Good decision making comes from experience, and experience comes from bad decision making. This has been one Hell of a year, but what did we learn?
If you are shivering and exhausted after being blasted by a firehose of news and information, you are far from alone. That’s the nature of our world, and generally you have two choices: do your best to take it all in and make sense of it, or unplug and have a good life.
But like Buddha’s choice between hedonism and asceticism, either choice has to leave you wondering: isn’t there a third, middle way? And there is. It’s about planning and learning, about enjoying the here and now without a lot of noise but staying on top, perhaps even above, the world.
If we have learned one thing from this year I would hope that it is that a series of reactions is never a substitute for an actual strategy.
Our world is increasing defined by the global market. This is more than a statement of where we get our food, coffee, gasoline, and all the other things which make the bizzy bizzy life possible. It’s a statement of philosophy and sociology in that it drives just about everything we do.
Our work is defined by the demand for various products and service. Our opinions and life choices are driven by the information we receive. Our life is defined, more and more every day, by global marketism.
There are two parts to this driving force, the global and the market. As we have discussed many times, market forces demand long-term thinking in order to truly master them. For one example, timing the stock market is an exercise in futility – we’ve all known since February that stocks were due to go down, but before that happened they crested in September. You simply cannot time the market, and you’ll go mad trying.
Similarly, globalism demands patience and understanding force that come from different cultures and outlooks on life which are difficult to understand. Basic assumptions about what motivates people are much more difficult. Everything has to be digested carefully, understood, and thought through. Why is this happening? What are they trying to tell us in either their language or in broken English?
Leadership, as we have it today, does none of this. The past year has been defined by a series of spontaneous reactions that do not in any way resemble a plan. We have slapped sanctions against nations, friend and foe alike, as retaliation. The budget has been completely blown, largely because of a theory that more capital is always good. And, of course, revelations of crimes in high places were met not with careful denials but a haphazard series of lies which make little sense on the face of them.
We have a terrible shortage of genuine leadership in the world. We have said here many times, and it bears repeating until it is realized. Leadership today is equal parts strategy and teaching. It’s about creating a viable plan and helping people to understand how and why it’s essential to move forward with it.
All of our troubles today can be related to the lack of this kind of leadership. It’s also not likely to change very quickly. As Michelle Obama noted in her recent book, the leaders of the world just aren’t very bright. Certainty, or bold action, is much more likely to come from the comfort of ignorance rather than the careful consideration of wisdom.
But this is the lesson in front of us as we reflect on the year. We must learn to manage the flood of information coming into us, because market force provide more and more information all the time. That’s the real power of markets. And in a global market, that information will come from further away and is necessarily harder to make sense of.
Reacting to it is not a substitute for carefully digesting it. There is a middle way, based on knowing what is important and how to fit it into a framework which makes sense. If we learn one thing from 2018, it needs to be this.
After all, we have seen what a world based on a series of reactions is like. I’m not happy with it. Are you?