Fortune Favors the Daring

By: Yoram Yahav

I am shocked these days by the fairy tales about stability, the optimists, masquerading as realists, are telling us. They dismiss legitimate warning signs which are all around us and avoid and deny the coming of perhaps the biggest dual economic and environmental crises in recent history.

Courage is essential to honestly consider realities which fall outside our conventional set of hopes and beliefs. Our natural tendency is to expect and consider only the GOOD. “Think positive” we were told when we were kids and therefore we rightfully anticipate that the future will be better than the past. Optimism makes one’s heart smile, however, this is true ONLY if tears of desperation, disappointment and sorrow don’t penetrate our own sensitive “echo-systems” that reverberate with questions and anxiety.

A few years ago, on the Greek island of Santorini I met a monk whose mentors in the States lost 80% of their funds because one of their disciples convinced them to invest their “holy assets” in his successful company’s stock. The monk described the level of depression that even those “spiritually enhanced individuals” were feeling at the loss of material assets. Many of us can relate to this scenario. We naturally feel pain, loss and depression in order to be able to learn from our experiences, become wiser and better able to think clearly about what we do.

The time has come for all of us, especially our “leaders” to face the true economic and environmental situation around the globe. For years I have been among those who warned about the devastating economic crisis that has engulfed much of the world and has been particularly persistent in Europe. In parallel, we spoke about the environmental signs clearly showing us that our lack of respect for the earth, water and air around us, would have severe economic, not just environmental consequences.

I spoke and continue to speak about measures which should be taken by countries and their leaders. I also lectured to hundreds of companies and individuals demonstrating the effectiveness of engaging in scenario planning. Our group has developed new strategic processes to see the “unforeseen” events not usually accounted for in our ideal plans. Quite often, we find that while encouraging to envision the worst case as if it actually happened, most people’s initial reaction is cynicism and denial. The “it can’t happen to us” response is quite natural, because for most of us it is extremely difficult to move outside of our comfort zone.

All through the West, companies are concerned about the government regulators and their lack of capacity to read the field. In China, where environmental crises are palpable in foul air that chokes its urban centers, experts increasingly warn that its failure to address the issues may cause a serious economic downturn. Spain, Greece, Italy and part of Russia, all are experiencing economic hardships verging on catastrophe. Other parts of Europe are flooded with new, unemployed refugees who present a whole new set of threats to countries’ economic stability. Parts of Britain’s industrial heartland are literally flooded by unprecedented storms. Israel, which touts its high-tech sector as second only to Silicon Valley, is showing serious signs of a slowdown in its larger companies. Africa’s chronic food shortages are threatening the economic eco-system of the whole region. While much of this data is communicated and known to many of us, the question is whether are we taking it as seriously and preparing some preemptive measures.

Years after my encounter with the monk on Santorini, I met with a few of his colleagues in Asia and gave a lecture about the need to consider new realities in the way we plan out the future. It was a surreal scene to be there in front of these amazingly wise and intelligent human beings whose task in life is pure selfless growth and enrichment. They were receptive and empathetic to my words of caution and care. As one of them so eloquently reacted, there is no such thing as “it will not happen to us.” If we don’t respect this moment and recognize it for what it is, tomorrow’s reality is going to hit us without respect or mercy.

During the coming years we are going to face some extremely difficult times. I am neither prophet nor fortune teller, but my intuition and my internal alarm systems are screaming loudly. Those of you who prepare, enhancing resilience in mind, body and spirit, will go through the hardships with less difficulty. Nothing is for granted in this life.

My beloved friend and mentor, Profesor Lester Thurow invoked the well-known phrase “fortune favors the bold,” to challenge conventional economic paradigms. It describes my feelings well about the best course to pursue in the face of recent events worldwide. Dare to be bold, let go of fear and plan wisely. You will find the power to confront and succeed in overcoming the current economic and environmental threats facing us.