Happy New Year 2013

We are in the last week of 2012 which is a great time to reflect on the year that has past and think about doing better for the 2013 year. Why be good when you can be great?

Christmas is a time for relaxing with family and catching up on my reading and reflecting on the story so far. As a parent my biggest project is the world getting to be a better place for my children and grandchildren to come.

So most people have a checklist of sorts. Health, wealth, family, work – that sort of thing- are they making progress compared to previous years? Whatever your list it is a positive exercise to reflect on what you might have done differently and what you have learnt.

Often in life we are faced with choices where we can choose the predictable and familiar or go for challenges that will stretch us an renew our joie de vivre.

I know myself well enough to know that big challenges and big ideas are what motivates me. I choose projects that are the most interesting and offer the best potential to change lives for the better. For me that is not a cliche.

This year one of those projects was TEDxAuckland which was all about finding local ideas worth spreading. I also had 53 business students to lead and inspire which is a great way to keep on your toes. Most of the time though I worked on online projects for a range of businesses.

As someone who is interested in seeing real changes I started the year reading the Jeffrey Sachs book about Economics and Ethics which was a good read but not as insightful as it should have been.

I have read plenty since then but a recurring theme is that in politics and economics countries and politicians keep making the same mistakes. As the father of an eleven year old I can’t explain how the leaders of Burma have finally eased up on Aung San Suu Kyi but at the same time there is still chaos in Egypt.

In Syria it is looking like that war is almost over but at a very high cost which sees rebel commanders squabbling over the spoils of war rather than finishing the job.

Perhaps the most surprising political event though is that the US political system is now showing itself to be completely incapable of functioning in the face of the so called fiscal cliff.

The very best book that I read this year turns out to be “The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction” by Nate Silver*. I was a keen reader of his fivethirtyeight blog on the US presidential elections and was astounded that even though all of the numbers pointed to an Obama win most media kept saying that it was “too close to call”.

(*More on the Nate Silver book soon)

When there is that much denial going on in the media it should not be too much of a surprise to say that the U.S is shaping up as the worlds largest “failed state” precisely because it has no real insight about what it needs to do to restore balance to global economics.

Sure on some calculations the US is only #20 in the list of the top debtor nations but it is so large that only growth from China is easing the situation.

Failure to recognise we are in a low growth decade (at least) means that talk of the zombie economy is apposite. “Inside the Market’s Mind: The Zombie Market, A Thought Experiment” We need to wake up. As that article notes

‘[An economist is] a man who knows 364 ways of making love, but doesn’t know any women.’ -Geoffrey Howe.

The current fiscal cliff stalemate is ridiculous in the extreme and it seems almost no-one in the US Congress wants to face facts. Growth rates of 3% or so have gone and the worlds largest debtor nation needs to reduce costs in a Forbes Article titled “Congress: Fiscal Cliff Drama Unnecessary”.

Governments around the world (NZ included) are hoping for more balanced budgets based on projections of higher growth rates and for most places that is not going to happen.

The way forward for individuals and governments is to create new knowledge based drivers for growth.

For NZ that means a new Tasman fibre optic cable to Australia at least so we can participate in the international economy on a more equitable basis.

When I started this post ( #75 this year) I wanted to reflect on human resilience in the face of adversity and wish everyone a happy new year for 2013. Why be good when you can be great.

Here is a music clip by Warren Maxwell of “Little Bushman. Called “Peaceful Man” it was inspired by Te Whiti of Parihaka back in the 1860’s.