By: Jim Camp
Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered the Oval Office for the first time in 1933 has an American President faced such an array of domestic and international troubles. History tells us that Roosevelt struggled mightily to overcome the Depression, but it wasn’t until World War II provided a full-employment opportunity that he was able to turn the nation’s economy around and help defeat two of the most vicious totalitarian threats to humanity in the modern era.
History, if you do not pay attention to it, has a way of repeating itself. With a national debt of $10 trillion, some 70% of the Gross Domestic Product, the incoming Obama administration is faced with enormous economic challenges, not the least of which is to build a new economy that puts people to work and moves us closer to energy independence. His vision driven by his mission and purpose is something we should all pay attention to. In fact we all should adopt our own mission and purpose in all the areas of our lives moving forward.
What should our financial mission and purpose be? If we have a solid career safe from the looming depression, it may call for us to tighten our belts mightily and save at every opportunity. Or, if we are someone who has been knocked down and struggling to get up our mission and purpose may be to put every family member to work 16 hours daily, 7 days a week and numerous jobs if necessary to climb back.
If we are starting a new business that we intend to lead us through the tough times ahead, we may have to spend more than we would like but our mission and purpose will guide us through the tough decisions. Pay close attention to the new administration as it discusses vast spending programs for infrastructure and “Green” projects driven by our President-Elect’s vision. That vision radiates from his mission and purpose for America.
President-Elect Obama knows the critical importance of our security and the demands of a growing population for more energy. His effort to develop new energy sources is driven by his mission and purpose. He knows that if we do not break our dependence on foreign energy we will never climb out of the mess that we find ourselves in. Will his mission and purpose for new energy work with his mission and purpose to save the environment? That is the question that is most on our minds.
Where does expansion of oil drilling, gas drilling and coal fit in? We will see as it all unfolds, but you can bet if it goes against his mission and purpose in either arena, it won’t happen and it shouldn’t. After all is said and done we “need” a new vision, a new direction because the last one helped in many ways to get us where we are today.
If there is any good news to be found in the worldwide economic slowdown it is that nations who self-describe themselves as America’s enemies are going to be far too busy trying to keep restive populations in check than to spend time and money on activities to create new problems for us. Both Iran and Venezuela, to name just two, are in serious financial straits. Russia, dependent on its oil and gas exports is feeling the pinch and China’s interests are far more aligned with those of the U.S. than many realize.
The world is a mix of developed nations that have adopted the capitalist model and those clinging to some form of socialism. We as a nation are a prime example of how ideology sometimes must adapt and change. I do not and will not judge the bailout of Wall Street and the Auto Industry in this discussion, but they are perfect examples of ideology change. Who would have ever believed that a Republican President would allow let alone request such a thing? Again mission and purpose defined as long term aim and continuing task and responsibility leads the decisions that are tough and must be made. Before you judge the tough decisions just ask your self, what is the mission and purpose? Start to worry and complain if you find there isn’t one.
My firm provides negotiation coaching and consulting throughout the U.S. and in nations around the world. As such the staff and I are on the front line with those engaged in deals that often involve millions of dollars. I just returned from Russia after a week of working with one of the world’s largest banks. Their deals and many others deals reflect how present and future conditions are actually perceived. Here is some of the feedback we are receiving.
- There is considerable concern regarding America’s current financial problems, but both at home and worldwide there is the perception that the U.S. government is demonstrating the willingness to take extraordinary measures to avoid a Depression. Also, it is not all bleak news. The vast bulk of homeowners with mortgages are still meeting their monthly payments. The unemployment figures are still well below the highs experienced in the Depression. New FDIC rules extend further protection to personal savings in banks.
- The present troubles offer the opportunity for local, state and the federal government to rethink and work through programs to be sure they are efficient and not wasteful. The mission and purpose of small government may be to mandate balanced budgets and, if so, could bring strong long-term benefit to all of us. With a strong mission and purpose in place new taxes will not be proposed lightly. They will be well thought out before being implemented.
- Putting aside the known financial difficulties to which Wall Street and banks are adjusting, the greatest unknown factor will be the policies of the incoming Obama administration. There is concern that the new Administration will be overwhelmed and decisions will be made without regard to environmental and energy requirements for our future. The feedback we are receiving is the view that the financial health and stability of the nation will so occupy the administration that a pragmatic approach will trump ideology, a situation being seen in practice worldwide. The jury, however, is still out, but based on my observations, the President-Elect has a very clear vision and is driven by a valid mission and purpose and that will rule today and win the future.
The ultimate “unknown” will be those events, natural and manmade, that will affect the immediate future. The recent attacks in Mumbai, India are an example, forcing both India and Pakistan to review their relationship to ensure a peaceful resolution. The focus of the Islamic Jihad movement seems to be shifting from Europe to the Middle East and Asia. Ironically, it is beginning to anger Muslims. I am sure our leadership will deal accordingly with the threat. And, pay close attention to how the pirates in Somalia are dealt with by the world. Watch as the world comes together and tires of such terrorism.The mission and purpose will be clear and the execution of it swift.
The “irrational exuberance” that former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, warned about a dozen years ago has now been sobered by the failure of various forms of securities and some banks, by the ripple effect that is being felt by every business enterprise and by individual Americans with investments, dependence on pension programs, and similar vulnerabilities.
Though conditioned to look to the federal government to “solve” problems, there is a growing realization among Americans that the federal government’s policies have been a contributing factor and that many of its agencies to whom we look for protection proved inadequate to the task.
The new President-Elect will solve many of these issues because he delivers a fresh vision and perspective that will drive change over the next 4 to 8 years. The changes he makes will solve the real problems and if he does that it will pay dividends. How can I say that? If you listen closely to him and read his books, he functions with a valid mission and purpose in all areas and is surrounded by like minds. They are extremely effective in their decision-making abilities.
We the voters have hope in our new leadership and now it is time for us to deliver hope to those we are responsible to. We must become better negotiators, we must make better agreements for our futures and to do that we must learn to develop mission and purpose statements that will build vision and drive our decisions.
Jim Camp is an author of two books on negotiation and an internationally recognized negotiations coach providing counsel to nations, corporations, and individuals.
He is the CEO of The Camp Negotiation Systems, http://www.startwithno.com/.
© Jim Camp, January 2009