Monday, March 9, 2009

Thinking and Speaking

Over the past several days, I have had very stimulating discussions with several friends about the current state of our economy. And I've been reading an interesting book on thinking without thinking. (More on that later.)

I talked with one girlfriend whose mortgage is seriously under water. She bought high, improved higher, and now couldn't short-sell if she tried. And she's in a fast growing county that doesn't have much unemployment. Yet, her condo isn't worth nearly what she paid for it. Moreover, the builder isn't finished with the complex. In her purchase contract, it was spelled out clearly that the builder couldn't turn the property into rentals, yet there are more renters than owners in the buildings. There is a limit on pets, particularly in the size of dogs. Rottweilers do not make the cut!

She wasn't complaining. She was paying her bills, working, buying what she needed if not what she wanted, using her employer-supplied healthcare plan, and generally living within her means. It's too bad she doesn't qualify for any help under any of the current government plans, but she doesn't. So, she marches on, not looking for anything but a chance to break even in the future.

Then there was my friend who makes well over $160,000 a year. Her house isn't under water. She has a good (!) job. She drives a newish car. She takes trips. And what did she say on the phone? "What about me? Why don't I get anything in the bailout?"

I wanted to shout, "it's because you don't need it, jerk." But she's a friend so I bit my tongue. I did send her Michelle Singletary's column, "Hey, Bailout Snivelers: Hush. You Don't Need It." I hope she takes the hint, but I have my doubts so.

One friend was thinking and then speaking. The other was speaking without thinking.

And that brings me to the book I'm reading. It's Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Yes, it's a best seller and after digging into it, I can see why. He talks about instant impressions, what he calls thin-slicing, as an accurate way of understanding a situation. I highly recommend it. I have Outliers and The Tipping Point on my book table as well. Once again, it's nice to know that there are people who think deeply, yet write in a way that the rest of us can understand. Thank you, Malcoml Gladwell. Keep on thinking!

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