Humility and Simplicity are the New Frontier
Americans have always treasured independence and achievement. We’ve seen ourselves as fighters who stood tall after every victory, chin up, chest out, shoulders back. And to the victor go the spoils, right? Big houses, big cars, lavish vacations; these were the American dream.
But we recently learned that America is not an only child. There is no American economy or American environment separate from the rest of the world. The wind blowing across Kansas today blew yesterday through Mongolia.
Take a breath of Mongolian air. Clear your thoughts. Smile into the light. This story has a happy ending:
We’re about to discover the joys of humility and simplicity. Smaller houses, smaller cars, a simpler lifestyle. We may even become the “kinder, gentler nation” Ronald Reagan's vice president believed we could be. (From the Republican National Convention acceptance address of George H. W. Bush, August 18, 1988.)
Here’s an email I received last week from a friend who runs a hedge fund:
This meltdown in our financial markets has been horrific. A friend of mine said, “The French invented democracy, the Americans perfected it and the CDOs killed it.”
And that's how I feel. Our time as a nation has past and history will not be kind to us. The future now belongs to someone else, probably China. We privatize profits and then screw the tax payers with a bailout. Our corrupt politicians permitted an unregulated monster to grow out of control until it almost destroyed our financial system. So while Wall Street and Washington lined their pockets with cash, the American people got drunk on spending and spending and spending all the money they didn't have. Now those that enjoyed leverage are fucked, forever. Most people were broke to begin with, now they're really broke. Deleveraging hurts, ouch.
Warren Buffet once said the only way to go broke is on borrowed money.
For those that have heard your lesson on the pendulum of history, it would be an interesting time to have you revisit that lesson in light of current events.
Thank you for your memos each week and for your perspective.
Although I disagree with my friend’s statement that “the future now belongs to someone else,” I do understand how he feels. (My belief is that no one else can own your future. Your past and your future belong solely to you whether you take responsibility for them or not.)
I first presented Society’s 40-year Pendulum in Stockholm, Sweden, in January, 2004. Since then, more than 100 trade associations and state governments have asked me to help them better understand the rumblings of societal change they feel beneath their feet. Perhaps you've felt it, too.
Ten completed social cycles – 400 years of history – seem to indicate that in the 6 years following a 40-year tipping point, the majority of older consumers will choose to follow the younger consumers’ lead. Societal change during the next 34 years seems subtle and incremental when compared to the pace of change during the 6-year transition.
The last tipping point occurred in 2003. You may recall that I wrote to you about it in December of that year. The memo was titled 1963 All Over Again:
Forty years is how long a true ‘generation’ stays in power, during which time social change will be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. But in the waning years of each generation, ‘alpha voices’ ring out as prophets in the wilderness, providing a glimpse of the new generation that will soon emerge like a baby chick struggling to break out of its shell.
Baby Boomer heroes were always bigger than life, perfect icons, brash and beautiful: Muhammad Ali… Elvis… James Bond. But the emerging generation holds a different view of what makes a hero.
Boomers rejected Conformity and their attitude swept the land, changing even the mindset of their fuddy-duddy parents. But today's teens are rejecting Pretense. Born into a world of hype, their internal BS-meters are highly sensitive and blisteringly accurate. Words like ‘amazing,’ ‘astounding,’ and ‘spectacular’ are translated as ‘blah,’ ‘blah,’ and ‘blah.’ Consequently, tried and true selling methods that worked as recently as a year ago are working far less well today. The world is again changing stripe and color. We're at another tipping point. Can you feel it?
Then, 4 years ago, (Nov. 1, 2004,) I wrote,
The Age of The Baby Boomer ended in 2003. The torch has been handed to a new generation with new ideas and values. Sure, we Boomers still hold the power at the top, but the prevailing worldview that drives our nation is completely other than the one we grew up with. Businesses that don't get in step are going to find it increasingly difficult to succeed…
Being a Baby Boomer isn't about when you were born. It's about how you see the world…
Baby Boomers were idealists who worshipped heroes, perfect icons of beauty and success. Today these icons are seen as phony, posed and laughable…
Baby Boomers believed in big dreams, reaching for the stars, personal freedom, “be all that you can be.” Today's generation believes in small actions, getting your head out of the clouds, social obligation, ‘do your part.’
The adoption curve of the new values by the mainstream of society began in 2003 and will be complete by mid-2008 or early 2009. You have plenty of time to get in step with tomorrow. But you need to get started today.
The 6-year transition from an Idealist outlook to a Civic mindset will be complete in December, 2008.
What this means to business:
Purchases in the future will be less about impressing others, more about meaning and relationships. My partners and I are currently interpreting how this trend will apply to specific business categories. Do you know how it applies to yours?
Tomorrow has arrived, right on schedule. Humility and simplicity will be our new adventure. And frankly, I think we’ll be better for it.
Roy H. Williams
Image: Boy and Dog on the Farm by Thomas Hart Benton
Brand New from Wizard Academy Press: The Magic of Selling, by Dan Hollis
Nov 11-12: Blog and Website Workshop with the ever-popular Dave Young!
Rooms are free in Engelbrecht House!
Jan 20-21: How to Thrive in a Recession. Fight the Big Boys and Win.
Rooms are free in Engelbrecht House!