The new normal

Everything's just fine

It’s been an interesting few weeks already in 2016, with celebrity deaths (Bowie, Rickman, Frey…), jittery stock markets (down 7% one week, up 5% the next, down 2%, up 3%…) and the worst heatwave in 80 years (heralding in the Chinese New Year of the Fire Monkey). And it’s only Feb 14th, Valentine’s Day. Where’s the love?!

So I’d like the pause at this point and say ‘Hold on! It’s going a bit crazy, and we all need to calm down.’ (to echo Larry Hagman’s character Fred Picker in the Primary Colors.)

The period from about 2002 through to 2012 was an unprecedented super cycle of ‘once in a generation’ proportions, not known since the late 1960s. As an MD of a junior miner told me this week, “It’s terrible at the moment, but it only reminds me of the time 15 years ago when we picked up these mining assets for a song. Maybe I should have remembered that and got out of the game a couple of years ago!”

Meanwhile, the mass media has been forced into a corner shouting headlines to get attention. Less and less of us are paying attention, so they shout louder and louder. I turned on the news today and it was just one murder or death after another. Is this what the news has become now? Preying on our emotions, to get and hopefully hold our attention?

So, Picker style, I just ask everyone to calm down. We live in great times of enormous wealth. We are incredibly fortunate and need to count our blessings. Yes, the super cycle finished in late 2012. Get over it, it’s gone. Love it while it lasted (although during that decade it was damn hard getting a plumber, or persuading a teenager to go to university), but it’s gone, along with the cashed up bogans and tripling in property prices. Thank goodness, say I.

We are back to normal, where you have to work hard for a living, work smart for a sale, and become more and more productive to stay competitive.  You may have to work longer than you’ve been used to of late, with less people in your company doing the same amount of work in total. Pay rises may be small, at best. Many will feel fortunate to have a job. People out of work may have to take longer to get a new one, or might look to set up something for themselves. Some companies will shrink, some may pack up, but most will carry on OK. Some, on the cusp of a new wave, a new industry, will grow and attract new talent. It’s the way of things. It’s how markets work. Either extreme is not healthy. No need to scream, it’s the middle ground for a while, and that’s perfectly fine.

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