Thursday, November 26, 2009

What This Country Needs

Los Angeles County has a population of roughly 11 million people. Not all of these people are natives. Many have come from other places. It is a true melting pot of people with different cultures, religions, languages, shapes, sizes, etc. It is one of the things I love the most about this town. It's why I have never moved away and why I never bad mouth my City of Angels.

For the most part, the citizens of this great city tend to get along. Sure, like every big city, we have our share of problems. But given our population of 11 million, we do pretty great. With one exception....

That's right, the Big Game.

Now I understand the other parts of the country have their version of the Big Game. But none of these compare in scale with ours here on the Left Coast. No offense, of course.

Regardless of the college you attended or did not attend, for one week each year, you're either a Bruin or a Trojan. But what does this have to do with the Country? Well, absolutely nothing! Sorry, but I had to take a moment to say GO BRUINS!!!

Ok, now on to the regularly scheduled program...

As a community banker I attend many local functions. Some of these functions are industry related and some are hosted by community groups. As you can imagine, the tone at many of these functions lately has been fairly depressed. With the economy the way it is, so many are disappointed with the state of the economy and many are struggling to find jobs.

I was asked to attend a local Rotary luncheon this week which featured former standout players from UCLA and USC. Being a proud UCLA alumni, I jumped at the chance. When I got there I saw what I expected. Half the room was decked out in blue and gold and the other in cardinal and gold. As I mingled I heard a lot of the same about the economy. But something was different. Attitudes were different. The people were more positive.

At the end of the luncheon, as I rode the elevator down, I starting thinking about how different this event was compared to the others lately. How positive and happy people appeared, including the unemployed. Then it struck me. Hope!

Those present at the meeting were hopeful about something. They were hopeful that their team would win the Big Game on Saturday. The fact that the economy stunk or that things we not good, for a moment became irrelevant. They smiled, laughed, cheered and were generally optimistic and hopeful.

Now, by saying this please do not attribute my comments to any recent political campaign using a similar slogan. What I am merely trying to say is that as we all struggle through this difficult economic period, be sure to find something that gives you hope. Something that keeps you going. Whether its coaching your kids soccer game or learning a new skill. Whatever it is, find something to keep you occupied and moving forward.

The interesting thing about this whole economic mess is the role that we all play in either improving it or keeping it down. If we all believe that the sky is falling, it certainly will fall. However, if we feel good about our prospects, we'll likely spend a little more, oiling the wheels of economic improvement.

The government can throw all the money it wants at the problem. But if you and I don't believe that things will get better or if we don't at least feel better about ourselves, then no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, it will not be enough.

Today it is Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is a day to give thanks for all that we have. Take time today to spend with your family and let them know how much you appreciate them. Don't just think it, say it.

Many years ago, shortly after graduating from college, I read a book by a motivational speaker named Denis Waitley. Something I read in one of his books really had an effect on me, my career and family life. Denis said (I am recalling so it may not be precise but you'll get the point), "It's not what happens to you that matters, it's how you take it."

So as we move forward in this continuing mess of an economy, first, give thanks for what you can. Afterwards, remember, it's not what happens to you but how you take it. Or, in other words, if you're holding a bag of lemons, make lemonade and then invite people over to share with you.

We will come out of this. It may take longer than we would like but it will happen. Hang in there and make the best of it. Try not to get too down, and by all means, don't do anything crazy. The holidays are some of the toughest times for many people. If that's you, stop and reach out to someone. Find a way to cope and let the moment pass.

Well, I can smell the pies baking so it means its time to go. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I'll see you back here soon.

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