Friday, May 13, 2011

The Future

Blogging has been sparse here at FutureJacked. Partially due to family issues - the arrival of a tiny new member of the family (that's a peppy rally in mood last year gets me...) - and partially from expanded responsibilities at the day job, trying to work my paper on socionomics and nuclear power into shape (which has now taken on much new complexity) and, frankly, a bit of inertia as I wait to see how things play out with this rally.

There is really only so much that can be done until we see which way this enormous edifice built up by centuries of positive mood tilts and collapses.

That said, this kind of thinking, waiting for reality to catch up with my model, as it were, can be detrimental to taking action. Opportunity abounds, even in the worst of times and I think I've fallen into a trap not really all that different from the 2012ers or the folks waiting on the Rapture. Now, I haven't sold all my possessions and moved off to the woods (but since I live in Missouri, the woods ain't too far away) and I have not run up all my credit cards because I expect a giant solar flare caused by the galactic alignment to wipe out all computer databases, but I also haven't been as aggressive in moving towards a long-held goal - launching a start-up. Partially this is because I am quite convinced that the model I am using to estimate where we as a society are headed (socionomics) is accurate and is pointing towards multi-generational downturn. Now, let's be clear, it is not the Socionomics Institute's fault that I have not launched a new radiotherapeutics business or taken a shot at commercializing nuclear batteries. It is my fault for getting caught up in some of the more subtle aspects of how mass mood drives us all. In this case, I have been indulging in one of the polarities that aggravates me the most: Magical Thinking.

It has been easy to watch the collapse from a few years ago morph into this exceptional rally we've seen. This rally has allowed me to keep my salaried position, allowed me to pick up a house cheap, it has allowed me to tell myself that all I need to do is just wait for the final wipe-out and then I can hop into something new and establish a firm or some other organization that could build up into something exceptional in the years to follow.

The fact that I've lost years of learning how to run an organization is now becoming apparent. I'm good at what I do, but I've never been the final decision-maker in an organization. I've built what others needed, but never had to be part of the core team that had to make that key decision. Though I blog about social mood, I have not always been that great at keeping myself from getting caught up in that mood.

I was too immature back in the 1990s to realize it was raining credit soup and all I needed to do was grab a bowl and head over to a bank or VC fund. It was all going to crash and crash hard, I told myself. Well, yes it did, but millions of dollars were made and great companies were founded during the Bubble Epoch and while I did fine, I didn't make generational money by any stretch of the imagination. And all those folks who started up bubble tech companies? Well, at least they gained experience in running a business, they made contacts in the world of big money, and they have learned many lessons that will help them down the road.

That a storm is on the horizon is apparent, in my opinion, but just trying to wait it out and then spring to action won't get me - or any of us - where we want to go. Building something now, even if it just the shell of what you think it could become, is important. That is one of the great secrets of the Universe - to take action. Form that corporation or that non-profit. Go down to the county courthouse and spend hours talking with people, looking over records and getting an idea where the productive farm land or a good site for low-cost rental housing that could turn into a source of passive income for you. Get plugged in.

Why am I inflicting this latest bit of self-analysis on you? Well, in short, don't be like Mike. Yes, I think we are headed towards a retracement in financial and social affairs that will be studied for centuries to come. Just because a storm may knock over the trees in a carefully planted orchard does not mean that Ben Franklin's advice is not relevant - the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. Things have worked out more than fine for me, but looking back with the eye of experience shows many paths that could have led to even better destinations.

Most of you reading this probably have already taken the kinds of steps I talk about above. If you have not, well, get to it. I don't mean you should launch into a venture requiring massive amounts of cheap leverage that relies of consumer spending, but I do mean, if you have not already, start taking those risks that will set you apart from the others when the hard times truly settle over the country. It will be much harder to take those risks when the downturn is in full, frightening swing. Do it under the glow of the rally and it will be easier to keep it going during the downturn.


Greg B said...

Watching what we watch, it is indeed difficult to muster the will to create some new business or place that may be damaged by the destructive forces coming. But knowing that they are coming does let one build in a few escape hatches that others wouldn't...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mike. And congratulations on your new family member!

David said...

Stages of life, that's what it's about.

I now realize that by the time the nadir of the initial decline is past, I'll be too old to pull the 60-80 hour weeks starting a fresh business. The times didn't line up with MY times (stage of life).

I think there IS a rationale for patiently waiting, buzzard-like. Like you, I lost a lot of time waiting for the Big One. I now embark on an endeavor that has treated some people very well for decades, and maybe that paradigm won't survive long enough for me to benefit from traveling that path, but I've learned we should embrace the world as it is today, because the tomorrow we expect may be many more miles distant than we initially estimated.

I am not, however, changing my view that now is NOT the time to go for broke. I got out of debt and saved like mad for 10 years, and I'm not squandering that here, at the edge of such epochal change.

Flagg707 said...

@David: Good point about not going for broke in this environment.

I was in a bit of a maudlin mood when I wrote this one. Having a new kid sure helps focus on working towards the future.

@ Greg B: Thanks!