Stanley Bing

Don't worry, be happy

There are malign influences all around. This year I'm not going to pay attention to them.

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By Stanley Bing

(Fortune Magazine) -- Every now and then my natural talent for the evasion of unpleasant duties fails me. So it was that recently I found myself in a hotel chair, to my right some guy with dandruff and a Bluetooth in his ear, to my left his clone, listening to an analyst who works for a failing financial institution grill a variety of senior officers about the state of their businesses in this pesky economy of ours.

This analyst dude was about 35, lean and cocky. I bet he had never operated anything more complicated than an electric toothbrush, but he sure seemed to know a lot about everything and was very critical of each executive who came up to be grilled and poached. Too bad his expertise wasn't any help to his own firm, which had posted a $30 billion loss for the past quarter.

As I got up to leave this edifying display, an enormous bolt of lightning rocketed down from the firmament, piercing the chandelier that hung threateningly from the ceiling and knocking me back into a table full of empty coffee cups. I saw it all. How we visit destruction on ourselves. How sad and limp our prospects are as long as we continue to immerse ourselves in drivel. And in that moment, bathed in sudden radiance, I decided to live my life differently, abjuring contact with a variety of bad influences.

First, executioners. They're all around us. Got a problem? Fire somebody. These guys live by Stalin's famous maxim: One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. While firing people does solve the cost issues for a while, it gets to be pretty limiting. Like, don't we need somebody to turn the lights on in the morning? How about lowering profit expectations instead? We're in a depression. Duh.

I'm also getting pretty tired of the rear admirals. You see them on the cable news channels, looking back and leveling blame. Frankly, I think a lot of the bloviators have been called out to protect those who are really culpable. The ones I'm going to avoid aggressively are the dweezles who were very happy during the last iteration of our economy and are now trying to kill the new one. Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the Great Depression? Neither did I. Look, friends. If there's one thing we know, it's this: Over the past decade or two, we've been spun. Let's not get twirled again.

Then there are the insecurity analysts. It's not their fault, really. Their job stinks. They have to write effluvia about stuff that's essentially irrational, a fact that should now be obvious to anybody but a business student. They do this by plugging numbers into a model. Their models are like the ones I used to make as a kid, stuck together with airplane glue, with several pieces still in the box that don't seem to fit anywhere. Still, just because they won't shut up doesn't mean we have to pay attention to them.

Economists: There's an old joke: Question two economists and you get three opinions. Very funny. Ha-ha-ha. How about this: When I need an economist, I'll call one. Good?

Weasels: There are those who believe, perhaps as a demented part of the American dream, that every horrible eventuality carries with it the seeds of opportunity. Perhaps this one does - for repo men, the makers of Zantac, and maybe Warren Buffett, although not recently. And yet many business magazines now sport huge cover stories about how 2009 is going to be A GREAT YEAR FOR YOU if you MAKE THE MOST OF THE CURRENT MARKETPLACE TO REAP BIG GAINS!

Get real. I'm not looking for a huge upside, and I've got a nice sharp stick in the eye for anybody offering me one. My goal is to live through this situation and to worry as little as possible and be as happy as I can while doing so. Okay, maybe I sound like a Rasta. But hey, why not?

I've already got the dreads.

Stanley Bing's latest book is "Executricks, or How to Retire While You're Still Working" (Collins), available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at For more Bingstuff, go to his Web site,  To top of page

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