Opportunity amidst Crisis, the genuine source of Adventure

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Each July I catch-up with my roommate from the USS Joseph Strauss. He completed his service, ventured to Wharton for business school and now works with one of the too-big-to-fail banks. Coincidentally, our birthdays are back to back in July which inspires our annual connection. We each have two children with sons the same age in their senior years of college. I guess that he and I are in our senior years just not of college. This is a bewildering concept to reconcile especially when you’ve known a person well before wives were met (or found or discovered or they found us?!) and children defined our daily existences.

We bemoaned the economic climate with the attendant collective failure to ‘take our medicine’. I’m of the opinion that the longer that we wait, the further into the valley we’ll descend making the unavoidable climb back that much more challenging. The camping or backpacking metaphor appeals to me for two of its many valuable lessons: 1. when one is lost, one should stop traveling in the unknown direction as it is hard to help someone who is lost on the move; 2. valuable resources, ie water and dry clothing, must be preserved and protected, really hoarded, especially on unfamiliar trails.

He and I agreed that despite the indications and predictions of a prolonged economic slump that opportunities are and will be available for our sons and their contemporaries if they consider a couple of rules of thumb: 1. keep your costs low; 2. cultivate the attitude and behavior that you work for yourself and always will. This is not intended to be an insult to established organizations and enterprises but an encouragement to develop and to understand one’s unique interests and skills; 3. be able to operate in the larger world with a clear sense of one’s capabilities. I won’t enumerate this entreatment but probably the greatest, unschooled achievement is to marry the right one, the suitable one, the one’s whose family feels familiar.

We concluded our annual update with few ideas for how the economic landscape may look in the spring of 2012 and were nearly joyful in our confidence that if our sons take a perspective and make a related plan for what they’d like to see – do – be over the next 8 to 10 years that can hardly go wrong uncovering the opportunities that will present themselves.

13 July amendment: NYT Op Ed by Thomas Friedman “Differentiate or Die.”