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The Time Given Us

We Must Think & Behave Differently
(Excerpt from President’s Message , 2019 Economic Summit program…)
George Hanson, President & CEO, Vancouver Island Economic Alliance – Sept. 2019

Like you, I fulfill many roles in life. Chief among these, as a father of two—a daughter in graduate school and a son about to finish high school. In our family conversations, it is clear that our children are concerned about an uncertain future in our chaotic world. I think that they are not alone… To say that the world has always been uncertain, while true, would be to gloss over a growing perception that ‘the chickens’ of countless human generations many be finally ‘coming home to roost.’ There is much to do to avert the mounting storms of climate change, trade wars, mass migration, political upheaval, and social unrest. And with no consensus among nations and peoples, the prospects for coordinated solutions often seem beyond our reach. The advice I give my children is council that seems apropos to our Island community and economy:

1.    Expect change. We do not know what the future holds, but all indications point to dramatic change in the not-too-distant future; (Here we are…)
2.    Hone critical thinking skills. The speed and volume of information now available is unprecedented. Ability to discern fact from fiction and think clearly under stress is to be prized;
3.    Be flexible. Challenges and opportunities are likely to arise with little warning. Ability to respond quickly and effectively will be advantageous;
4.    Be resilient. There will be bumps along the way. Ability to withstand pressure and recover quickly will be important to prospects for success;
5.    Have Fun. You can’t live your life in continuous fear of the unknown that lies beyond your control. Plan for success. Commit yourself to your chosen course. Be lively.

This, is realism.

Being ‘stuck in the past’ has always been a liability. Now, as the pace of everything accelerates, it is logical to expect disruption. It is prudent to be nimble and responsive.

There is a French word ‘prevoyant’ that has no English equivalent. It is ‘the power of a prepared mind to act upon chance events in a world of deep uncertainty.’ Pulitzer Prize winning historian, David Hackett Fischer wrote that prevoyant is also ‘learning to make sound judgements on the basis of imperfect knowledge; taking a broad view in projects of large purpose; and thinking for the long run.’ It has been said that ‘providence favours a prepared mind.’ In business, in life, in community, it has always been beneficial to ‘look ahead’. Smart investors, whether entrepreneurs or municipal/institution leaders, anticipate the future and are thus in position to act as opportunities or challenges arise. Yet, herein lies a difficulty—corporate leaders are often chained to quarterly reports, the immediate-term financial returns expected by their shareholders, and the bonuses they receive for meeting these short-term expectations, while politicians are strapped to four and five-year election cycles. A number of years ago I met with a senior elected official asking for consideration of a 30-year plan VIEA was proposing. The response was: ‘We have zero interest in anything that cannot be done within the next three years.’

We must think and behave differently. We can do better!

In Tolken’s Lord of the Rings, when the Fellowship is lost in the Mines of Moria, Frodo turns to Gandolf and says: ‘I wish it need not have happened in my time.’ ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

So, what shall we do with ‘the time that is given us’?

While we reflect on our good fortune living on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, let us be mindful that, as we have learned coping with Summer fires (and now with COVID-19), we are not exempt from smoke that billows from fires elsewhere—and there are many kinds of fires—ignited by fear; spread carelessly, fanned by populism; and justified by history.

Someone once said: ‘You don’t have to be good all the time. Just when it matters!’
In this context, I define ‘good’ as ‘inspired, inventive, collaborative, passionate, and dedicated to weathering the storm, emerging whole, and participating in resourceful recovery’.

Note to self – ‘It matters!’ 

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