Don’t Complain…Find a Solution

“The cocktail party is easily the worst invention since castor oil”  ~Elsa Maxwell

Every time I am at a dinner party or talking with a group of people the conversation quickly gets around to the same big issues.  The two that come up most regularly are “the lack of values in our young people” and “the banking crisis” (that tells you something about the people I associate with).

The conversation about the anti-social behaviour of young people today and their lack of society-enhancing values and  respect for others tends to focus on the declining quality of the education system, poor parenting, lack of “positive” role models and the overall “me first” behaviour of public and political figures.  The debate (actually it is more like complaining) is always heated with many pointed fingers and fault-finding.  But honestly, I get bored very quickly and tend to either tune-out or move on.  Why?  Because bitching is not solving!  And quite honestly, some people don’t want a solution, mostly because the medicine to solve it is too uncomfortable.

The other hot topic that gets lots of air time is the banking crisis.  Most people see the excesses of those like Bernie Madoff, Sir Fred Goodwin,  “rock star” big bank CEOs, and obscene trading floor bonuses larger than many town council budgets, and blame the situation on greed.  Demonizing greed makes for good movies and sells newspapers, but doesn’t help much.  Greed is a natural element of the human condition (just read your history) that is hard-wired into our gene pool.  So blaming the problem on greed and shallow leadership principles is like blaming the hammer that smashed your finger as being too hard (of course it’s hard, that makes it a proper hammer).

You can overcome anything if you don’t bellyache.          ~Bernard M. Baruch

All my life I have been wired to find solutions, not find blame.  I may not always get there, but I definitely make more progress than those who engage in endless debates to find someone to blame.

Okay, back to our complaining cocktail party chatter:  declining social values and the banking crisis.

I have two solutions that will go a long way in getting at and eliminating the root cause.

Number One:  reinstate National Service for all those between the ages of 18-20. Let’s look at the facts.  Those countries with mandatory national conscription have a greater sense of national and social cohesion. Switzerland is a prime example. The military has a long tradition of excellence in education and training for teamwork, camaraderie and strong values.  I personally would like to see our military budgets focused on society building and character building, as well as defence.  The military is already geared up for this, it wouldn’t take another government agency and all the costs that would entail.  So you tell me, where else are young people going to get a shared experience of positive team and social values?  We can’t change the parents (it’s too late for them), we can’t change the tenure system or education funding overnight.  We can’t even agree on a common education curriculum.  But the opportunity for some length of compulsory national service for all is available, right now.

Second Issue:  Since we can’t eliminate greed and personal aggrandizement from our physical and social DNA, attack the ongoing dysfunction of the banking industry a different way; take away the easy temptation of banks to behave like casinos.  Reinstate the division between Commercial and Investment banking.  In other words, bring back the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. (In November of 1999 Congress repealed the GSA with the establishment of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which eliminated the GSA restrictions against affiliations between commercial and investment banks.)  In essence, reinstating the GSA would remove the massive amount of money the investment banking “casino” has to gamble with.  It would make them play with their own money, not the money of depositors or others from the commercial banking world.  Believe me, if Bob Diamond, Vikram Pandit and the other investment bankers had to play “big bucks” roulette with their own money, their appetite for risk would be decidedly different.  This solution does not take a lot of new laws and the precedent is already set. But it would definitely upset the bankers!

Too harsh a medicine? It works better than what we have now! (for an excellent look at the origin of today’s crisis in the financial services sector, read this short article by Demetrie Comnas.)

So in my mind, it’s either continue complaining or get started on some real solutions.  Are these perfect solutions? Nope.  But there is no perfect solution, only ones that move us forward in a positive manner. And as we get started on the root causes, we learn and then can improve the process along the way.  Or, just join the rest of the complainers!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Don’t Complain…Find a Solution

  1. In full agreement on solution number one. Not educated enough on issue number two to speak intelligently. Your resolution makes sense to me, but I don’t know enough to fully understand the repercussions. Thought provoking.


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