The Financial Crisis – A Case of Pendulum Pandimonium

We’ve lost our bearings. The financial crisis has become a crisis of confidence not just in core asset values, but in ourselves and what we have built over time. In one sense, the insanity of the moment suggests that we no longer know we are. And so, what do we do? We swing all the way to the other end of things,

No doubt, we have sewn the seeds of this mess through a series of psychological gateways that we’ve allowed ourselves and others to walk through, unchecked. Those gateways include opportunity, greed, denial and now, no surprise – guilt. I just can’t stress enough how vital it is for you and I, and every institution we know and work for, to stay true to who we are and not succumb to the seduction of economic opportunity everytime it shows up. It reminds me of the Greek myth of the beautiful Sirens who lured unsuspecting sailors to their rocky doom through their singing.

Having a clear sense of identity isn’t the panacea for making stupid, short-sighted choices. But it certainly helps you think twice before rationalizing choices that are destined to tear at the value-creating fabric of individuals, families and organizations – and, in the aggregate, the economies that hold our societies together.

There is one more psychological gateway we will need to pass through, if we are going to avoid another meltdown like this one (or, another Enron, or Dotcom debacle, etc.) That is the gateway of feeling ashamed of what we have done to ourselves and others. If we can reach this point, we will have recovered the sense of personal accountabiliity and integrity we will need to “know better’ next time. Will we? Probably not, but I hope I’m wrong.

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