I see so many coiled springs around me. On a sunny, hot, summer afternoon I met with one of my friends and clients. Their business has all the right stuff: talent, tools, experience, and a dedicated base of clients. They took the big step to get farther up the ladder, and maybe to the point where they can take vacations and replace old cars. The potential is all there, but making it real requires making unfamiliar moves. They’re not the only ones. I’m witnessing a collection of energies behind many businesses and projects. Some already have news to share, but can’t. Others need a bit of patience, a slight shift in habits, and a bit of encouragement and good luck. It isn’t just a business thing. The world is changing.
It’s 85F indoors today. That’s the weather for sitting and sipping, not pursuing potentials. My original agenda for this Saturday evening was to build out my merchandise site for Pretending Not To Panic. This week, the prospects of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes were added to the list of droughts, rising oceans, and political and economic upheavals. It seems like a fine time to wear that popular attitude of pretending not to panic. There’s enough reason to panic, but our society has found many mechanisms for submersing those emotions while maintaining an attitude of positivity and hope. Optimism is required, but I’ve been surprised by how many are also significantly worried – and need an outlet for that expression. I’ve already designed the t-shirt and hip flask, but it’s too hot to do anything else except type.
Pretending Not To Panic is a project that has potential. Energy is being added. Engagement is growing. Every day I try to post at least two items that are “news for people who are eager and anxious about the future”. Collecting it daily has become an ongoing research project into the constructive and destructive influences in our world. There’s more than enough good news and bad news being reported. One aspect that is fascinating is how little of the debate includes data, and how much of the discourse is extremist. There is a small supply of objective news, and (from what I can tell) a great demand for it. Low supply. High demand. Sounds like an opportunity to me.
As with any venture though, patience is required. There was a bit of virality to the first set of posts; but after that faded, the traffic has returned to more common social media trend of slow and steady growth as long as I consistently post. Still, it would be nice to get the polo shirts and coffee mugs designed.
My appreciation for slow and steady growth partly originates in my stock investing career. To some it looked like an overnight success – followed by a catastrophic fall, but the success built over decades and the fall may be temporary. (It better be temporary; but just in case I’ll continue working to my Rule of 7 and buying lottery tickets.)
A few years into investing I had doubts. I had successes, and failures; and it seemed to be fruitless – or at least insufficiently profitable. Then I reviewed my history. I’d gone from successes sufficient to buy a six-pack of beer, to successes sufficient to eat in a good restaurant, to paying for a weekend at a B&B, to paying for a short vacation, to – a few years later, enough to buy a nice car for cash (if I wanted), to buying a house, to eventually buying an early retirement at 38. In two decades, consistent investing and frugal living produced something seemingly unreachable at the start. Compound interest is powerful.
Hey! I just gave myself a bit of encouragement I can do it again – and hopefully better.
I find encouragement in many of my clients’ projects. Where they may see the bare budge of motion, I see movement to build upon and accelerate. An airplane taking off started with a speed of zero. Even the ones that use catapults are stuck in place at the start. The trick is to recognize motion. Respect progress, and build upon it.
Take a look at the adoption of solar energy. For a long time it looked like it was only a curiosity. The same was true of the large wind turbines. Within the last ten years, entire states and countries have installed enough capacity to power their regions with renewable energy, regardless of subsidies. Social movements that seemed stuck, make sudden progress. Choices about basic things like housing, transportation, food, and health have all shifted recently. In the US, acupuncture was considered a joke despite its proven efficacy, until it inspired enough advocates to get insurance to pay for it. Eating local has always been a good idea, but it took too many cases of unfortunate corporate crop concerns that convinced people to know how and where their food was grown. Cars now seem silly to those who can walk, bike, or bus to work; especially as prices of vehicles and fuel rise. Housing had a major crisis, and out of it, affected people found a slowly growing movement to smaller homes and less reliance on lawns.
My pessimisms come from the big concerns I see: climate change, unstable economies and governments, too many people consuming more than a planet can provide. My optimisms come from the movements that seem too small for the news to notice – those very same innovators in housing, transportation, food, and health. There’s even good progress in understanding the nature of reality and consciousness, which could dramatically alter every debate.
After I post this I’ll step out onto the deck and water my container garden. Earlier this week, I harvested my first tomato. For years, I’ve tried growing a garden in the backyard; and was unsuccessful. That seemed like the right place to plant vegetables. For years, I’ve enjoyed and battled the sunny deck that has great views but can become far too hot in summer. Finally, success. I realized that shifting a habit by moving the garden in the backyard’s ground into plants in pots on the front deck might give the plants of a bit of a hot house environment, give me a reminder to water them, and even give the house more curb appeal. But, it’s only one tomato – with dozens more ripening on the vine. Sproing!