The world as you know it is completely screwed, so full of internal inconsistencies that the coming decades will be florid with failure after breakdown after predictable catastrophe after mind-numbing disappointment. So smile! Let’s have some fun and fix it all!
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Jim Lee feels fine
A fantastic new book has come my way from a dear friend and colleague, James H. Lee, entitled Resilience and the Future of Everyday Life. Lee is a one of a kind – a high-level financial adviser who also has a Masters degree in Futures Studies, and he is really world-class in both professions. He’s a helluva trader, and has an incredible mind for long-term scenario thinking. I have been waiting for some time to see what Jim had in store for us, and it turns out to be a tremendously readable, useful, honest, positive, insightful book that pretty much everybody should read. This book is essential for anybody planning to retire, thinking about governing a city, state or country, looking for a career, or seeking some insight into the chaos around us – so they can make the future a little better.
How can disaster be cause for such optimism?
This book’s first two chapters are entitled “Gloom” and Doom” respectively, so make sure you’re sitting down when you’re reading it – and consider a little bit of Maker’s Mark for your coffee while you do so. Lee sets the stage for his book by letting you know in excruciating detail just why the current economy is not in a “recession” or experiencing “recovery,” but rather the end of an era. From income inequality to debt to water scarcity and Boomer healthcare entitlements, Lee lays out an airtight case for why Everything Is Not All Right. And as such, he does not lead the reader toward incremental fixes, but concludes the first part of the book by suggesting that it is time for consumer culture to end and for a new, more resilient culture to emerge.
Don’t accept your fate – choose a new future
The tremendous value of this book is in the sheer number of options that Lee offers the reader to improve their personal futures. And these aren’t abstract things that most people have zero chance of affecting, such as “Abolish the Federal Reserve” or “Regulate Derivatives” – but real stuff you – anybody – can start working on right away.
The chapter on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture shows how people can begin by reorienting themselves away from mass-produced goods, and get into the habit of making things at home. And besides, from Brooklyn to San Francisco, all the “cool” kids are doing it, so you get the added bonus of being trendy. The next chapter on Homesteading expands this concept to show how people are shifting their mindset back to seeing the home as the driver of economic value – from gardening to homeschooling – rather than as a suburban repository for consumer goods.
The notion of retail gets stood on its head as Lee explores some concepts of Radical Economics – shared consumption (cars that sit idle, sewing machines that could be used more, etc), barter economies, alternative currencies, and more. This is a great avenue to explore since, if Jim’s basic scenario is correct, millions will be too broke to shop and own goods the old way, anyhow.
Jobs are front and center in this year, an election year, and you won’t be hearing any quotes from Resilience. Jim Lee doesn’t see unemployment ever bouncing back – but of course, he sees the silver lining in all this. The notion of lifetime employment is laughable in a declining economy, but the weakness in the economic system will offer future generations a significant choice between making a living and creating a life. Yes, prior generations spoke of this transition to meaning in work – but there were enough standard jobs around that you could easily – and profitably sell out your values in exchange for cash and benefits. The next generation will not have the opportunity to be venal – a good thing, I suppose – and so we can expect their work choices to be flexible, values driven and attached to communities – since that will likely be the only thing functioning in the years to come.
Many readers will be wondering what an investment advisor/futurist can tell them about the future of retirement, and as in the rest of the book, there are no fairy tales on offer. Basically, the old plan of hoarding cash, stocks and bonds, and expecting institutions to bail us out is deader than a doornail. But you’ll be living in multi-generational housing, working part-time jobs (which improves your health, by the way), co-housing with other retirees and connecting, once more, with your community on an ever tighter basis. Regrets if you were planning to live in Arizona and take lots of cruises, but the future has other plans.
A future of new meaning
Jim Lee’s new book arrives to us at a wonderful time. Four years after the financial crisis, the world has been hoping for its authority figures to make things right again. We are greeted with depressing news and terrible disappointment, and this is a real bummer. For those who are done grieving for what might have been, the book Resilience and the Future of Everyday Life offers page after page of things you can research, explore, discuss and start doing – with your friends, family and neighbors – immediately. Lee is unapologetic about his forecast of the old system unraveling, but he offers of a variety of ways that each of us as individuals can forge a new path based on new values. You can use this book to turn depression into positive action. Is there anything more a book can do for you?