The Mess We’re In (Part 2)

      Interestingly, it was not the unprecedented government bailout programs of the era that ended the Great Depression—it was World War II. With the very real threat of our cherished way of life at stake, we once again returned to old form. Selfishness was out and selflessness back in, as people across our society rolled up their sleeves to do anything they could for the cause at hand.

     Whether it was buying war bonds, riveting aircraft wings and fuselages in factories, or donning the cloth of the nation to take the fight to the enemy, America’s citizens were once again “all in.” Men, women, and even children did what they had to do to both plant and water the seeds of victory. And because of people’s willingness at all levels of society to do what they could, when they could, where they could to be part of the solution to the challenge at hand, victory was ours. The ability to set aside personal agendas and accept responsibility for doing something to support the collective good set our nation on a path to once again flourish and thrive.
     The years following World War II were nothing short of spectacular for America on many fronts. Confidence swelled, optimism soared, and the economy boomed. The future looked brighter than ever as productivity skyrocketed and our standard of living followed suit. Houses got bigger, cars flashier, and money looser. Success was everywhere. And, as is often the case when good times roll, many people began taking things for granted.
     For the next several decades, both government and business, flush with profits and awash in ideas on how to build an ever-more-prosperous society, began an unprecedented spending spree. Government steadily swelled in size as it pursued ambitious agendas, and corporate America followed suit.  Although not evil by design or intention, this extended period of overpromise and inflating expectations led our nation and many of its citizens to become overconfident and, to be blunt, outright unrealistic in their desires and demands. Our growing individual and collective appetites for “more and more” blinded us to the fact that we were programming ourselves, personally, professionally, and nationally, into an unsustainable situation.
     Quite unintentionally, we fell prey to the lie that success was a right we deserved rather than a privilege we must continue to earn. And just like that, the ethic of personal and collective responsibility, our nation’s true source of strength, began to collapse. Selfishness, propelled by slick marketing campaigns and the nonstop introduction of neat new products designed to make us look younger, feel thinner, or appear happier once again displaced selflessness. A growing sense of individual entitlement overshadowed the importance of maintaining accountability for one’s personal state of affairs.
     What few realized, until recently, was that this ever-growing sense of entitlement was predicated on a fatally flawed assumption: that our nation could maintain its position of unchecked power, explosive productivity, and unparalleled profitability forever. Despite finding ourselves in a rapidly changing world, we became so enamored with the status quo that we lost touch with reality. A reality that has since rudely descended upon us in the form of soaring deficits, a stagnated economy, sky-high unemployment, and a disillusioned and disheartened nation of citizens unsure how to break out of the current mess we’re in.
     But here’s some good news. The way out of this mess isn’t as elusive as it may appear. In fact, if there is one thing history teaches us it’s that when the challenges before us are most significant, we are often at our individual and collective best. Proof positive how the solution to every problem or challenge set before us is already present, invisible in plain sight, in the example of those leaders unafraid to go first in leading the change they want to see.
     Those courageous men and women in our midst whose attitudes and actions clearly communicate “look, no more mediocre me.”

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.