Saturday, August 31, 2013

THE 99%

If I asked you right now, when was the 'Global Financial Crisis' (the GFC), what would you say?

2010? 2011?

Would you believe 2008?

Good, because it was officially 2008.

Five years ago, and yet we are still talking about it and, seemingly, still dealing with the consequences.

Having said that, not everyone is feeling that same pinch as you and I.

'All told, the Fortune 500 generated nearly $10.8 trillion in total revenues last year, up 10.5%. Total profits soared 81%. But guess who didn't benefit much from this giant wave of cash? Millions of U.S. workers stuck in a stagnant job market.'

'On Wall Street, setting up and running "Infrastructure Funds" is big business, with over $140 billion run by such banks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Australian infrastructure specialist Macquarie. Goldman says it will be involved with "ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States." While the bank sees increased opportunity in "distressed assets" (ie. Cities and states gone broke because of the financial crisis), the bank also recognizes "reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held."

The funds themselves are clear when communicating with investors about why they are good investments -- a public asset is usually a monopoly.'

You get my point.

While the world at large still feels the effects, like the days after a questionable meal, a small minority has gone right back to business as usual.

So, why is there still this lingering shadow?

While I believe there is some level of politics involved, using the GFC as a hex sign to ward of difficult questions from a disgruntled public, there is also a fundamental fact worth noting.

'The financial crisis has caused the "emerging" and "developing" economies to replace "advanced" economies to lead global economic growth.'

This is more than just politicking. The inconvenient truth is that the global balance has shifted dramatically and I, for one, am not sure that it is ever coming back.

What does this shift mean?

That's a complicated question, but I believe the fundamental answer is 'sustainability'. Not just in environmental terms, but in the way our society fundamentally operates.

If an industry exists now that is built on survival principles of: enormous rapid growth; burgeoning customer numbers; and expansion via cheap debt (which so many industries in the 'Western/advanced/First World economies are), they are set to join the Dodo.

(Extinction, that is, for the youngsters who don't remember the bird.)

It just isn't going to work that way anymore. The businesses that build up in these unsustainable ways are all doing exactly what unsustainable businesses do: abandoning advanced countries to chase low wages (i.e. virtually slave labour) and low costs in developing countries.

What is left will actually have to be based on something tangible. Real customers. Real sales.

How is this different to the past?

Because the old way of operating was, pardon my French, based on bulls**t. So much of how our society evolved was based on lies, assumptions and, quite frankly, more lies.

By way of example, I give you the impact on advertising of the internet.

Once upon a time, you were forced to watch between three and five television channels. They were the only ones in existence, and you had to watch pretty much what they told you to watch, when they told you to watch it.

In this environment, broadcasters could charge a fortune for advertising time on their channels, because they knew that people were forced to watch the commercials.

That was regardless of whether people were really engaging with the advertising or not.

Leap forward to now and this false paradigm has been completely turned on its head by the internet. Now, online, we can actually check whether you engage with the advertising or not, based on whether you skip the advertisment, or click on it to get more information.

The fake and intangible way of doing things, based on lies and assumption, has given way to 'clickthroughs', data and tangible results.

This is the essence of sustainability. This is exactly where we are evolving towards.

Loose cash is not floating around like it used to. To convince someone to be in business with you, it is not enough to bombard them with your polished sales pitch. You have to show them something real. You have to do the work.

Put in the hours to develop your craft. Polish the script. Make a great film. Connect to a real audience.

And for the world outside of the film industry, the story is similar. Your work, no matter what it is, has to add real value to people's lives. If you are not adding value, you are a luxury, and very few of us have as much time for luxuries as we did during the era of cheap credit.

The good news is, for those willing to put in the work and actually think about how they contribute to the whole, there is plenty of opportunity.

But you have to be willing to put in the 10,000 hours it takes to get there. You have to stop taking for granted that you should just 'have a job' without thinking about whether your efforts are actually wanted or needed by anyone.

The GFC may be officially over, but the new paradigm it created is only just beginning.

Are you evolving with it?

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