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Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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With September passed and as you return to life’s classroom, prepare for the teacher’s question: “How was your summer?”

Don’t ask!

What was once a time of sun-splashed reverie, iced tea on a cool patio staring into the dusk of the day and planning for the Labor Day picnic has all changed.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times framed summer best for me: “The world speeded up. Stress levels soared. Idle moments evaporated. Egos expanded. Devices became hand-held. Money outpaced politics. Rage surged.”

August aborted this year in a time of ugly politics, debt debates and a new time of outrage. It’s as if an aging, sick elephant decide to amble onto our pristine beach and generously relieve itself. After what The Economist called a “ludicrously irresponsible bout of fiscal brinksmanship,” the markets continued to churn and the angry young, facing unemployment as high as 45.7 percent, left the beach for the barricades in London and other cities in the UK. Several died. And the fragile European Union is caught in the gulf between rich and poor nations and bankrupt economies begging for relief.

A sour economy doesn’t just happen “out there” anymore. Gallup’s economic confidence is at the lowest level since the pessimistic recession of 2008- 2009 and millions of us do not have jobs, perhaps for a long time. It’s hitting mighty close to home.

And, in all of this, where were our leaders? They were behaving badly on CNN, Fox, MSNBC and BBC-1. My wise partner, David Klein, reminded me that this isn’t the first time.

“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

Those words were spoken by Cicero in 55 B.C. What have we learned in two millennia?

I wrote about this same theme in February 2009: “All of us are being tested as never before. Now, as we confront the toughest economy in a generation we are all being called upon to accept more uncertainty and, its unwelcome fellow traveler, fear. We are often so distracted that we lack the attention for anything more than a five-part miniseries, and now, in our collective “affluenza,” anger and uncertainty, we feel suddenly vulnerable. And we hate the feeling. It makes it hard to live and lead. In the months ahead it will be too easy to slip back to the solace of what appears to be order, certainty, planned days and nights. Instead, leaders must confront one of their toughest tests of character and courage. Can they saddle up and ride the Four Horseman of the Reconstructed Economy: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity? Do we face a Darwinian winter of more downturns and closings? The news makes us want to hunker down and hide. As Keats wrote, “There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.”

One of the wisest writers I know is Dominque Browning, whose wonderful book Slow Love was featured in some of my earlier newsletters. In a current blog from her site, www.slowlovelife.com, she reminds us that we all have a big stake in how all of “this” turns out, and that we can in large and small ways influence the future.

“We’re all caught in the mad, maddening, thrilling swirl of work and love,” she wrote. “We all want to learn how to dig deeper, ground ourselves. Total escapism doesn’t do anyone any good, including the person who has put herself into hiding. You can shut the doors and windows, lock the garden gate, and tuck yourself into an exquisitely appointed bed but, no matter what you do, you live in a big, booming, buzzing world that is going to touch you wherever you hide. It is a world that urgently, more than ever, needs intelligent attention and the generous care of our hearts and souls. Let’s keep talking.”

Let’s take leadership for the things we can change. I invite you to consider three personal initiatives:

  • Get a list of your representatives, congressmen and other leaders and send them an email or, even better, a letter, expressing not anger but the hope that they will step out from the clouds of pessimism, an ideologue’s hiding place, and engage in courageous conversations about a “Better Next.” You can’t filibuster hope. We will believe again when we begin to really talk about passion, not poison, and get help to those who need it to find jobs, to share their talents, to be back into a real conversation that offers a horizon.
  • Contribute to those agencies and charities that are providing help to the homeless and the unemployed. In my community, it’s the Red Cross and Salvation Army for starters.
  • And give more than money, any amount, to help one person find a job. Really help them. Revise their resume, reach into your network to get them an interview and prepare them by role-playing the conversation. Even help them with their wardrobe. Really. I’ve done it. It works. And it feels great when it works. Open that door.


In doing this, allow yourself to feel their vulnerability. And your own.

“We try to construct a life in which we will be perfect,” David Whyte wrote in Crossing the Unknown Sea, ‘in which we will eliminate awkwardness, pass by vulnerability, ignore ineptness, only to pass through the gate of our lives and find, strangely, that the gateway is vulnerability itself. The very place we are open to the world whether we like it or not.”

I persist in my optimism that we can pull ourselves up and into a place of reasonable expectations and hope in a new spirit of recovery. We have a history to trust. To me the misty dawns of late summer outside my window, curling and weaving about my riverfront patios, offer a sultry invitation to wash away the tired leaves that keep us green awhile longer. This is all a brief glimpse of the days to come and with them the first signs of a new season.

Invite the leader in you to step forth. It begins with you.


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I am often asked about our work and our global leadership Practice. We help leaders become more effective, and to produce exceptional results. We are in the Performance business.

We partner, assess, coach and support senior leaders and Board members to enhance their effectiveness as leaders and to help them take responsibility for their work and their lives, to lead and live fully. We believe that in a world of possibility we can choose to create conditions for greatness, to alter the forces that act upon us, and to exercise our intention upon the world of business and commerce. We can choose to take responsibility for our lives and our future, and in so doing, unleash incredible energy to live and perform at our best
In our newsletters and commentaries we frequently comment about the elusive path to life balance, the challenge of staying present in our own lives, the invitation to own more of our experience, to live, lead and love more authentically, and to have more fun.

Roger Fransecky

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