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Fresh start

Jan. 16, 2009
We don't need to undo the system we've built; we need to remind ourselves of the ways that the system is meant to work, and how to make it work again.

The best way to approach a problem is to take a fresh look at what is already known, or understood, and determine how new approaches can improve the prospects. That is part of the inspiration for the annual Foundry Management & Technology Databook — to review significant and relevant developments in metalcasting process technology.

But, there’s another reason we present this issue at the start of every year: we need to remind ourselves regularly of the basics ideas and principles of metalcasting, and we need to avail ourselves of experts’ insights on these topics.

If you haven’t guessed already, the occasion of my message is this month’s issue, which is the product of many people who care about the metalcasting industry and work hard to help it prosper; but my subject is more ethereal. What does it mean to start over?

It’s human nature to find one’s self overwhelmed or disoriented from time to time, and to feel the need for renewal. In the summertime, we take vacations, but as a new year begins we push ourselves through the routines of a “fresh start.” In 2009, a fresh start may be more welcome than in any year in recent memory.

It’s easy to justify starting over these days. Businesses activity is stalled and forecasts offer little or no hope of recovery. Failure is in the news. Ongoing problems that seemed bad enough before — labor, energy, trade, environmental regulations — now seem like impossible obstacles when there is no cash flowing anywhere.

The worst way to approach a problem is to panic. It’s worth recalling that just about seven years ago we were heading into a recession, overlaid by an economic crisis initiated by acts of terrorism. That winter, everything seemed frightening, ominous, but it transpired that circumstances were not as dire as we thought they were at the time. Or, perhaps, we were better able to overcome the financial and security challenges than we believed we were.

Today, as in 2002, we realize we’re not as prosperous or as secure as we believed we had been prior to the collapse, but what’s different now is the volume of voices calling for radical changes. We need more government intervention, it’s said, to stabilize our economy and to correct the problems in our society. We need more regulation, we’re advised, to guard against failure and to protect us against uncertainty.

Of course, this is wrong. The best way, and the only way, to overcome failure is to grow beyond it. Starting over, starting fresh, doesn’t mean undoing or overturning the past. It means restoring confidence in ourselves and our principles, renewing our understanding of our work, and recommitting ourselves to succeed according to the standards we trust.

We don’t need to undo the system we’ve built and that has strengthened and enriched us. We need to remind ourselves of the ways that the system is meant to work, and how to make it work again. We need to be familiar again with the ideas that made us successful in the past.