Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful For Wise Perspective

I'm a little bit of a news junkie, and right now there is more news about the economy than an average person like me can synthesize. In article after article I read that we are headed in to a possible depression comparable to the Great Depression, that the U.S. will never again be the leading world economy, etc. Not too hopeful.

In general, I've taken all this with a grain of salt. First of all, the economy when my husband I and I first got married was, in my opinion, worse. Inflation was ridiculous. Unemployment was much higher, even here, where we have some insulating factors. Mortgage interest rates were much higher- our first little house had a 9.5% mortgage, and that was with an FHA loan. My husband was unemployed for a while, and wound up free-lancing from our home for six years, which was less than ideal.

That's not to say there aren't people who are struggling. I just try not to let the media, who feed on exaggeration, pull me into their drama.

Sunday, my husband and I got a chance to get some very sensible perspective.

After church we decided to eat at Culver's, which is a bit of a First Baptist hang-out at lunch time. As we were looking for a table, we were invited by a church friend, H.E., to sit with him, as he was eating by himself. I had never had the pleasure of a long conversation with this man, though Mike has gotten to know him pretty well. Was I in for a treat! He was one of the most interesting people I've talked to in a long time. He is retired from a management position in the oil business, and he told us about that. He grew up on a farm, and he told us about that. He remembers the Great Depression well, and he told us about that (but not at all in that "young people don't know how good they have it" way). He has followed the current political scene with relish, and offered great perspectives on that. Yet all of this was very conversational, and we never felt like we were being "talked at", but that we could express ourselves and explore ideas freely.

Here are some of the things I came home with:

On oil- we need to drill, to give ourselves time to change over to natural gas or hydrogen. We will always need oil to some degree. Right now, we don't have fueling stations for those new technologies for cars. There is a recent discovery of a huge oil deposit in the Gulf of Mexico that we would be crazy not to pursue.

On the president elect- "I wish him the very best!", but inexperience is a problem, and that's why we are seeing so many Clinton era appointees. That would be fine if this were still the 90s, but time has marched on.

On the economy- this is nothing like the Great Depression when 40% of the community he grew up in were out of work, and the Dust Bowl was going on out west. No one had a cent then, every bank in town was dissolved, and everyone bartered for everything. His family farmed, and had a five acre vegetable plot that they used to barter for other things. They most likely grew all the produce that was being traded in that little town. However, we are in for at least a couple of pretty rough years.

On the bailout- probably needed to do something about the banks, but the automakers need to be allowed to declare bankruptcy, because it will allow the courts to renegotiate the labor contracts, along with other necessary changes that will make them viable after awhile. They won't quit making cars all together, they'll just be forced to make management changes that will be for the best in the long run.

Of course, these are just one person's opinions, but they are based on a long life of successful business management, practical experience, and the perspective of ninety years of life, which have made him moderate and humane, while understanding the need to take a "tough love" approach in some circumstances. It was so interesting, and comforting, to hear what he had to say.

So, today I'm thankful for the chance to hear the wisdom that age provides.


DramaMama said...

Great post! There are some people in our life like that too, we just love talking to them and wish more young people would take the time to listen. Also, I had to laugh b/c Culver's is a hangout for our church too!! LOL! I guess that's great...the Culver's founder went to my alma mater and he is a Christian too, so I guess it's only fitting that lots of church groups like to go there =) They just opened a second one here and it's about time b/c there were never any open tables at the other one! I guess my next post should be I am thankful for Culvers! LOL!

CindyW said...

I intuitively rebel against experience :) Seriously. I think a large part of that reaction is trained in the Silicon Valley, where new fresh ground-breaking ideas rule the day, not the experience.

Coming out of school, immediately I was hired to be innovative in the semiconductor industry. Then in business consulting, I was paid to do things differently from the status quo of a company.

Over the years, I've learned to respect the new and the different while downgrading experience.

Having kids gives me a bit more perspective on the experience thing.

It is still my immediate reaction to rebel when I am facing someone who has had years of experience in a specific area. But I am also much more willing to listen and absorb before reacting :)

Joyce said...

DM-Culver's is awesome ( if you love a good greasy burger!)! We all wind up there because it's so close to the church, and it's cheap. But, the real reason Mike and I go is to hang out with all of our friends.

Cindy-I think inovators HAVE to throw aside all advice and look at things from a different point of view. What I really like about this man is that he seems to have spent his life being an innovator like you are, but just a while back. He's very open minded and still likes to analyze issues, which was very interesting to see. I didn't feel that he was locked into a certain way of doing anything.

Joyce said...

I should add that I don't necessarily agree with every single thing this man said, but he had good reasons for all of his opinions, and it was interesting to hear them.