A New Path to a New Cheese

Posted on October 15, 2011


As we enter into the fifth year of the Great Recession, Americans are learning the same lesson their grandparents did in 1937, the seventh year of the Great Depression; that government has no magic solution to the current economic malaise.   More than that though, Americans are beginning to comprehend that the usual stuff isn’t working, the usual stuff being those so called “Truths” that Americans have been fed repeatedly for most of their lives.

For decades Americans were told that a suit and tie career within Corporate America was the route to success and prosperity.  A multitude of layoffs over the past decade
clearly shows us that Corporate America is no safe haven to ensure one’s livelihood.  For decades Americans were told that home ownership was the centerpiece to building wealth.  We now know that like any investment home ownership is inherit with risks and is growing more irrelevant in the mobile world in which we live in today.  For
decades, the youth of America have been pounded with the idea that they have to
go to college in order to attain economic success.  When more than one fifth of recent college graduates working as waiters and retail clerks that so called truth rings as an
empty promise.  Speaking of empty promises, we are now finding out that the government fairytales called entitlements aren’t as rock solid as we were told.  Just ask someone living in southern Europe how secure the government safety net is these days.

Years ago, a charming bestselling book titled, “Who Moved My Cheese,” equated the behavior of most people to that of a mouse who knew how to navigate through a maze in order to claim the cheese at the end.  The mouse was programmed to use the same route every time through the maze, and if the cheese was moved, the mouse panicked while it repeatedly retraced its steps time after time, only to find that the cheese was still missing from its sacred dependable place.   This of course is how many Americans are responding today having seeing their cheese taken away.  “I went to college like I was supposed to, so where’s my job making 50K a year,” asks the young college graduate.  “I was told my full pension and benefits would be there for the rest of my life no matter what,” cries the government worker.  “I bought a home and now I owe
more than it’s worth and can’t get rid of it in order to move to find employment,” says a homeowner.

In all of these examples, the cheese was moved and people are mad because they were programmed to navigate the maze in an exact way with the assurance that the cheese would be there.  The fact is, things change which is why Charles Darwin said that the species that survives isn’t the one that is the strongest or the fastest, but the one most adaptable to change.

Hedge Fund Manager, James Altucher, in his new book, I Was Blind, But Now I See, confronts this topic head on.  James says at the beginning of the book, “The only goal is happiness.”  In the book, Altucher confronts the truths mentioned at the beginning of my column, and a number of others and attempts to convince the reader that none of them are absolute.  He argues that the premise that college is the best way for a young person to prepare for a career or that home ownership builds wealth has no more validity than the idea that Corona Light Bear makes feel like you’re on the beach or that Pepsi tastes better than Coke.  They are simply ideas that have been pounded
into our psyche for so long and passed on from generation to generation, that
they become truths of America life.

So what does it mean if these so called American Truths aren’t working any longer?  In the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac it means that “You can go your own way.”
You can find your own way through the maze of life and discover a cheese
that may be even tastier than the same morsel everyone else has been chasing.  These are exciting times, for by changing our way of thinking and looking at life, we also change our view and definition of happiness and success.  Start your adventure now.