Energy in Uncertain Times


As we wait for the stimulus package to kick in, to slow or hopefully reverse our slide, let’s acknowledge that the stimulus is just that: a stimulus. It’s not a fix, an end, a result. It’s intended to stimulate changes in behavior, especially spending and lending. In the end it won’t be President Obama but millions and millions of us acting differently that will make the difference. This historically challenging time can depress us, or we can each respond with more focus, energy and discipline to generate results. And the more we are energized and focused the smarter we will work, save, borrow and lend. So, look for ways to generate your own and others’ energy.

I invite you to think about what energizes you the most – especially in these uncertain times – by clicking on this survey and answering the ONE question there; it’ll take you about a minute to do. I’ll share the results in next week’s Reading for Leading. In the meantime, my hope is that the question will stimulate your thinking, and get you to focus on what energizes you and energizes those with whom you work or who work for you.

And if you find that Reading for Leading energizes and focuses you from time to time, then I make this additional request: please invite two people to join the Reading for Leading list. Over the past year the subscription list has been stuck at about 12,500. In that time hundreds and hundreds have signed up, but more active spam filters and other technical problems have kept me from spreading this message more broadly. I would be honored if you would recommend Reading for Leading to someone, or if you are sure they would like it, just reply with their name and email address, and we will add them.

Keep making the little moves that will energize you and others as you … Lead with your best self!


p.s. Don’t forget to click through to my one-question survey on leadership.


  • Dan,
    I would like to take issue with your subject line, “Energy in Uncertain Times.” It implies that there are “certain” times; which when you think about it, don’t really exist. I think that a large part of the cause of our current situation, is that we acted like we were living in “certain” times. We quit examining our life styles, purchases, and need to protect some basic necessities because we were “certain” that the good times would continue. We forgot that life is full of uncertainties that need to be planned for.

  • Ah yes, more politico-speak. “The stimulus is JUST THAT, a stimulus.”

    NO, it is way more than a ‘just that’. It is a orchestrated effort to grow government more, a propitious arrival at serving the Democratic party’s propensity for government largess.

    8,500 earmarks inside of it. Earmarks, as in pork barrel wasteful (in some instances) spending of totalitarian political capital.

    Mr. President using photo ops, such as more police jobs in Columbus Ohio. I’ve been in Columbus many times. I have lots of friends there. ALL of them are extremely concerned with their skyrocketing property taxes. When will this stimulus package ‘trickle down’ to Main St. or rural back street America?

    Why is there such preferential treatment for BIG CORPORATION America? I don’t buy the rationale of (example; one of many) AIG is too big to allow to fail. How about this scenario: Small business man (or woman) America is too important to the design of our country to allow to fail. Golden parachutes for only the elite, along with, of course, the movement towards taking care of every unproductive American with increased welfare recipiency benefits. The ‘B’ (billion) word is now being supplanted with the ‘T’ (trillion) word. I remember when you had the ‘M’ (million) word associated with your net worth that you were considered a financial success. The corporate greedmongers now use taxpayers million$ to light their Cuban cigars. Deficits and spending budgets in the trillions is inexcusable. It wreaks of inefficiency, bloated lobbyist led and fed politics.

    May there be term limits in the VERY NEAR future.

    • Mark,

      Points well taken. I’m no rich guy and I don’t own AIG, but my understanding is that AIG insures millions of mortgages, among other things. When we bail out an AIG or a GM for that matter, we are certainly protecting the CEOs and the board members and the huge stockholders. But an AIG or a CitiBank are also you and me in this world. Likely you have some 401K money or insurance or reinsurance support with these type companies. LIkely your bank depends on their capital, etc.

      I’ve never been a big apologist for big companies and I don’t condone their huge errors in judgment, but I also know that there’s an awful lot of US bound up in their continuing to exist.


      • Dan,

        Just citing two of MANY extraneous examples of the content matter that makes up the basis in part of the so called ‘stimulus’ plan……

        Million$ appropriated for:

        In Iowa, the study of how to lessen, or remove, the contentious smell of pig manure.

        Lobbyist derived solution (representation for Mega-Agri consortium)…..note, this is hypothetical….Multiple million$ given to R&D divisions of Kraft, Delmonte, Monsanto, et al to further their propigation of GMA’s (genetically modified agriculture).

        In California, funding for tattoo removal. So ludicrous that I won’t even attempt to find a tongue in cheek or purposeful reasoning for this type of wasteful irresponsible spending.

        As Sonny and Cher sang……AND THE BEAT GOES ON…

        • Mark,
          I think they should have drawn a bright line when it comes to pork. But I wonder what you think: is the excess and skewed values in the congress on a higher order, a greater ratio, than the Joe Publics who waste, cheat on their taxes (and their spouses), spend crazy beyond their means, lose sight of the basics (the rules of the farm that Covey talks about: you don’t reap what you don’t sew, etc.)?
          I’m as wary of the mob as I am of the Big Whig Party you fear below.
          All of us need to take stock. So much of the anger (I’m not speaking of yours in particular – only you can know that) is projected. People don’t want to own their own mistakes and their own fears, so they rail at authority, all authority.
          Thanks for the humor below!

        • Dan,

          There are obviously many folks that can carry the torch of responsibility in this crisis. I can see your point relative to the Joe Publics that cheat in a myriad of ways. Speaking for myself only, I was raised by parents who held us responsible for our actions, and supported our striving to better ourselves, be it an involvement in Cub/Boy Scouts, sports, jobs during youth, and certainly, holding our feet to the fire regarding expectations of grades in school. Fortunately, for me, I went to a school that was parochial, up until high school, and the implementation of infusion of God in my life at an early age has helped me come full circle, as in the Prodigal Son. I have always worked hard, SAVED more than I spent, looked no further than the mirror for answers to and reasons for being responsible. I have NEVER received a single unemployment check, and it frosts me to see these multitudes of ad campaigns on TV touting SafeLink Wireless free cell phones for welfare recipients. This country has lost grip of the concept of ‘pull yourself up by your boot straps’. When it comes to your assessment of citizens ‘cheating’ on their taxes, who do you think has given to them the lessons learned? I’d say, look at Congress. Weren’t there THREE members of Obama’s inner circle of cabinet position appointees implicated in just this exact form of malfeasance?!! Is this the kind of LEADERSHIP that we should be looking to for the answers? Reminds me of the Pharisees and Scribes. Talk the talk, AND walk the walk.

      • Unfortuantely, all of us are trapped in the quagmire created by the failed policies of our government over the last 12 years. The corporate philosophy of shipping jobs out of the country has at last produced a very simplistic outcome that is if you don’t have a job you cannot be a consumer which necessarily causes economic activity to stall. Having stated that, we are not in a stall but in an incredible free fall. The stimulus is an interim solution but a much needed wake up call for so many Americans who have been mentally and intellectually lethargic when it comes to having any clue of what is going on in the nation’s capital and the pandering to the entities that have created our current crisis. One could argue The Presidential election results were the product of American voters finally becoming energized after so many of them began to loose jobs, retirement and health care benefits while realizing how corporations and their government abandoned them. Ethical and moral leadership in this country has been deliberately absent but perhaps times like the ones we are living through can rekindle the American Spirit of collective survival and destroy the “On Your Own Philosophy” that has been the fraudulent concept promoted with such aggressive vigor.

  • Wouldn’t this be a good time for a history lesson, the purpsoe of which to educate the young and remind the old? Then seek out a grass roots approach at the local levels on how to fix our problems. Then come together county by county and state by state to seek resolve as a nation.

    Should we not first look at our life standards and adjust them to meet the essential needs? Can we take the issues of today and use them to make us and our children stronger and more responsible in resolve? Is it still possible to teach ingenuity, creativity and imagination?

    Perhaps it is time to look back 38 years ago to be reminded to “Ask not what your country acn do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

  • For energy, well being, and optimism, I rely on myself and those around me. Integrity, inclusion and teamwork in our pursuit of excellence carries us though. We get this boost from ourselves and each other; not from management.

    Your interesting survey asks the question as if one can answer positively regarding at least three of the items. I cannot. It is not apparent that management has intelligently considered it’s goals or allocated its resources accordingly. “Thanks” is profuse, but lacks sincerity. A demonstrated willingness to correct these problems WOULD be energizing.

    That we talk about these things gives me continued hope that someday we will DO these things. Thanks, much.

    • Coif,
      Thanks for your comments. It’s sad – for you/the system – that you can’t check 3 of them! Your comment about the power of peers is a very good one. I teach it all the time in my speeches and was remiss in not offering it as a choice.

      Back to the issue of the system you are in, I agree that it helps to TALK about it. Perhaps you could bring the survey and your observations about it up at a staff meeting some time and raise it as a discussion topic with the question: “how could we do better?”

      A peek at the results coming in: the factors most cited had to do with personally being challenged to do meaningful work and doing said work.

  • Dan,

    Sorry, I’m on my soapbox again. I’ve never been happy about “solutions” that involve throwing money (like well-cooked spaghetti at a wall) at a problem, in the hope that some of it will stick.

    The object of a stimulus is to re-awaken something that has become tired or inactive. My concern is over injecting a stimulant into an economy that is sick, not sleeping. It seems to me that the sickness infecting our otherwise vibrant economy is systemic, caused by myriad blockages in the flow of cash through its arteries. The blockages are caused by individuals or groups of individuals (like blood cells) stuck together by shared greed and causing a localized swelling of wealth that blocks the free flow of capital around the system. An aneurysm can occur, killing the surrounding cells (you and me or the business that used to employ me?). When you increase the blood pressure into a system that is already blocked, you increase the risk of aneurysm and explosive decompression. The patient (our economy) can bleed out…and die.

    What is killing our economy is not just the blockages, but a frightened patient. It doesn’t take a government think-tank or an economic genius to see that people are afraid, that we have been stabbed in the back by smiling financial services “snake oil salesmen” and flim-flam artists, robbed by consummate platinum-plated thieves, and damaged by criminally incompetent and greedy risk-takers. The evening news contains a laundry-list of all the marvelous and malicious ways the people, the government, and the all-knowing media have been taken in and fleeced. Nothing in any stimulus package demonstrates any effort to bring these people to task for their greed or incompetence. Instead we are treated to images of Madoff lounging in his extravagant apartment, when what we long to see is Madoff in stocks on Wall Street — with a big scarlet “C” for Criminal on his chest. Seeing our Federal Government held hostage by bloated businesses inspires trepidation and terror instead of confidence and faith. The energy is there, but people will nurse and save it for the uncertain future until they see someone cleaning up the dirty mess. We need a crusader. We need a new sheriff in town to get the crooks out of Dodge…

    Thank you for you insights.

    • Mick,

      You use metaphors as powerfully as anyone I know. The blood pressure/aneurysm one really hits home.

      I agree with you on the fear point. Fear can motivate too. I hardly need to tell you that!

      If what’s alleged about Madoff is true – as far as scope and intention – he should serve the rest of his life behind bars.


  • Is it true!!?

    The Democrats and Republicans are merging, into a new political party, based on the old Torries and Whigs era…..this new political merger party calling themselves the Big Whigs! 😉

    Is Teddy’s knigththood a precurser to all of this?

    I thought a little humor might be in order here, as I do post primarily from an aim and shoot carefully rant perspective.

    • continued…..

      Will there be a formation of a large in numbers, much smaller in heard voice political party, aptly called the Serfs?

      When will the next tea party begin?

      Long live the aura of Paul Revere, one of my patriotic heroes.

  • Dan (and others),

    In today’s newspaper ( dated Tuesday, March 10, 2009, on the Opinion page; letters to the editor, is a satorical cartoon depicting then candidate for president BHO standing at the podium, with a banner behind him stating his stance on many issues. Next to that depiction is the same cartoon, only post election results, with now president BHO standing at the podium, with the banner behind both of similarity and deviation.

    This spells out exactly why so many Americans are disenfranchised with ‘The System’. The positive is that the majority still believe in the ideals of our new president. Thus, my conclusion is: If the American majority are still looking favorably at the president, where is all the ire directed? I say to Ms. Pelosi and company, a frat and sorority club that has been on the low road for quite some time. I’m not singling out a political pary here, by any means. Change is often hard, yet, for it to be successful, it must start at the top, with leadership. If it comes from the bottom, it might be anarchy. Maybe that is why we had the photo op of the Pres in Columbus Ohio the other day?

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