Heart of a Leader

Leadership Matters

What bubble am I living in?

I was reading an article in the July issue of The Atlantic titled, Infectious Exuberance. The author, Richard Shiler was writing about the boom and bust in the real estate market that have been a part of the history of the U.S.

dreamstime_3698288One of the things that he talks about is how booms continue until the inevitable bust happens. He says that when a boom is happening, most people live in the “bubble” of beliefs that foster the boom. Beliefs such as “the prices of houses will continue to increase at 10% per year indefinitely” or “the safest investment you can make is buying a home”. These and other beliefs are accepted as truth by a large enough portion of the population and create a mood of inevitability.

There are some people who do not hold these beliefs. They may believe, “whenever there is a boom a bust will follow” or “it is impossible for this type of growth to continue.” Whatever their beliefs, they are watching with a different set of eyes if you will. They can see when indicators start showing a change that may lead to a reversal of the current trends of growth. While people living in the “bubble” of beliefs of inevitable growth don’t see these trends at all.

Then the bust begins. Those that were living in the “bubble” of continuous growth are “surprised” What happened, they ask? Those that had different beliefs were clearly observing the coming changes and would take action before the bust gets a full head of steam.

dreamstimeweb_1753318I say all this because it revealed to me a phenomena that I have experienced in many areas of my life. I have had times when I was so attached to something working out such as a business relationship that I did not see the signs that someone else not living in my “bubble” of optimism would have easily seen. I did not take action to correct the situation until it failed and I, like the people living in the “bubble” of inevitable growth, would have the sense of being “surprised”.

So right now, I am taking inventory of the “bubbles” that I am living in. What beliefs do I hold on to unquestioningly. For it is these beliefs that create a “blindness” in me and the outcome of continuing with these beliefs is often uncomfortable and not something I really want to happen.

What about you. What “bubbles” do you live in?

Until later,

Thomas

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One thought on “What bubble am I living in?

  1. I’ve had an awareness of this idea from a young age.

    Both of my parents came to Canada from Germany and were teenagers during WWII. My Dad ended up being drafted near the end of the war and was captured by the Americans near Berlin. My Mom’s family lived as refugees, fleeing the Eastern front as it collapsed – losing her brother somewhere in what was then East Prussia.

    They never spoke of those time much, but what they did say gave me a different perspective. Here were my parents, people that I knew and loved – and they were both a part of “the other side.” They were decent and caring human beings, not just stories in history text books. There was no ability for me to put myself on higher moral ground and say “I wouldn’t have done what those Germans did – I would have seen what Hitler was doing and stood up for what was right!”

    It’s so easy for us to look back at what Hitler was and what he did – we have the benefit of knowing how it ended! But most of the people in Germany didn’t have that benefit yet. So they saw what they wanted to see (their bubble) – a charismatic speaker who cared about Germany and wanted to return it to its former glory. A leader who was creating jobs. A man who was helping families feed their children and pull a country out of incredibly difficult economic times.

    They didn’t want to see the bad stuff. They found ways to look the other way or to explain it away – because they so badly needed the good stuff to be true!

    My blind spots and “bubbles” are perhaps less dramatic than my ancestors’ were – but you’re so right that we all have them! It is human nature to see what we want to see.

    Of course, finding our “bubbles” is the hard part, isn’t it? How do we recognize something that we don’t even realize exists?? (except in hindsight)

    I’ve been using two “signposts” to guide my journey:
    1) like you, I pay attention to my emotions – particularly strong emotional reactions to a situation or person. Inevitably, such reactions are big huge neon signs pointing me to the areas I need to look at and work on!
    2) the areas in life where I feel stuck. I’ve found that being “stuck” happens when I have a hidden belief that conflicts with another need or belief that I also hold. And it’s this contradiction that holds me back.

    So I sit and think – I get curious whenever I notice these situations cropping up. I must admit that sometimes the answer comes easily – while other times, I’ve had to churn around and think about it for a LONG time!!

    It’s a good process though – and the reward of moving towards ever increasing personal integrity is more than worth the effort!

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