Remember the US presidential inauguration? It was just some two months ago. The economy was in trouble. People were scared. But for one brief and shining moment—and maybe even a bit longer—virtually everyone seemed to believe some sort of great and necessary reinvention lay ahead. People felt hope.
Today they’re feeling rage.
Who knows exactly why this awful transition occurred—the possibilities are endless, given recent events. Bottomless bailouts. Acrimonious hearings. Staggering layoffs. Control systems failed that shouldn’t have. Leaders in business and government made mistakes. And too many decent people are paying the price.
But without a doubt, the recent imbroglio over bonuses at American International Group Inc. (AIG) was a tipping point. Suddenly a lot of people went from wanting change to wanting revenge.
Understandable, perhaps. But the most profound economic and cultural upheaval of our time will not be righted if we give in to rage. Rage only begets rage. It often makes people do stupid, short-sighted things that invariably spawn unintended consequences.
Rage isn’t healing. It’s polarizing. Which is why we all have to fight to keep hope alive and replace our rage with an increased and renewed focus on the good and absolutely certain things in life—the rage-busters, if you will.
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Take, for instance, the fact that at this very moment there are hundreds, if not thousands, of geeky, brilliant engineering wonks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and other campuses around the world who are sitting in their dorm rooms, subsisting on pizza, not caring about the nice weather outside as they pour their hearts into some cool new idea. Those geeky kids and their cool ideas are the future of business—just wait.
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You can be sure, too, that there are legions of people out there who aren’t frightened by the downturn in the economy. They’re called entrepreneurs, and challenges don’t make them surrender. Challenges make them fierce.
Or consider the fact that right now, at companies of every kind, large and small, new and old, teams of employees are huddled in meetings, working hard to figure out how to save jobs.
You can be sure that as you read this, medical researchers in laboratories around the world are putting in 18-hour days as they work to unlock the secrets of the human genome and discover cures beyond imagining. You can be sure that most of them, maybe even all of them, are motivated by a compelling, heartfelt desire to save lives—perhaps, someday, the life of someone you love.
You can be sure (OK, pretty sure) that in April, Tiger Woods will do something superhuman at the Masters golf tournament and the world will collectively gasp in wonder, overjoyed that he’s back.
You can be sure that not long after the Masters, on a warm spring day, a mother and father will hold back tears as they watch the first member of their family graduate from college.
You can be sure that they won’t be alone.
You can be sure that for every jerk with compromised ethics who is undermining business, there are 98 or 99 decent, hard-working people determined to do the right thing. You can be sure that those people will prevail.
You can be sure that a hero of non-partisanship leadership will emerge from the morass on Capitol Hill, and that person will show us what true public service looks like.
You can be sure that there will be more than one hero at the end of this.
You can be sure that this summer there will be a new song on the radio that is so terrific and fun you won’t be able to get it out of your head. You can be sure that music will never die.
You can be sure that someday in the not-too-distant future, we will look back on this difficult time and say, “It was painful, but we pushed hard and learnt so much that we truly lowered the chances of its ever happening again.”
You can be completely and absolutely sure that the first hot dog you eat while watching the first baseball game of the season at the ballpark will be as good as it gets, and the second one won’t be bad either.
And finally, you can be sure that we’ve only come up with a few of the rage-busters that should be on this list. What’s on yours?
Write to Jack & Suzy
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.
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