The Myth of Certainty

By Mark Riffey

The old Gloom, Despair and Agony” TV sketch reminds me of a lot of business news these days.

Is this what you take in every day by watching and reading mainstream business press? Do you have any idea how it poisons your mind?

As election material, it’s expected. At the office, it’s poison.

As “mainstream” business news outlets, you have to wonder about the motive. Do they want you to give up? I doubt it. Likewise, I doubt that’s the attitude they want you to carry to the office and spread to your staff. I don’t think they realize the “Bad News Bears” mindset they’re in.

To see what I mean, visit Forbes.com and compare headlines to Fast Company.com or Inc.com. One often talks as if U.S. business is gasping for its last weak, pathetic breath, while the other two usually discuss expanding businesses and new industries or they offer guidance on growth or personal development topics. In many cases, the businesses discussed in the latter two exist solely because someone saw an opportunity beyond the doom and eventually turned it into a profitable job-creating enterprise.

I don’t think the national media is intent on destroying your morale and getting you into a mental state that leaves you with just enough ambition to watch perfectly constructed “beautiful people” act out their lives in a snarky, drama-filled reality show, but maybe that’s the Pollyanna in me.

Remember that pronouncements of doom and gloom are not the property of any single Party, with this or any other election cycle. Regardless of who currently thinks they are “in power” or who is trying to get it back, it’s rooted in an old news meme – “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Others handle this differently, writing of the need for “certainty”. Really? Certainty?

Certainty was once defined as “death and taxes“. Today, the quest for certainty seems aimed at a different target. Not certainty for the average Joe, but for business owners – the last people likely to expect, much less depend on, certainty.

Try to think of a certainty-filled period in the last 50 years when the behavior of competitors, Congress, the White House, other countries and economic systems would be considered “certain”.

Where certainty comes from
The “certainty” we seek existed on September 7th 1900, April 17th 1906, December 6th 1941, September 10th 2001 and August 22nd 2005. These dates remind us that certainty and uncertainty co-exist.

Life isn’t certain. Stop trying to pretend it was so that you can blame others for today’s so-called lack of certainty.

While there are businesses struggling and lots of folks out of work or working “below” their qualifications, there are also a ton of businesses growing like weeds and creating jobs.

We make our own certainty, as best we can. Every ounce of energy and every minute of time we spend blaming others for our woes is energy better spent on creating (or improving) our own “personal economy”.

Your Personal Economy
I had a conversation about this at a speaking gig a few weeks ago. I mentioned creating your own personal economy and several business owners approached me after the talk to remark that they had “decided not to participate” in the poor economy being discussed in the news. Some seem committed to dragging you down into their muck, into the doldrums they seem to revel in. Listening to factual bad news is one thing. Participating in it is quite another.

It’s a choice you can make. There’s no reason why your own personal economy has to participate in the national economy as described by others and it doesn’t stop with you.

Imagine that you go to the shop and call your employees together for a conversation about how sales are down, your product quality is worse than the competition’s and the industry is in deep trouble. Even if factual, imagine the impact on morale that your conversation would have on your staff if it only covered the problems. It won’t be helpful to productivity and it might cause a critical employee to seek other work.

You’d be better off discussing where your problems are, what you plan to do about them and asking them for input. Anything is better than being like the guys in that HeeHaw skit.

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