September 08, 2011

“Maybe Things Will Get Better Next Year”

People who follow U.S. economic policy saw two threshold moments today.

This morning, it was a speech from the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, who for the first time suggested that the economy might improve faster if the causes of its problems could be addressed.

Then tonight, the president addressed Congress with a call-to-action speech on the economy. Even with all the advance billing the speech got, it was startling to see from a president who until today had seemed content to just muddle through.

The key, in both instances, is a switch from waiting to action. The attitude of “Maybe things will get better next year,” is not a particularly strong approach for anyone to take on any subject of importance. The action and change it implies is distant and indefinite. If you really want progress, you look for ways to take action today, and solve a problem or get something completed before you go to sleep tonight. The approach is, “I know five things I can do today that will make things better.” Things move faster if you focus on what you can do right now. Even if what you can do in a day is not much, it is still more than you do when you are just waiting.

Anyone who is looking for a job knows that “maybe next year” is not the right time to get started when something really matters. “Right away,” the refrain of the president’s speech, is the time, regardless of how long you may have been waiting.

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