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THE BOTTOM LINE
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Reset your expectations – now

The economy – and life – has changed for good. One generation gets it and sees the opportunities. The rest of us better catch up.

by steve churmPublished: January 01, 2012

One of the most accomplished and admired women of the past quarter century in Orange County business circles said it best. Standing before family and friends in a gathering of power and influence, she was being honored for a career of milestones, both professional and philanthropic.

This was a retirement celebration for First Foundation’s Victoria Collins. Collins never uttered the “r word.” Instead, she announced she was “resetting” her life, a clever spin on announcing she is shifting gears but has no plans to stand still. She’s moving forward, because that is what successful humans do. 

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Collins is right, you know. No matter where we are on life’s journey, or how the stock market finishes at the closing bell, or what zip code we live in, we must keep moving forward. On the most basic level, it’s what separates us from other life forms. We have the choice to become petrified, frozen in one place. Or we can reset our thinking and chart a course of change, personally and as a society. We are two years into the second decade of the 21st century, the most advanced and accelerated moment of change in world history. But many still deny the permanent arrival of the “new normal.” They are drifting emotionally in the end trail of failed economic expectations.
   
We all know that the financial pain of recent years has been real in nearly every neighborhood. Foreclosures, pink slips and dreams of a secure future were dashed, and the fallout is not over. But we can hasten its end by digging deep into our attitudinal vaults and making a large withdrawal. We must decide right now – individually and collectively – that we still have the greatest opportunities of any people on the globe, if we retrofit our mindsets and go after it.
   
As Richard K. Davis, president and CEO of U.S. Bankcorp, told nearly 1,000 Orange County business leaders last October, “We all know it is raining outside. You can either stand there and get wet or grab an umbrella and start walking.”
   
My generation, the Baby Boomers, seems most shell-shocked by the economic sonic booms that have shaken our confidence. Denial, followed by a slow, painful acceptance of an economic reality gone wildly wrong, has left many peers in a zone of uncertainty. Their outlook has gone bust.
   
But I sense genuine hope. A question posed recently at a family dinner with five aspiring careerists brought forth a healthy serving of optimism. When asked about their mood, considering the state of the economy and the lack of decisive political leadership on almost every level, they were surprisingly bullish. The depiction of a self-entitled generation of restless and resentful young adults soured by high unemployment, rising consumer prices and foreign competitors was nowhere on their radar screens. They talked about feeling lucky to have jobs, controlling their futures and being successful in a world made easier and more connected by technology. Nobody was complaining; rather, they were plotting the decades ahead.
   
In fact, those young professionals were doing something even more important. They were helping me do exactly what my friend Victoria Collins and the rest of us need to do in the weeks and months ahead: Reset our perspectives and priorities. It’s time to stop looking in the rearview mirror, and see the vast horizon in the years to come. 

schurm@churmmedia.com
@SteveChurm