Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

The Meltdown

As you've watched our economy melt down, have you asked yourself where all the money went? I have. I've read learned explanations, but I think everyone is making the answer too complicated. My answer is really simple: we squandered it!

Here's what I mean. If I pay you $30 to dig a hole for me today and $30 to fill it tomorrow, then I've gotten nowhere and I'm out $60. The money isn't lost because I supported your life for two days. But I squandered those two days of yours. No value is added to our lives by occupying your two days of life energy that way.

If someone paid me $60 yesterday for the expected product of this high-value activity, and then learned day after tomorrow that it actually had no value, then they'd be out the $60, not me. But the end result is the same. Two days of a person's life were wasted in the activity of producing something having no value.

That's where our money went! It isn't lost. It was squandered in zero-value activities like loaning money to people who couldn't possibly pay it back, creating and selling securities based on those loans, and building houses for people who couldn't afford to live in them. We wasted years of the life energy of each of the people doing those jobs. And don't get me started on the years of life energy wasted "liberating" Iraq, or building 56-inch plasma home video screens and Hummers.

All the money that disappeared on paper will reappear when we finally get back to building roads and schools, educating children, caring for the elderly, caring for the disabled, and providing real health care. Those activities create real value.

And you know, my little loss of the $60 added $60 to the GDP. Does that make sense to you? Imagine if you measured your car's output by the amount of heat it produced rather than the miles it travelled. That's what we do when we calculate the GDP. No wonder we're scrambling... we're looking at a misleading measure.

So, creativity... does all this have anything to do with creativity? Yes, you bet it does. Creativity makes the right things happen. We have made things happen, but they have not been the right things.

One reason why that occurred is that all those do-ers (and all their supervisors, managers, and executives) got so wrapped up in the doing that they never took the time to seriously consider whether they were creating any real value.

Another reason was that the do-ers (and etc.) let themselves be hypnotized by a measure (stock index, profit margin, GDP) when they should have been connecting with the reality the measure was supposed to represent.

These are classic symptoms of a failure to align with the flow of the creative process. I can guarantee that millions of those do-ers asked themselves the exact same question: "Is this the right thing to do?" But most of them didn't stop long enough to answer it.

So the next time you find yourself having nagging doubts, ask your own question, out loud, and insist on a thoughtful answer. That single decision will propel you out of the Produce activity and into the other 270 degrees of the creative process, where you can connect with what's really important. That's how you make the right things happen.