Itís the final week of
1992. I called my good friend, Simpson, who has a similar business to mine,
to wish him a Happy New Year.
"I hope it will be happy," he
replied. "It couldnít be any worse than this year has been."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"Your wife gave birth to a healthy little girl, your brother finally
kicked his drug addiction and went back to school and your parents escaped
unscathed when their plane went down in Peru."
"Yeah, that was nice," answered
Simpson. "But business was horrible."
Illogical but true. When you own your own
business, years seem to be measured by the bottom line. Somehow the Big
Bottom Line, which includes your health and the health of those close to
you, gets nudged into the background.
I tried to explain this to Simpson but he
would have none of it. He acknowledged that there had been no tragedies in
his life during 1992 and that his home continued to be a happy one.
"And sales dropped 15 percent,"
he said, cutting me off. "1992 sucked, plain and simple."
"What do you think 1993 will be
like," I asked, trying to change the subject.
His answer not only surprised me but
caused a flurry of excitement to rush through my veins.
You see, Simpson always expects the
worst. He acquired the nickname "Doctor Death" because of his
insatiable need to diffuse any twinge of optimism his friends might be
"I think itís going to be a decent
year," said Simpson. "I think the economy may improve
My sense of excitement faded as fast as
it appeared. Simpson had predicted disaster for every year that I had known
him and we had all survived. Now he was predicting prosperity. I immediately
considered selling before it was too late.
Then I thought abut the Consumer Confidence Index, which
measures the publicís perception of the direction of the economy.
Then I thought about the difference
between Simpson and me.
I am the eternal optimist. I always think
the economy is going to improve. When the Consumer Confidence graphs were
published at the height of the recession, that was me in that 1 percent
group waving, telling everyone that things were going to be just fine.
So I was wrong for a while.
On the other hand, Simpson was the
purveyor of doom and gloom.
As the Consumer Confidence Index dropped
month after month, Simpson took great delight in noting that the public was
beginning to see things his way.
In 1992 the Index finally began to head
in my direction. Simpson would shake his head, call us all fools and
continue to predict disaster.
But slowly, as the Index continued to rise each
month, Simpson must have caught the fever. He kept it secret for awhile but
eventually it had to come out.
"Youíre predicting a good
year?" I asked, needing confirmation.
"What I meant," he said,
rearing back, "is that I think it will be better than last year."
That was still good enough for me. As a
businessman, I suppose I should study all the economic data available, but I
donít. The only published report I follow, and believe, is the Consumer
If everyone think the economy will
improve, then it will. And if Simpson thinks it will improve, it may go
through the roof.
As an optimist who walks around
perpetually disappointed, Iíll finally have reason to rejoice. The economy
in which I have predicted great things for so many months and years will
confirm my faith. For the first time in a long while, Iíll be on top of
the Index, looking down on the naysayers.
And Simpson, the eternal pessimist who
has walked around for years pleasantly surprised that things arenít quite
as pathetic as his predictions, will remain pleasantly surprised at the
strength of the recovery. For while he has predicted an improvement, thereby
eliminating a big, black mark on the Consumer Confidence Indexís graph, he
would never forecast a robust rally.
So now Iím looking forward more than
ever to 1993.
Simpson may suffer through a divorce,
disease, dismemberment or death, but it appears heís going to have a very