Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

"Brace for a Sharp Slump" - that is the Business News headline today, a proclamation by the International Money Fund (IMF) who are in the process of reducing their forecast for Canada's 2009 output. This was in stark contrast to the rose coloured speech Harper gave to the Board of Trade in Brampton yesterday on the state of our economy. What gives Harper the sudden dose of optimism, you might wonder. Lets put that question aside for the moment.

I hate to think things will "sharply slump" from even the current sad situation we are familiar with today. There is evidence everywhere that things are dire. Every one of us can see evidence in our day to day lives. I went out to lunch with my work crowd yesterday. We went to Alice Fazoolie's downtown a fairly popular middle of the road chain restaurant for the middle class. There were only about 3 tables with paying patrons in the whole restaurant during the lunch time. Last year it would have been mostly full and I guess there may be 40 or more tables in the joint. Last week there were 20 of the 500 people in the Snr VP's Team "down sized" and it was noted that the rest of the decrease was expected to be covered through attrition. It is easy for a company to save money by cancelling or deferring new IT project development in bad times. At RBC, where I work, there are next to no new projects starting up. Only those that can be shown to generate revenue quickly ("cash crops") are being considered.

IMF predicts a "sharp slump". Any more slump and we will be lying on the floor. I guess the only question is how long will it take for us to get enough strength to get up and start going again?

So that brings us back to "Good News Harper", who I think took his clue from Obama's speech of last week where he tried to pump up consumer confidence and do his bit to ensure that further declines were not a self fulfilling prophesy. Obama had previously been accused of being too negative and his tone changed appreciably last week. Harper was just following Obama's lead. As well he should.

The world's economy will continue to decline until we collectively act like it will not. Not to say that in itself that is sufficient for recovery. However, with even the best stimulus package in the world and endless capital pumping money into GM to keep it solvent, that will not provide a turnaround until a critical mass of people actually believe the worst is over. If people think things will get worse – guess what – they will get worse because worried people do not spend. When people sigh in relief and start spending again we will see the taps turned back on and a return to better times.

So what do we do in the meantime? At times like this we need to make sure that we are doing what we can to live within our means and to position ourselves for what events might come our way.

But having done that, it is more important to enjoy each day for what pleasure we can derive from it and to stop looking backwards ("why didn't I put that money aside for the RRSP") and to each coming moment as an opportunity to do something important and to make a difference to ones self or to another person.

Focus on living rather than worrying. Every day we have the opportunity to make today be exactly what we want it to be – to find new and interesting things to read, discuss and to do and to do them with whomever we enjoy being with. There is no doubt that the economy will recover and things will improve at some point. Lets put the bad news aside and focus on the positive. Live today like it is the first day of the rest of your life.

Poem: Douglas Malloch - Its Fine Today

Sure, this world is full of trouble–I ain't said it ain't; Lord, I've had enough and double reason for complaint. Rain and storm have come to fret me, skies are often gray; thorns and brambles have beset me on the road–but say, ain't it fine today?

What's the use of always weepin', making trouble last? What's the use of always keepin thinkin' of the past? Each must have his tribulation—water with his wine; life, it ain't no celebration, trouble? –I've had mine—but today is fine!

It's today that I am livin', not a month ago. Havin'; losin'; takin'; givin'; as time wills it so. Yesterday a cloud of sorrow fell across the way; it may rain again tomorrow, it may rain—but say, ain't it fine today?

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