It’s time to live on your wits

I woke up this morning and realised that the Black Saturday bushfire tragedy marked more than just a terrible loss of life and property. So I sent off a twit , but now realise there is more to say.

In Australia there is a saying ‘she’ll be right mate’. It’s a kind of colloquial way of expressing a confidence in the future. If a friend is feeling down, we’ll console them with a ‘she’ll be right’ assurance, and buy them another beer.

Despite a year of ever-increasing doom and gloom news about the economy, the people on the street seemed not to be taking it personally. Whilst others were losing their jobs, unless you had a direct connection, the idea of recession seemed remote. We also forget how many people don’t even read a newspaper or watch the news, we employ several Generation Ys in our coffee shop, and it’s remarkable how little they consume of traditional media. Of course they are all Facebookers, or MySpacers, which is fabulous and lovely, but not a great way of finding out the world is descending into chaos brought on by a bunch of greedy financiers and an incompetent government regulatory framework.

On Black Saturday more than 200 Victorian’s lost their lives in bushfires. 7,000 or more were left homeless. And this wasn’t thousands of miles away, it’s happened in our backyard, only an hour or two’s drive from Melbourne. Over the past few weeks everyone has now realised they have a connection to the disaster, some incredibly painful links – they’ve lost a friend or relative; others more tenuous – we recently met a woman whose sister was married in front of a blazing reception centre, they took the wedding photos, then ran for their lives. Some prominent people died. Brian Naylor, the news anchor for decades on television was killed along with his wife. Several entertainers and other notable people also died.

My realisation this morning is that in the past few weeks ‘she’ll be right’ isn’t cutting the mustard. The world is in chaos. It’s finally hit home to individuals that they are going to be affected. And they are withdrawing, hibernating til the storm passes.

We had one of our best trading days ever at our coffeeshop on Black Saturday, despite the incredible heat. We closed at 4pm, so it was too early for any of the terrible news to filter through. All we knew was that it was a searingly hot day, and that some bushfires had been started. But since that day takings are down 30%, without exception, day after day. Many of our regulars are not showing their faces, we’re being kept open by the backpackers coming in for the free Wi Fi.

People have woken up from their comfortable, consumer, credit driven slumber.

It’s why we’re taking radical action in our lives, and starting to move assets into cash. You can’t mess around at the edges on this stuff, to survive you have to change your context, change your interpretation of the world.

We had several business projects on the board this year. We’ve completely changed our attitudes to them, we’re bringing forward our internet, IP based projects, that require little up front investment; and putting on hold projects that require significant investment in cash or assets. We’re getting rid of every single piece of debt within the next couple of months, right down to the credit cards. We’re off loading any bits and pieces of shareholdings, left-over company assets.

It’s time to live on your wits. To dig into your personal intellectual assets, to build a safety net of non-devaluing assets, like cash and personal ability, and protect yourself and your family.

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