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Archive for January 27th, 2010

Conan’s American Dream

Game Plan with Nancy Colasurdo

I have never watched Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno. I caught David Letterman a few times back in the ’90s. No Jimmy, either Kimmel or Fallon, graces my TV after midnight. I’m more likely to be watching a Seinfeld rerun at that hour.

So what I’m about to write has nothing to do with allegiances or who’s to blame for the talk show debacle that unfolded over at General Electric’s (GE: 16.1, -0.24, -1.47%) NBC.

But as a life coach I am compelled to pause for a moment and reflect on the parting words of Conan O’Brien on his last show. After reading an article about it I became intrigued, so I watched the clip online and here’s my takeaway: The next time I have a client who wants to know what it means to have perspective, like big-picture, healthy, adult perspective, I’ll tell him to view that clip.

“I have had more good fortune than anybody I know,” O’Brien said. “And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we’ll find a way to make it fun. We really will. I have no problems.”

Now the folks who see life only through a painstakingly practical or cynical lens just shrug that comment off and point to his millions of dollars. But I would argue that when people who don’t need to work another day in their lives for financial reasons choose to continue pursuing their passions and using their gifts, we get to see who they really are. This is the stuff of role models.

Back in 1931, a book called The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams introduced us to the term, the American Dream. It reads, “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement … It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Since then, as each decade has passed, the American Dream has become more and more focused on our accumulation of material goods and has even become equated with home ownership in these challenging economic times. I confess sometimes that blows my mind. That’s our collective American Dream? A house in the suburbs? It brings to mind the film American Beauty in which nothing was as it seemed – the lovely house held within it complete dysfunction, the girl who portrayed herself as promiscuous was actually a virgin, the homophobe was in fact gay. The dream was a facade.

Wanting to own a home or whatever else materially defines our American Dream is only part of it, isn’t it? What happened to the “fuller” life described by Adams? It is lost on so many of our citizens. We are so politically polarized we’ve lost perspective on the fact that our nation would be greater if we all lived our own lives meaningfully and thoughtfully. We’ve come to gravitate to the ‘us vs. them’ way of thinking. It’s natural to do so in sports, but in our day-to-day lives as citizens?

As the NBC talk show situation heated up, taking sides became the thing. It was a feeding frenzy. We even had celebrities coming down on one side or the other. On his last show, after thanking his fans for making a tough situation “joyous and inspirational” and emphasizing again and again that he wasn’t joking, O’Brien addressed the flap.

“All I ask is one thing,” O’Brien said, “and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

Yes, it allows you to live your American Dream, if only for a fraction of the time you’d hoped. I don’t know Conan O’Brien even a little, but just from his graceful exit I would confidently bet that the next phase of his American Dream is right around the corner. And it will eclipse his expectations in unforeseen ways.

That might be worth tuning in to see.

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Here is an article from ChannelWeb.

“Looking for glimmers of hope for a near-term economic recovery? Well, Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates isn’t going to sugar coat things for you.

In a Monday morning interview on Good Morning America, Gates suggested that the smoldering effects of the worst recession in decades will continue to impact the economy for the foreseeable future. “When you have a financial crisis like that, it’s years of digging out,” Gates said in the interview.

Although there have been signs of economic improvement in recent months, as well as a collective sense of optimism in the IT industry that spending could rebound this year, there’s little concrete evidence to indicate that this is anything more than wishful thinking. And if unemployment remains high, the dreaded ‘S’ word — stagflation — could begin to creep into discussions about the economy.

Gates said even when the economy does improve the government will have to institute systemic changes in order for any real rebound to take root. “The budget’s very, very out of balance and even as the economy comes back, without changes in tax and entitlement policies, it won’t get back into balance. And at some point, financial markets will look at that and it will cause problems,” Gates told Good Morning America.

Gates’ struck a similar chord last week in his annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Although the acute financial crisis is over, the economy is still weak, and the world will spend a lot of years undoing the damage, which includes lingering unemployment and huge government deficits and debts at record levels,” Gates wrote in the letter.

Of course, none of this is fundamentally different from what Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have been saying about the economy since it began tanking in September 2008. Ballmer has presided over several of the weakest quarters in Microsoft’s history, and on several occasions has called the economic situation “the toughest Microsoft has ever faced.”

Read the whole article here.

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Here is an interesting article from The Economist.

“BEIJING recently suffered its lowest temperature in 59 years, but the economy is sweltering. Figures published on Thursday January 21st showed that real GDP grew by 10.7% year on year in the fourth quarter. Industrial production jumped by 18.5% in the year to December, while retail sales increased by 17.5%, boosted by government subsidies and tax cuts on purchases of cars and appliances. In real terms, the rise in retail sales last year was the biggest for over two decades.

A year ago many economists were fretting about unemployment and deflation. Now, with indecent haste, they have shifted to worrying that the Chinese economy is overheating and inflation is taking off. The 12-month rate of consumer-price inflation rose to 1.9% in December, an abrupt change from July when prices were 1.8% lower than a year before.

The recent rise in inflation was caused mainly by higher food prices as a result of severe winter weather in northern China. In many cities, fresh-vegetable prices have more than doubled in the past two months. But Helen Qiao and Yu Song at Goldman Sachs argue that it is not just food prices that risk pushing up inflation: the economy is starting to exceed its speed limit. If, as China bears contend, the economy had massive overcapacity, there would be little to worry about: excess supply would hold down prices. But bottlenecks are already appearing. Some provinces report electricity shortages and stocks of coal are low. The labour market is also tightening, forcing firms to pay higher wages.”

Read the full article here.

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