Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The American spirit of rising to the challenges ahead

Being in NYC these days, I am spending quite some time observing the city and its people as well as watching those huge screens displaying TV programs on the avenues of the city that never sleeps. These are uncertain times for the US economy and one of the things I was looking for was how people would react to that. First of all, I see none of the gloom and doom even though people acknowledge the ride ahead may be quite bumpy for a while. Secondly, I am impressed with this very American way of seeing opportunity and rising to the challenge in troubled times. To illustrate this, I see quite a few people who are turning the current pressure some people feel into a business opportunity selling books and workshops on how to make real estate decisions or how to reduce debt. Some authors do that positioning themselves as experts while others occupy the "consumer activism" space defending customers from the nasty tactics of credit card companies and other providers of financial services. And this is quite intense.

So there's a big difference between US and Europe: the Americans are able to see opportunity in almost any trouble, while Europeans see trouble in many opportunities. For example, the way we handled the expansion of the EU to Eastern Europe is perhaps iconic of this: the French started complaining about Polish plumbers "invading" their market and no public figure, no political leader trumpeted the only message that was constructive back then (and perhaps now): "go East young man!"

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