In his fascinating and sobering book, the 4th Turning, William Strauss chronicles patterns in America’s economic history. He describes these patterns as cyclical “Turnings” that have occurred in our economy since the first ringing of the Liberty Bell:
- A High
- An Awakening
- An Unraveling
- A Crisis
Although The 4th Turning was published in the mid 1990’s it received little attention until 9/11, when many took notice of how that disaster fit into the 4 turnings, specifically the 4th. In the author’s opinion we are currently in the Crisis Turning, and could be for the next decade. But there is good news.
The good news is that “heroes” have surfaced in every 4th turn to rescue the economy from collapse. The last 4th turning occurred in the Depression when The Greatest Generation stepped in, not only to emerge victorious in a World War but also to rebuild our economy with initiative, innovation and guts.
Our country needs a “re-tweet” of the Greatest generation; men and women with the tenacity of my favorite uncle, Charles Harbin – known to friends and family as “C.W.”. He passed last year after a long battle with a debilitating back disease. But even with pain that would force a rhino to its knees, C.W. was the mentally toughest individual I’ve known by far. I loved hearing him tell stories over the years of his youth – growing up on a farm in a small Florida community during the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce and his choices were limited which required intense focus and bull-dog perseverance.
His father handed him $150 on the night of his high school graduation then told his son he wished he could give him more, reminded him that his father he loved him, and wished him luck. C.W. caught a ride to the University of Florida that night with the professor who gave his graduation address. The professor dropped him off on the outskirts of town and also wished him luck. C.W. found cheap lodging and showed up at a local dairy the next morning looking for work. No jobs were available, but he committed to working at no pay until a job opened. He worked without compensation for three months.
For the next four years C.W. started work at 5:00 a.m., went to class in the afternoon, and studied at night. He joined the Marines the day after graduation because the job market was still tight and he wanted to serve his country. He fought in the Pacific campaign, including Okinawa. After the war he farmed tobacco and built enough capital to diversify. In time he became independently wealthy as a commercial developer. He employed many, help many, and was considered a pillar of his community.
We need another wave, make that a tsunami, of heroes like my uncle – men and women with the courage and tenacity to step in to our economic war so that we can push through this Crisis and drift (as in racing) into the next “High”.
Here’s more good news. Our heroes have already surfaced:
No, the Man of Steel can’t save the day – as cool as that might sound. Our heroes are those who are working 24/7 to fuel this economy with jobs and great ideas; those who are taking risk to beat the odds of failure. These crazy, courageous innovators are our Economy Heroes… our Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs generate jobs, Washington can’t. Entrepreneurs are our nation’s only hope to survive fiscally in the next decade.
The term “Economy Heroes” is not only a nom de guerre for our entrepreneurs, it is also a movement – a freedom fight for entrepreneurs. Economy Heroes is a “Starfish” organization, as defined in Ori Brafman’s book The Starfish and the Spider. It’s distinctly decentralized in order to draw on the power of champions and catalysts from coast to coast who will push beyond Washington’s antics; and who will find new solutions that will fuel and motivate the success of those who are part of America’s competitive advantage in the world economy. Our heroes need ideas, information, events, etc., to move the needle on their success. The Economy Heroes movement was created to funnel those resources to entrepreneurs around the country.
The Economy Heroes Manifesto
In the early 1900’s immigrants flooded into Ellis Island with hopes of grasping the brass ring of freedom. They journeyed from all points to pursue dreams and launch their own business. Our ancestors offered every ounce of their innovation forged with an unyielding work ethic to initiate a movement of what we now recognize as our nation’s competitive advantage – our entrepreneurs. They were then and remain today America’s Economy Heroes.
We’re in the sharpest economic downturn since the Depression. Big business can fail, we know that now. Mega corporatations struggle to remain in business. We depended on them, invested in them and placed our confidence in them even though they (companies over 5,000 employees) generated only 2.2% of the jobs in this country.
Small businesses fail too. In fact over 90% of entrepreneurial companies don’t make it, even though the less than 10% that do survive generate over 80% of employment and almost all innovation. These CEOs take risk to advance their ideas and fuel our unique cultural environment that enables entrepreneurs to march “North” while every else is marching “South”. They are not corporate “rock stars” like Jack Welch. Their stories are not as legendary as SouthWest, FedEx, or Walmart – yet. Economy Heroes are more important now than any other time in our history. They need attention, not bailouts.
What will turn the current economic tide? Our labor cost? Our engineering? Our science? Wall Street and Washington can’t move the needle. The market plummets like a millstone in open water. We watch the 24/7 news stations with sweat streaming from our pores as we internalize the dramatic blow by blow anchor blather. We fantasize the worst, and our political leaders react with one “magic trick” after another; hoping something friendly will appear and be embraced.
We must elevate awareness and provide support to our Economy Heroes. All entrepreneurs eventually face “No Man’s Land” (a term formed by Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land: A Survival Guide for Growing Midsize Companies). No Man’s Land is an inevitable “adolescent” stage of corporate growth where most companies fail. Corporate adolescence often produces agonizing battles between the habits of a lonely entrepreneur and the immutable laws of growth. The result is often confusion, frustration, stagnation, and loss of employee morale.
Our heroes face huge obstacles; they require essential information, accountability, capital, and political support to succeed. If they thrive, our economy will survive. Like the courageous immigrants of old, our Economy Heroes provide the fiscal hope for our present and future. They are America’s competitive advantage. It’s that simple.
Even if we are in the 4th Turning Crisis stage of our historical economic cycle, we need not fret; all we need to do is to pave a clear path for our Economy Heroes and let them do what they do best – CREATE JOBS!