the “this time is different” syndrome mistake

To err is human…

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Part of being human is being fallible. We all make mistakes.

We stick our foot in our mouth. We have lapses of judgment. We think we’re so smart. We think we’ll never lose. We think it can’t happen to me. We think that we’re special.

And as a result, each generation goes through many of the same problems.

I once read that every 40 years we have a recession and every 80 years a depression.

Working my way back through history, I found that events in every generation are eerily similar.

Sometimes a little worse, sometimes a little more frequent. Different in their own ways due to the different causes and subsequent effects but devastating nonetheless.

These days I split my study time between three very different fields (as you might already know):

  • Success
  • Marketing
  • Finance

While I may not have a degree in any of these three fields I would have no problem putting together a whole day seminar on each topic. That’s how much information I have assimilated. And the most amazing thing, I haven’t even gotten through a third of all the materials (books, audio and DVDs) I have.

And what I have noticed through all that studying is that there are striking similarities between the principles of them that only people with a keen eye would be able to assess.

A few weeks ago I came across something called the “this-time-is-different syndrome” in one of my economic newsletters (I assume inspired by the book aptly titled “This Time Is Different” which you can see above).

It is essentially the belief that financial crises are things that happen to other people in other countries at other times; crises do not, and cannot, happen to us, here and now.

Why is this the case? Simply because we are doing things better, we are smarter, we have learned from past mistakes.

The old rules no longer apply.

This time, unlike the other times that have preceded the present, is built on sound fundamentals, structural reforms, technological innovation, and good policy. Or so the story goes.

I decided to do a little social experiment, talking to my friends on FB all over the world and I notice a disturbing trend today.

The majority of people I talked to were Americans, British, and Japanese as I wanted to get their take on the situation in Greece and in every case they all say how sad it was, and then went about their merry way.

This greatly worries me.

Why? To answer this question we must first ask the simple question – What’s the problem in Greece?

To keep things simple, it’s debt.

So now let’s turn to Japan, what’s the problem? Debt.

What about the US? Debt.

Notice anything suspicious? While the reasons each country got into may differ, and the amounts are vastly different as are their ability to produce goods, but the root problem is the same: debt.

We are witnessing firsthand the dangers of debt unfolding in Europe.

But not to worry. We’re different. We’re better…it won’t happen here. It can’t.

Now some of you might be thinking, well that’s all well and good Adrian, interesting stuff but that’s all financial stuff and it has nothing to do with me. I hope you’re right but let’s take this same concept and apply it on a more personal level.

As I said earlier, the same principles apply to success and marketing as they do in finance.

So now let’s apply this concept to the guy (and girl) on the street.

We’ve all been there. Friends and family members have warned us not to do something but we went ahead and did it anyway. Why? Because…yep, we’re smarter. This time is different…and guess what? It isn’t.

My wife warned me about getting involved in two separate business deals for very different reasons but I thought I was all that.

I thought I could control the situation. In both cases I was wrong.

But maybe it’s a good thing. I got it out of my system.

Now I know I have to be careful. Now I know who to trust and what NOT to do. And, most importantly, I know I don’t know everything.

History doesn’t repeat because we are constantly growing through innovation and technology but it sure does rhyme. We’re not the first generation to have a financial crisis. We didn’t just discover heartache and sorrow.

The only question is whether we’re smart enough to learn from the past.

Personally I think we should all make history a study, the world’s, your family’s and your own.

Apply it. And hopefully, you can make all new mistakes…

Adrian Shepherd

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