Monthly Archives: September 2018

The End Of A Culture Of Entitlement And The Beginnings Of Self Accountability.

Looking back at the history of the global economy, most nations have experienced a series of economic growth alternated with periods of economic slumps. There are a few exceptions. South Korea is the most well known amongst them.  In his book, “Breakout Nations In Pursuit of the New Economic Miracles”, Ruchir Sharma related how South Korea strove as a nation to recover from the 1998 crisis. The country was forced to contract a record loan of US$58 billion from IMF, at that time. This triggered a nationwide solidarity amongst the Koreans.  Koreans began mobilizing to pay the national debt, waiting in long lines to donate their gold jewellery to the cause.  How many nations have had such similar experiences?

We have also witnessed that size does not always provide the necessary cushion from the aftermath of natural catastrophes. Whatever the size and wealth of the country, only those with well organised logistics and strong human solidarity amongst its population stand better chances of a rapid recovery. It goes without saying that financial wealth does make a huge difference. However, money without the proper channels ends up wasted.

It can be observed that only those nations who are engaged with the world such as South Korea can continue on with their economic development and prosperity. The complexity of achieving economic progress has always been and is still the main challenge of most nations. High increase in GDP per capita does not automatically translate into continued economic growth for the future. The BRIC nations are good examples whereby their economic momentum has not turned them into strong economic powerhouses– China being the only exception, one could say

The same goes for an individual’s personal success. One is expected to regularly re invent oneself, continue on acquiring new skills and certainly not rest on one’s laurels. Attitudes such as “fake it till you make it” tend to drive people overlooking their personal flaws. Many rags to riches success stories are not achievable without their quotas of personal hurdles.

The motivation to avoid failure represses the courage needed for exploration. Boosting one’s self esteem is not the panacea to addressing all personal issues. It sometimes turns people into narcissists: people who look upon themselves as fundamentally “special, entitled and unique”. A family of successful entrepreneurs does not necessarily imply that the following generations are deemed to continue on as successful business owners.

The culture of entitlement has permeated all aspects of today’s society. It is especially true in communities which believe deeply in tradition and history. It is even more of a challenge to stand out when one lives in homogenous communities with widespread normalised behaviours. Walking one’s own path, irrespective of the family background and of societal norms, can be lonely and challenging. People imagine that there is safety in numbers. Unfortunately, people surrounded by pleasers who would never pose a challenge or a threat, does not always evolve to their full potential.

It is generally the case that, people/nations/communities undergo huge transformation when their backs are against the wall. There is also a tendency for people to defend their existing status, rank or title. It does demand a lot of courage to give it up and rebuild it differently. When one is on a winning streak, one would hardly be motivated to slow down and think ahead. Complacency gradually sets in and reduces further the motivation to think outside the box.

However, examples abound to demonstrate that living off the dividends of past successes is not an option anymore. The emergence of new political parties has disrupted the political establishment of many countries.  Iphone and Ipad came at a time when there was a need in the market for something more user friendly.  The same goes for AirBnb, Uber and their likes….

What would be most important to someone: is it about having a title or is it about the long term recognition and respect from your peers or at large, society? How can one remain loyal both to one’s roots and at the same time, be open to other possibilities? Keeping one’s balance is a centuries old universal message.

Follow The Pack Or Lead The Pack?

For every hype, there would be those who would jump in the bandwagon at first sight and those who would wait and see whether this fad is worth their attention. There is also another category: those who would start the hype. People in need of novelty would always find someone who is willing to give them what they want. Because it is out of place, “unique” and makes them stand out of the crowd, novelty lovers would fall for it. Whether this hype is a fad or is powerfully disruptive to create jobs, generate income, it would largely depend on the factors that have created the hype in the first place.

Most new trends tend to collapse once the novelty factor dies out. They disappear as fast as they came. They took shape because there were “easy money” to be made: banks giving cheap loans and people looking for the next big thing, aiming to become the next “millionaire”, like their neighbours, a few blocks down the road – showing off their new car or pictures of their new property bought in some exotic place. If your new investment depends on market values to pursue a never ending rise then prepare for the pain of the downfall. For everything that goes up must come down.

When it requires you to be part of a “select” group of people to take advantage of this “new innovative idea”, I would stay away from it… “Cozy” relationships require long term investment of one’s own energy and time. Being well connected is not about being seen with the right crowd. Joining an “in” group makes you vulnerable as you are subject to “peer pressure” and the need to feed your sense of pride that you have made the right choice.

Creative disruption comes from making wise and challenging choices that would have a long term positive impact on the future. These choices are not dictated by what the rest of the herd is doing. People’s lives and success can bring inspiration and kick start your own creative sense. Emulating them can bring you some dividends. As there is no real ownership from you and no strong personal commitment of using your own strengths, you remain in your “comfort zone” and tend to refrain from going the “extra mile”. Whatever popular idea that you borrowed loses its momentum and its value to you.

The most unfortunate denominator for all those “financial soufflé”: memories of the collapse fade over time. Also, people tend to cling to dated ideas and rules for too long, particularly notions that minimize or explain away potential risks. Generally speaking, it always painful to recount your mistakes and learn where you went wrong. It is easier to put the blame on “bad timing” or on receiving bad advice as long as your sense of pride does not take the hit. Playing “the victim” won’t help restore your self confidence.

To be a serious trend setter requires that you are able to bounce back from all previous failures and embrace the lessons learnt.  To leave the past where it is and focus on what matters in the present requires personal resilience and pragmatism. When things start to go badly, keeping your own inner compass intact is necessary if you want to come out in one single piece.

Most well known trend setters went through a major personal ordeal before raising from the “ashes” to make a stronger comeback. Their personal fortitude makes them all the more determined to strive. A few well known examples are Maya Angelou and Steve Jobs.  It does take a lot to be a trend setter and what matters to most people is to have their own place in the sunshine, at the end of the day.

Whether you are a trend setter or a follower actually does not matter as long as you are aware of your core assets and mindful of your personal challenges. Everyone has the right to one’s own place in the sunshine. Taking a consistent approach of understanding whether the hype is moving in a productive direction is most important. The “herdlike” mentality of having to catch up to the Joneses can be highly risky and lead to nowhere other than pain, disappointment and loss in self confidence.

Stability in growing your own wealth is what makes your life enjoyable. It helps you to focus on the essentials – investing your resources in productive assets, setting the right priorities, managing your sense of pride so that it does not cloud your judgment, hanging out with people who inspires you, stands up to you when there is need to and truly supports you. It is all about balance: a strength taken too far can become a liability or ignoring your personal challenges is a huge risk.

To follow your own path to success is doing what is necessary: engaging deeply with yourself so as to learn how to deal with your personal challenges. Exploiting your strengths is easier as people tend to be more at ease with themselves in times of success. No one can hope to succeed as a free rider on the tailwinds of fortuitous circumstances. Complacency in dealing with yourself can only lead to stagnation. No one can continue on to be successful by using their sense of pride to mask their personal challenges. Living beyond one’s means intellectually or financially is the fast express route to doom! “If there is no wind, row”.