Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That used to be you

This evening, I attended a talk through the Hudson Union Society given by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum about their recent book That used to be us: How America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back.

Those of you who read Friedman’s New York Times column, may be familiar with some if the main points of the book. Namely that there is a global trend towards overpopulation, increased communication and dwindling resources. And that while many predict China may be on the rise to power and the US has mismanaged its economy and slowed on innovation, America should look back at its successes in the past and return to the policy that made it strong while keeping up with communication and green technology.

The book ends with Freidman and Mandelbaum’s ideal 2012 presidential platform. They are advocating that an independent candidate take up issues of investment in infrastructure and education, spending cuts to Medicare and Social Security and tax increases – perferably related to fuel usage.

Of course in a situation like this, topdown change often has the greatest impact. However, I would like to take one of the major questions of the evening and apply it to the individual, in particular the 9.1% of Americans that are unemployed. The question to ask is “What were you doing in the past that worked?” When you think about the good things you’ve done it can focus your energy towards repeating those habits and outcomes. There is something very powerful about putting a positive spin on your assessment of the past. Understanding what you have done well can help you make decisions on where you can add the most benefit. Yes, top down change is going to be necessary to change the direction the US is headed, but bottom-up change and a need for individual innovation and reinvigoration is also going to be crucial to our recovery. This isn’t about glossing over what may have gone wrong – but if you’ve had success in the past chances are you can pinpoint what went right and harness that into more future success.

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