk to live and feel the wind in your hair or make sure you never fall and do not get on the bike.

When we choose to get on the bike of our life, we will encounter up hills and downhills. The struggle to get to the top of the hill has burning lungs and painful muscles as part of the package.  But we know that every up hill has a downhill.

The downhill is trilling and exiting but unfortunately very short in comparison to the uphill struggle. A bit unfair, don’t you agree?

Recently I looked back after an exhilarating downhill, feeling let down after the energy intensive uphill. I realized that the secret and the challenge of optimally living, is to find the joy in the uphill.

This asks for a major mind shift (I suppose it is something like shifting gears on your bicycle). We will have to change our belief system that joy is in the pleasurable reward. We will have to start appreciating the burning lungs and tired legs. Seeing the beauty of having the power to paddle up the hill. Experiencing the engagement with reality in every breath of being present in the moment.

Suddenly the joy of freedom takes a deeper meaning. We do not have to wait for an exiting experience. We can create it in the middle of our current uphill life.

Still paddling