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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hope Will Determine America’s Resurgence or Decline

In reading Shane Lopez’s new book, Making Hope Happen, my biggest takeaway is pretty straightforward: If I wake up in the morning with hope, and you don’t, I will win more often, be more likely to have a good job, be more productive, be more likely to get promoted, win customers, have higher wellbeing, live longer, and so forth. A person is much more likely to get what they need in life, whatever it is, if they have high hope, says Lopez, a University of Kansas Business professor, Gallup Senior Scientist, and a leading researcher on hope.

My favorite way to identify hope is the answer to this survey question: “Is the best part of your life ahead of you or behind you?” If your answer is “behind me,” you may have a small-to-serious hope problem. Of course, you’d think younger people would be more likely to say “ahead of me,” but don’t be so sure about that. I am 61 years old and 100% certain the best years of my life are still ahead of me. My wife and most of our friends feel the same way, whereas we know plenty of teenagers who are kind of checked-out, because they have no hope to find a great job when they graduate, and some kids even fear they won’t graduate at all.

Hope, or the lack of it, is a particularly urgent topic in the United States of America today. Simply put, the country is going broke. America’s GDP is now growing at a blended 1%, an alarmingly low rate that isn’t high enough to keep up with inflation, population growth, or even the most modest consumer price index. From where I sit, we need 2.5% just to tread water and 4.5% to boom again. But America’s economy will rapidly decline, in my view, unless the country’s entrepreneurs -- the job creators and engines of economic growth -- feel hopeful again.

And the signs just aren’t good. The January Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey reveals that 30% of small-business owners are worried they may not be in business in 12 months. They sure aren’t feeling hopeful right now. What’s more, new business startups -- usually driven by entrepreneurs’ hope and optimism about the future, by a free-enterprise spirit -- have fallen below 400,000 per year, in my estimate, and the country needs a bare minimum of 1 million new startups annually.

Of course, you’ll hear hopeful talk from the White House and Wall Street about how the economy is improving. Don’t buy it. A pathetic 1% GDP growth, with Gallup registering unemployment at 8% and underemployment at 17%, doesn’t breed hope. Yet hope is what America desperately needs, because nothing great happens in the absence of high inspiration. 

Amid all of this, there are reasons still to be hopeful, at least in the country’s long-term future. A Gallup study showed that 77% of students in grades five through 12 said that they want to be their own boss, and 45% plan to start their own business. When we asked the same group if they believed they would "invent something that changes the world," 42% said "yes."

So plenty of America’s middle and high school students have loads of hope, and it will most surely motivate those kids to succeed. As Lopez says, “When you think the future will be better than the present, you start working harder today.” We just need to value these kids’ hopes like we do a stock, because that hope will become our national stock price for jobs and growth. The hope of these 30 million kids in fifth through 12th grades for a prosperous future of entrepreneurship and innovation is critical to the very future of the United States of America. America’s leaders need to keep hope alive, too.

4 comments:

Andrew Stein said...
February 22, 2013 at 6:44 PM  

I have not yet read Shane Lopez' book, but plan to. Another great resource on how Hope makes all the difference, and drives your points made here is from Kellogg Professor, Andrew Razeghi. The title is "Hope: How Triumphant Leaders Create the Future." The book is full of real life contemporary examples of leaders (like Charles Schwab) and entrepreneurs, who Andrew has compiled input and interviews. This topic, Hope, you have raised is one that need more focus than the analytic dissection that the Harvard Case Method automatons have least-common-denominator-ed so many leaders into becoming. Keep the Hope going, it's required for us to get to the future.

Unknown said...
February 24, 2013 at 7:37 PM  

It could be that the kids have high hopes, because they were taught high self esteem and very little else. Their hopes may be just illusions which will be shattered when they meet reality of their poor education and the need to work hard and compete with others to get to something they want.

Anonymous said...
May 3, 2013 at 12:07 AM  

Running the country like a corporation won't work. Corporations have too many managers which creates more problems. Too many chiefs creates conflict. Corporations ruin everything they touch... customer service is just about gone in this country. Self serv gas at a time when crime rates are high makes it unsafe for women, self checkouts that take longer than a cashier and when the computer freezes up on a transaction the customer is stuck there even longer (has happened at walmart to me 2 the past 9 months). They ruined Hollywood, Disney, Nashville, the restaurant industry where there are no busboys and waitresses aren't allowed to remain on the floor any more to take care of their customers. They created the obesity problem in this nation. They contaminate our land, water, and air (and they get away with it). This list is long!!! But the number one thing it has ruined is washington. When the people are blamed and the poorest demonized, by CEO's, shareholders, and our government, for things the poor and working class have absolutely no voice in. Healthcare is part of the problem but not in the way you people twist it. Americans pay way more than the rest of the world for care and medicines. No regulation has done this to us. No cures are ever approved any more. Only "treatments". Because it's more profitable. Doctors malpractice insurance skyrocketing makes their services sky rocket. I could be here all day. Yes, Americans have something to learn. And that is what it's going to be like when the market crashes. And it's not the lowly poor and working class creating that near in the future mess, it's the CEO's and shareholders. And they deserve it. Because their arrogance has gone out of control. Without Americans working, the consumption of the worlds products will slowly start to shrink (it already is). I hear CEO's say that if it weren't for THEM, we wouldn't have jobs. We owe them something? The jobs keep leaving. They keep the college degree people who do nothing and lay off the ones who produce! They manipulate their stock to the point they end up consolidating. Then along comes Mr. So in so Capital co. with an offer of funds to bail them out. Then withing a month, So in So Capital has taken said company over and then suck it of every dollar they can, file bankruptcy, blame the union for it, then sell it. Eventually, at this rate, they will be the biggest losers. And they bring onto themselves. I know we po folks will survive it. I doubt they will.

Anonymous said...
May 3, 2013 at 12:17 AM  

"And the signs just aren’t good. The January Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey reveals that 30% of small-business owners are worried they may not be in business in 12 months. They sure aren’t feeling hopeful right now. What’s more, new business startups -- usually driven by entrepreneurs’ hope and optimism about the future, by a free-enterprise spirit -- have fallen below 400,000 per year, in my estimate, and the country needs a bare minimum of 1 million new startups annually."

How can they feel hopeful when the ones already in business keep getting knocked out by you big wigs? When they actually pay taxes and your companies aren't paying anything. Heck many of you big wigs got refunds! No company in the billion dollar profit margin should be getting a free ride, especially the ones who take jobs overseas. It's time to run the country like a country. NOT a company. Period. I blame CEO's, shareholders, and Washington. You guys have all the power and money. So quit blaming us. Quit blaming each other. you got us here, it's time YOU get us OUT.

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