Afterthought: Cyclical Times

Today’s Machining World Archives April 2011 Volume 07 Issue 03

We live in strange times. The glass half full, glass half empty dichotomy is more dramatic today than at any other time in my memory.

If you are in the machining world in the U.S. today you are probably feeling rather optimistic about your situation, but if you build houses, install carpet, or do carpentry, plumbing or cut drywall, you are swimming in a sewer.

If you are an unemployed guy in your 50s or 60s you are looking at a gruesome job market that disrespects your skills. If you are a young college grad with student loans to pay off and no marketable skills, it’s a barista kind of world.

The economic sands have flipped like an hourglass since 2006.

People I meet socially who are not in manufacturing-related businesses see a world of hurt even if they are not feeling the pain themselves. They do not understand a world of prosperity when their house has lost 50 percent of its theoretical value in 2006, when their kids have moved back in the house, when their cousin who works for the County is on furlough, and it costs $10 more to fill up the gas tank.

The cyclicality of life is a bitch.

My Uncle, Aaron Pinkert, used to tell me what his father Simon told him. “The silver dollar is round, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down, but it keeps on rolling.” The Bible refers to “seven fat years and seven lean years.” When the “chicken littles” bemoan global warming they usually neglect to mention the 11-year sunspot cycle.

When I’m in touch with life’s cyclicality I sing along with the old Pete Seeger recording of “To Everything There is a Season.”

The beauty of living in Chicago is that we have our seasons to remind us of how life gets icky but ultimately flips over to spring and rebirth. I think that folks who live in L.A. and San Diego can lose the sense of life’s cycles because of the boring repetition of sunny days they endure.

I think a person who grows up in a family with a business or on a farm understands cyclicality from childhood. A time to reap, a time to sow, a time to laugh, a time to cry. It’s in our bones.

To prosper in America it is extremely helpful to understand that fortunes go up and down. Fortunes are always made by playing the cycles. Wilbur Ross has made one huge financial score after another. He bought steel mills when they were giving them away in the ’90s and now he’s investing in Ireland after their housing bubble. To him every bust is an opportunity.

Now it is time to embrace Spring 2011. Baseball, Easter, Passover, tulips, $5 gas (or is it $2), the calendar flips relentlessly. If you embrace seasonality, each change is a beautiful event to take advantage of. If you lament what just past and wish you could go back to the safety of what you think you know, you’ll miss the wonderful anticipation of summer.

Lloyd Graff

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2 thoughts on “Afterthought: Cyclical Times

  1. Bud Moore

    Lloyd, You have nailed it once again. We certainly have many fiscal problems to work through, but the season has changed…and the time to seek expansionary opportunities is nigh. Thanks for injecting a bit of optimism into the discusson. I guess you guys from Chicago are all about hope and change huh?

  2. Dave Bradley

    Lloyd, I needed to hear that again. So do many others. When you get upset because you have holes in your shoes, look around. You will see someone with no feet. When you get distressed over your current conditions, look around. You will see someone that lives in Japan. Sometimes we forget how blessed we are.


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