Have We Become Too Complacent?

I am far from being a radical person. However, I can’t help but wonder if we, as a society, have grown too complacent for our own good. At what point do we simply say “Enough, already!” Again, this is not a political concern. This is definitely a leadership issue.

TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet have done a pretty good job of allowing us to get some insight into how our “leaders” in Washington, D.C. are dealing with what very well may be the greatest financial crisis in the history of our country. To be honest, it scares me!

Remember our initial exposure to the financial sector bailout? All focus was on the figure of $750 BILLION … yes, $750 BILLION! Say that figure out loud slowly. Isn’t it amazing how mundane it sounds? It’s almost as though that was the amount we spent at the mall over the weekend. And yet, that’s quite a bit of money.

How much is it? Consider this:

  • A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
  • A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
  • A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
  • A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
  • A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

As I said, a BILLION is a large number. Now consider the fact that Bloomberg TV analyst Mark Faber, author of the “Gloom Boom Doom” report, recently declared that the initial proposal of $750 BILLION for the financial sector bailout will actually cost closer to $5 TRILLION!

How much is a TRILLION?

Short and sweet, a TRILLION ($1,000,000,000,000) is 1,000 billions!

If you counted to a TRILLION out loud, one number per second, it would take you 31,688 years to complete the task! A stack of $100 bills totaling $1 TRILLION would be 789 miles high OR 144 Mt. Everests stacked on top of one another!

Now consider the fact that our political leaders in Washington, D.C., from both parties, are so effortlessly tossing around both terms while never mentioning the fact that this bailout money will come out of OUR pockets. This is complacency.

What really concerns me is the fact that WE have accepted this rhetoric with very little, if any, rebuttal or concern. This too is complacency!

Dictionaries define complacency as: “the feeling you have when you are satisfied, especially when unaware of upcoming trouble.” Does this not describe our current status in light of the financial sector bailout and the auto industry rescue? $5 TRILLION plus!

This entire scenario reminds me of an age-old Generational Gem involving a complacent frog and a kettle of boiling water.

The story’s origins are rooted in nineteenth-century physiological literature. An article co-written by G. Stanley Hall from 1887 indicates that many experiments were performed on frogs in the 1870s and 1880s for the purposes of determining how reactive their nervous systems were to various types of stimuli. Another source lists an experiment done in 1882 at Johns Hopkins which produced similar findings.

The theory was simple. They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger.

However, if you put a frog in a kettle that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and then you gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. The frog will soon pass out and eventually die … unaware of any threat. The frog’s survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes.

This parable is often used to illustrate how humans have to be careful to watch slowly changing trends in the environment, not just the sudden changes. It’s a warning to keep us paying attention not just to obvious threats but to more slowly developing ones.

Remember a tough little Texan businessman, Ross Perot, who ran for President in 1992? He appeared on network television with charts and graphs to warn us of the very financial industry threat we now face. His illustrations were ridiculed by seasoned politicians insuring his defeat.

Threats of the U.S. auto industry demise have been evident since the 60s. However, at the time, the water in our kettle was obviously room temperature. Are you starting to feel the heat?

This same complacency has led to the extinction of tens of thousands of U.S. businesses in the past year. It’s all a matter of leadership.

The next time you hear a politician use the words “billion” or “trillion” in a casual manner, remember our friend the frog. Inform your “leaders” in Washington, D.C. that the water in our kettle is reaching the boiling point!

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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