I like to be with smart and articulate people. Jim Brinkley, Vice Chairman of MorganStanley SmithBarney qualifies as one, so it was a pleasure to be in his company recently. The thrust of his conversation was that we live in a time of high volatility, but that very volatility produces great opportunity if we are visionary, smart, bold and willing to seize it.
Brinkley constantly watches the indicators, events and attitudes of our time and does not deny the crisis in Europe, coupled with America’s political gridlock and financial crisis are frightening, but paraphrasing Warren Buffet, Brinkley says the time to take risks is when others are afraid. Conversely, the time to be afraid is when others are taking excessive risks.
It is true that many in the marketplace are fearful but U.S. businesses have rarely been healthier, sitting on some two trillion dollars in cash. But corporate America isn’t spending because they don’t like the mood and emotion they see from government leaders, the media and throughout our society. Paraphrasing the late Sir John Templeton, who Money magazine called, “arguably the greatest global stock picker of the century,” mood and emotion create opportunity and we must buy the opportunity that is being created, not the mood and emotion. Mood and emotion are not our friends; opportunities can be.
As the 2012 elections are unfolding we need to listen closely to those asking to lead us. What is their mood? Where do they see opportunity? Do they have a plan for how to seize the moment and move us forward or are they mired in the muck of the day. Capitol Broadcasting’s CEO Jim Goodmon recently said our state needs to come to grips with the fundamental reality that, “What is, is.” In other words we need to acknowledge our problems. But we cannot stop there. Goodmon says is the more essential question is, “What are we going to do about it?” Will we refuse to accept reality, will we wallow in the volatility of the moment or will we see and act on the opportunity before us?
We have frequently experienced periods like this throughout our history, but Jim Brinkley and Jim Goodmon convinced me this is no time to shrink from the opportunities before us. We came away asking what are the opportunities in North Carolina. We have fertile lands and we need to encourage our agribusiness community to developing and expanding this important segment of our economy. When interest rates are low and construction costs are favorable we need to improve our infrastructure, notably our roads and water systems. When we have expertise and the presence of great companies and people in healthcare we need to blaze ahead to improve the health of our people. And that’s just the beginning.
We cannot and must not deny today’s realities but neither should this cause us to retreat and wither. North Carolina has great minds, great natural resources and great potential. Can we once again claim our place as “The Dixie Dynamo?” Previous generations didn’t shrink from their responsibilities to make things better. What are we going to do about it?