By Dean Whittaker

While driving from Michigan to Connecticut this month, I noticed that the federal economic data that I had been hearing about in the media did not jive with what I was observing during my travels. What I saw was factory after factory with full parking lots of workers’ vehicles and, more telling, bumper-to-bumper trucks for 850 miles on I-80 to and from the East Coast.  The media is reporting dropping consumer confidence, slowing sales, etc. Something is out of whack with the data collection and reporting system.  Using federal data to make decisions is like looking in the rear view mirror to drive our car.

In the interviews that I have conducted with several manufactures this month, they tell me they are busier than they have ever been.  Granted, these are the “survivors” from the “Great Recession” but, all the same, there is a great deal of work to be had.  Another refrain I heard many times was that work is returning to this country from the off-shoring operations that did not provide the benefits that were expected.  This is another sign of hopeful things to come.

In Michigan, we are seen as the place of the failed automobile companies, yet at the same time, Gentex, an automotive and aerospace manufacturing company announced they are hiring 1,100 people.  In addition, there are five job fairs happening locally this week. Granted, there are still areas that are suffering, and there are places that have given up hope.  But, let’s put things in perspective. Ninety percent of the workforce is working.  One of our roles is to give hope to the people we serve.

It is said that wisdom is the ability to see into the future the consequences of our choices in the present.  In his book, “The Noticer,” Andy Andrews tells the story of how we can find perspective in all that we do. Most of the stories he tells are about losing hope because we have lost perspective.  This month, I was working in a community with a very high drop-out rate from high school.  One teacher said the students had lost hope because they could see no future in finishing high school.  They lacked the perspective of what it could mean to them.  Andrews also goes on to say relationships fail because we lose perspective in how we communicate, meaning that we speak different dialects as we express our appreciations for each other.  Wisdom gives us perspective that helps us make better choices in the present which determine our future.

Andrews also says that only 8% of the things we worry about can be impacted by us.  All the rest are wasted creative energy. He recommends taking the first ten minutes of every morning and writing down those things in your life for which we are grateful.  He says, “The seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart.”

In closing, I would like to say that I missed a great day of sailing this week because I listened to the weather forecast rather than sticking my head out the window.  The small craft warning and 20-25 knots of wind with 3-5 foot seas was actually, sunny blue skies 10-15 knots with 1-2 foot seas (all day)!  So, stick your head out the window and observe what is actually happening economically. I think you will find it to be a much brighter picture than is being reported in the media.