Holy Cow! We were close…

Mark my words…  There will be many lengthy articles and even entire books written about what almost happened to our financial system this past Thursday.  In short, banks were about to run out of money to loan to each other and to other businesses to operate.  That would have frozen the ability for numerous businesses, some large corporations, to operate.  We came very close to a complete freeze-up of our financial system that would have had catastrophic consequences.  One person I heard talking about it said that businesses simply would have, “started falling from the sky to their deaths.”   The more I study and read about what almost happened, the more I realize this is very scary stuff.

Whether you believe the government’s bail-out of Fannie/Freddie, Wall Street investment banks, AIG and its assumption of billions and billions (perhaps trillions) in bad debt is a good idea or not is not the point of this post.  The point is that imbalance has taken over the way we operate in this country and it threatens to do real and serious harm.

I wrote about this not to along ago here.  Follow this simple timeline:

1.  Washington overly loosens rules on how financial institutions can write mortgages (imbalance of regulation).

2.  Financial institutions begin offering credit to people who can’t afford it (imbalance of sound business policy).

3.  Individuals bite on the gimmicky loan offers, spending more than they can afford (imbalance of sound decision-making).

4.  Housing markets starts to slow and the rate of mortgage sales drops decreasing income for lenders (imbalance of income).

5.  People begin defaulting on outstanding loans (imbalance of personal checkbooks – totally predictable).

6.  Bad loans take up more and more space on the balance sheets of lenders (imbalance of liability/assests – again, totally predictable).

7.  The government, already WAY out of balance with Nat’l debt, takes on even more to save our financial system (more and more imbalance).

Of course, this is a highly simplified version of what happened, but you get the point.  The government is imbalanced.  Investment banks are imbalanced.  Many individuals are financially imbalanced.  All of this imbalance is leading to real problems that affect you and me.  Balance is not a hard concept to grasp.  Greed makes it hard to maintain.  We wanted houses we couldn’t afford.  Lenders wanted profits from people who couldn’t afford to be their customers.  The government wanted to not face the real problem ahead of time.   Where will it end?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that we almost witnessed a collapse of the biggest financial system the world has ever known.  Geeze.  Can we just not start living with common sense again?  Can’t we get back to the balanced fundamentals of sound business practices and good judgement?  I sure hope so.  If not, the worst isn’t over…

A Life Lesson in Crabbing… No, Really…

Ahhh.  I bet you’ve never heard this metaphor before, but it’s a good one…  

A few weeks ago, I was on a boat crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay.   To do this, a trot line is set with chicken necks and sits on the bottom of the bay.  The boat rides alongside the trot line with a rig that pulls the line up out of the water as you pass by.  Hungry crab that are holding on to the chicken necks come up with the line.  The trick is to catch the crab in a net before the let go of the necks and disappear into the depths.  Even though I can’t eat crab (I’m allergic), it’s always a fun outing with my wife’s family. 

This particular morning, the water was choppy and the angle of the sun made it difficult to see the crab until they were just about to the water’s surface, which is usually when they let go.  It’s best to spot them a few feet down so that you can prepare to get the net under them.  I was having a very hard time catching the crab because I couldn’t see them clearly.  I decided to put on some sunglasses to cut down on the glare.  That helped.  We also strategically turned the boat around and approached the line from the opposite side.  This changed the angle of the sun on the water and I was astonished at how clearly we could now see the approaching crab.  Rather than letting them pass by unnoticed, I began catching them one right after the other. 

All right, here’s the lesson…  Life’s opportunties are always in front of us.  Sometimes, we have to change our perspective to SEE them.  Just because you don’t recognize them doesn’t mean they’re not there.  If you’re ignoring them or not looking for them, they can pass us, just like the crab.  We complain because we don’t get the promotion or the raise we desire, but are we really doing what we can showcase our talents?  What opportunties are we missing to show our spouses our love?  What special moments are we missing with our kids because we’re always in a rush?  What opportunties are we letting slip through our fingers to make a great impression on our customers in our businesses?  Too many times, these moments that could make for something significant in our lives just pass by unnoticed; wasted. 

So, how can you begin watching for new opportunties to change your life instead of just letting them disappear into the depths below?