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Optimism

There is an interesting connection between the passive ‘this too shall pass’ approach to life and the ability to embrace a life energized by relentlessly positive self-fulfilling prophecies. While there is historic credence in the ‘what goes up, must come down’ view, there is also value in accepting the responsibility to change things for the better. These are not countervailing visions. Because the plot always turns, there are bound to be periods of uncertainty, decline and recalibration. But every new challenge introduces opportunities to explore, innovate and evolve.

The current year represents this view. As with most New Years, it began with hope, but throughout was plagued with missteps and disharmony, misadventures and disconnects. But as it draws to a close, the American spirit must be recognized for a DOW that has set new records, the lowest unemployment in six years, millions of new jobs, escalating productivity, and growing consumer confidence. While we have not achieved the annual GDP anticipated, Q4 has been quite strong and may be a precursor to a more robust 2015.

America is a land of self-fulfillment; it is energized by opportunity, vision and latitude. As fortunate members of this society, we can seek, fail, seek again and succeed. We can try virtually anything and pursue illusory whim or calculated goal. This unlimited horizon has been and will continue to be the genesis of America’s strength and character. It is what leads us to believe that we can overcome any obstacle and win through the most arduous events. We are optimists who seem to be able to self-prescribe and heal our various maladies. Whether an external threat or our self-induced chronic diseases of congressional ineptitude, social bigotry, economic inequality, apathy and inane social media, we ultimately rally toward progress. However, the question remains, Will this continue?

Beginning with so many uncertainties, 2014 did not appear to have much chance to become a banner year. But in many ways it may become the launch point for additional progress in 2015. But that progress will compete with darker and more ominous forces. International unrest will divide nations as each seeks its own center and pursues its unique vision of sovereignty and prosperity; economies will continue to struggle due to resource, educational, infrastructure and social disparities; and those who desire to dictate the path of others will continue to assert their influence through conflict rather than reasoned discourse. It will remain a dangerously fragmented and contentious world that is growing warmer in more ways than we can imagine.

Is this to say we are not ready, excited and full of spirit? Certainly not! Looking back through history at many end-of-year scenarios, there have always been reasons for concern. But do we, as American’s, fold our tent, claiming that it is just too difficult, dangerous, or uncertain to give it our best? No.

I see slow economic growth but have embraced a ‘slow but steady’ posture. Congress will continue to be a mystery, as contention, distrust, greed, and power continue to be principal motivators, rather than vision, accountability and collaboration. The Middle East will be problematic, but, if the U.S. can begin to understand that complex mix of cultures and allow them to sort out their own social polarities, we may earn less of their attention. Innovation, productivity and job growth should continue their upward trajectory, but with fluctuations and potential DOW decline. The keys have not changed: patience, good data, strategic planning, employee development, and commitment to the ‘long-view.’ I have faith; I am a believer who is confident that 2015 will be another challenging, unpredictable, convoluted but rewarding New Year. Whether we’re ready or not, it’s here and is bringing a truckload of exciting new opportunities.

JFL Pic Blue Shirt-Yellow Tie With over three decades working in and with federal, state and local government, John Luthy understands public agencies. Known for his real world, straight talking style, he is a leading futurist specializing in city, county, state, and federal long-range thinking and planning. John is the author of Operations Planning: A Guide for Public Officials and Managers in Troubled Times, and The Strategic Planning Guide, both published by the International City/ County Management Association (ICMA). Reprints of his book, Planning the Future – A Guide to Strategic Thinking and Planning for Elected Officials, Public Administrators and Community Leaders (2010) has sold out three times. An innovative and dynamic presenter, John is frequently asked to speak and consult on how to prepare public organizations and communities for emerging challenges (public futures at http://www.futurescorp.com).

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