Monday, March 30, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Age of the Unthinkable

In 1997, Apple launched a campaign with one simple message "Think Different". 12 years ago it was inconceivable how necessary to our survival those two words would be in 2009. Joshua Cooper Ramo, an analyst and former Foreign Editor of Time, takes this Apple campaign slogan and sprints with it, full speed ahead, to help us understand where we are and what we'll need to do to pull ourselves together. His new book, The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New Global Order Constantly Surprises Us and What to Do About It, is a beacon for those who have been looking for straight-talk about our current economic crisis and how you and I, everyday people, can move forward.

Ramo pulls from historical examples to show how people in the midst of a situation leading to their demise never saw it coming. Gorbachev is an eloquent example. He opened up the U.S.S.R. a bit at a time, and then the momentum of change was so strong, so pronounced, that Gorbachev had no choice but to let go of the reigns he had gripped tight for so long. Is the state of our economy, and the CEOs who have long prospered under the old rules of our financial system, any different?

In this dark situation it can be hard to see any cause for hope. Ramo suggests that while this might be the darkest moment in our world's financial history, it is also the moment of greatest possibility. We have the opportunity to wipe away every preconceived notion we have about how we do business, how we live life, how we create, how we inspire, how we dream. 

"Ahead of us is the invigorating possibility of discovery and reinvention." With that simple sentence, Ramo encourages us to question every assumption about 'how it must be done'. The days of cookie-cutter policy, politics, and business are over. If we are going to craft a new, brighter future, it will take all of our courage to challenge ourselves, our families, neighbors, co-workers, and leaders. It is time to toss aside common assumptions in favor of grander, more creative, and courageous plans and actions. 

Never before has it been so possible to create a world that we want to live in. It's as if we have a blank canvas staring at us, daring us, to invent something extraordinary. The only question now is do we have the confidence to build something from nothing. Can we take up the paint brush and with wide, vibrant strokes imagine a new future and commit to bringing it to life?  

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