Monday, October 20, 2008

Nearly all men can stand adversity

man hanging on a cliff due to financial problems
Robert Samuelton of Washington Post wrote an interesting article today entitled: In Good Times and Bad Times. He opened with this interesting observation based on James Grants’ book, “The Trouble With Prosperity”:

“If things seem splendid, they will get worse. Success inspires overconfidence and excess. If things seem dismal, they will get better. Crisis spawns opportunities and progress. Our triumphs and follies follow a rhythm that, though it can be influenced, cannot be repealed. Good times breed bad, and vice versa.”

While he was quoting this in context of an economic theory, I believe on the other hand that this is actually a life’s important lesson that we need to learn from. We are a breed of survivors, and that separate us radically from the animal species. We survive in the worst of situations. In fact, we survived two world wars that left us in economic and emotional depression as result. We survived other worst man made and natural calamities. It is our inherent nature to survive. No doubt.

Ironically, we don’t stand strong in wealth, success and prosperity. Grant was right after all. We become complacent when things go well with us. Our success and overconfidence as a result become our Waterloo. Why is that? No wonder Abe Lincoln’s wit rings timeless truth:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power...”

Although he was referring this remark in the context of political power, it holds true in any similar situation. Who would have thought that in an age where technology has advanced beyond what we can imagine, and where the exchange of information is done in split seconds, that the whole world will still go on an economic slowdown like this?

Were we caught unaware? Are these things simply the results of our own folly? When will we ever learn?


  1. Great post! Believe me when I tell you, this is where our job market is! Less than a month ago, I couldn't find people. And the hiring managers have that power, that they abuse.

  2. Unemployment rate continues to rise, not only in the US but in most of the European and Asian Countries as well. I thought that the Asian Economic Flu that beset the nineties will never happen in the US, but it did. IMO, this is a direct result of complacency on the part of government and on those who assert greater influence on the world's economy.

    On another note, authority abuse is commonplace in the corporate setting. I think that the people (especially staff) notice and are directly affected by this should take action. Report the issue to top management in a formal way. Abuse of authority must not be tolerated. Ok, am a bit radical there. Well, just my 2 cents.

    Thanks Kimmy

  3. only for men? ;))
    kidding. But isn't English language sometimes still sexist?

  4. actually...yeah! ^___^

    Nah. ^__-

    Abe was not yet conscious about sexism issues then, I think. Slavery and apartheid were the issues of his day.

    Well, you're quite right, the english language is really sexist in a lot of ways. No wonder, when they make the pronouncement after a same-sex wedding in california, they'd say: I now pronounce you spouses for life. Is this a way to avoid the issue of sexism.

    Ironic huh.

  5. off the topic: nice site here..

  6. We expect government to take care of everything when in fact government is the cause of a lot of the problems.

    The average household has a mortgage, one or more car loans, maybe a couple of other outstanding loans for furniture etc and over $7000 in credit card loans. Families don’t even think about paying for university until their kids are near to graduating from high school and many families are living from one paycheck to the next. Nobody is willing to make any sacrifices in order to get ahead. It’s a question of I want it, and I want it now.

    As consumers, we want to pay cheap prices. That means that companies have to go overseas where labour is cheap which takes jobs away from those at home - it’s a vicious cycle.

    Politicians can make all the promises in the world but we need to start taking some responsibility for our kids, our homes, and all the stuff that affects us. You might have to do without some stuff and reallocate your resources. If we do that, and government does that, maybe we can make some progress. You can place blame on lots of things but it still comes down to the average Canadian or American living above their means.

  7. I couldn’t agree more.

    While the government has a share of the responsibility for this financial crisis, you’re right it’s about time that we take full responsibility on how we manage our own finances. It is no longer about living the American dream, but rather about preparing for the future by being responsible for what we have now. It is about redefining a kind of a lifestyle that is within our means –a lifestyle of frugality.

    In fact, I noticed, this crisis hits badly only those who were not prepared. The rest consider this only as a part of daily occurrence.

    Thanks for sharing Robin. ^^

  8. I like this post a lot. The first quote is very true indeed, and while a "boom and bust" economy is not ideal is is hard to avoid completely. So many things in life run on a cycle... foxes and rabbits, stock markets, economies... As much as it is harsh that a lot of people are negatively affected by an economic crisis, having your back to the wall means you have to come out and fight.

    It's the people that realise that and get on with it, rather than sitting and blaming x, y or z for the situation that really make the most of it and get a head start on the road to recovery.

  9. Realization, in situations like these, is the first step. Unless people, especially those who are greatly affected, ( btw, are we not all?) realized where and what they failed to do can there be recovery. And of course, the huge part of this realization is taking responsibility for their predicament rather than blaming anyone.

    I am very hopeful though that good will come out of this for all of us.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jim.


  10. I think the point I was making is that when things are good people don't think about things being bad (putting money aside etc)... and when things are bad people tend to focus on the bad times (spending less etc) but maybe miss the opportunites that there are.

    I agree with you though, those who fail need to understand why and learn from it... however, in my humble opinion politicians don't really care about the economy. They are about how it is while they are in power, but they are never going to put moneyaside for the next person to gain power to spend, that's just the way politicians work (or maybe I am just too synical).



  11. That's right. People (we) tend to be complacent when things are good, and as I have said, that becomes our Waterloo.

    On the second paragraph -I couldn't agree more.

  12. Hi!
    First time commenter.

    Interesting thoughts...

  13. During the time that I had a loan modification in Seattle, my loan modification attorney and I talked a lot of options in order to make my outstanding loans perform better. That kind of adversity really took a toll on me. Good thing I had the support and should of my husband to weather the storm.


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts ^_~