The Mess We’re In (Part 1)

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
~John F. Kennedy~

     Anyone watching the sad state of affairs unfolding in Washington D.C. as we begin the New Year cannot help but wonder, how did we get here? How is it that those leaders we’ve elected to represent us have become so ineffective at leading that our country is paralyzed in place-- incapable of effectively addressing the current fiscal, political, and societal “Mess We’re In.” The answer:  Abdicated responsibility on a scale we’ve never before seen. 

     Of course, we didn’t start out this way. In fact, it is no secret that America was founded primarily as a land of opportunity. A “field of dreams” built on an ethic of personal responsibility and an abiding faith in positive progress.
Almost entirely a nation of immigrants, ours is a country of promise in which people of all races, religions, or nationalities can experience everything from new beginnings to happy endings to even their wildest dreams and aspirations. As the first-generation son of immigrants myself, I continue to firmly believe the diversity wrought from this “melting pot” of people remains one of our nation’s greatest strengths.
     But this does not mean we are a nation devoid of difficult experiences. The host of dynamic challenges and daunting problems we face are certainly not the first (or the worst) we’ve encountered as a country. In fact, our history is replete with ups and downs. We’ve experienced moments of elation, such as our victories in the Revolutionary War and two World Wars, as well as our development of a national space program that successfully landed the first man on the moon.
     Of course, we know heartbreak, too. Our own Civil War and, less than a century later the unpopular conflict in Vietnam, left us broken and bitterly divided for a season. However, nothing has shaken the country’s confidence in itself and its future more than the Great Depression. Almost overnight, the world’s most prosperous nation found itself with scores of people dazed, confused, and outright filled with fear. With millions suddenly out of work, more businesses failing daily, and people’s confidence plummeting quickly, for the first time in our history “the American Dream” seemed doomed.
     Much like today, our nation was on the ropes.
     Well-intentioned government leaders stepped in to fill the ever-growing void between hope and fear, creating a slew of new programs to help get the country back on its feet. Welfare, a by-product of the Social Security Act of 1932, was born as a safety net for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. It was a bold move designed to address a very real challenge to our collective existence. But this attempt to do good on a massive scale produced an unanticipated casualty: the ethic of personal responsibility.  And just like that, the slippery slope of accepting mediocrity as the norm, usually without a fight, had insidiously begun.

This post, the first of a two part series, is derived from my forthcoming book, "Mediocre Me: How saying No to the Status Quo Will Propel You from Ordinary to Extraordinary," which is currently available at all major online booksellers  

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John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.