Balance Facts and Faith

By Ann Elliott

brain heart
At the Battle of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War in 1775 either a British soldier or colonial militiaman fired the shot heard ’round the world.  Nobody is quite sure who to blame for the first shot.  Today we have an economic crisis felt ’round the world.  Nobody is quite sure who to blame for the first shot. Suppose we turn it around to “an economic opportunity felt ’round the world”?  Imagine looking for solutions while fully aware of the current reality personally, nationally and internationally.  We expect to find solutions…somewhere, somehow. brain heart The sewer is not the first place I would think to look for gold. In Suwa, Japan, a sewage treatment facility mined tens of thousands of pounds of gold from sewage sludge.  According to an article on February 2, 2009 in the “…yield of gold extracted from sludge to rival production levels at some of the best mines in the world.”  By the end of their financial year, March 2009, the sewage treatment plant expects to earn $167,000.  You never know where you will find an unexpected source of wealth…an unintended consequence. We have plenty of matrices to tell us where we stand:
  • Stock Market
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Employment
  • Real estate values
  • GDP
  • Bankruptcies
  • Foreclosures
According to the Conference Board, a New York based research firm, their Consumer Confidence Index has fallen to an all time low. reports on February 24, 2009 “The index, which is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, revealed a bleak outlook for the months ahead.” There were 304 million people in the United States in 2008 according to the US Census.  The Conference Board survey represents .01644% of the entire population of the United States. The Conference Board didn’t ask me what I think.  Did they ask you?  Probably not. Our loss of confidence and trust could be the greatest loss of all with the most devastating consequences. With no hope and no expectation of a resolution to our economic situation, we create more of the same despair.  We look for situations to confirm our bleak beliefs.  There is plenty to confirm the current reality. Suppose we start to look for opportunities and expect to find them although we may not be sure when or where?  This outlook is not the same as unbridled optimism. In Good to Great by Jim Collins, Admiral Jim Stockdale, described his eight year experience in the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner in the Viet Nam War.  His experience paralleled the good-to-great companies studied by Collins and his team,”…stoically accepted the brutal facts of the reality…maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame…commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts.” Collins called this duality “the Stockdale Paradox.” Facts plus faith sustained Stockdale and prisoners under his command.  The prisoners who didn’t survive in the same circumstances were “the optimists.”  The Calvary didn’t show up on a date certain time after time after time for them.  “They died of a broken heart,” said Stockdale. Stockdale told Collins, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end– which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Seven Take Away Lessons for Us in 2009: How you respond to your current reality is a choice Stay connected with others, now is not the time to isolate Spark your own creativity by being a solution resource for others Consider options that may look weird (remember the sewer) Give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far Expect to prevail and be enriched by the experience Remind yourself of what is really most important The economic crisis of 2009 pales in comparison to torture as a prisoner of war for eight years. Can you, like Admiral Stockdale, know without a doubt that you will prevail and turn this experience “into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade”? Where are the opportunities amidst the brutal facts today? The first place to look is inside your own head and heart.  Faith as defined by Webster is confidence or trust in a person or thing. It is an inside job.  The opportunities in an economic “shot heard ’round the world” start with you.

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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