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To hold, fold, or go all in?

June 10, 2012

Playing off Jim’s last post, and the comments flying about whether the private sector is “doing fine” – the interesting math over when 4 million jobs were added, there’s an interesting point about strategy

When is it time to fold the cards & create a plan B and when is it time to double down because force of will, resiliance, “never say die” can turn the situation around? What is the divide between commitment to a given path resulting in success compared to blind commitment to a given path resulting in being labeled “clueless”?

I’m traveling internationally this week and on trips like this I work until my brain fries and then read or watch movies. I’ve finished “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Peter Heather and watched a number of silly movies (“Tower Heist” in particular) as well as a couple good ones – “The King’s Speech” being one of them. 

Both the book and “The King’s speech” show examples of when it was pragmatic to fold, and when it was utterly necessary to press in further.

In “The Fall of the Roman Empire” at the very end “Odovacar had enough imagination and intelligence to grasp the point : with the army becoming increasingly difficult to manage, trying to set up yet another short lived regime was a waste of time….he sent the western imperial vestments, including, of course, the diadem and cloak which only an emporer could wear, back to Constantinople. This momentous act brought half a millennium of empire to a close

The book is interesting in that it concludes the weath, success and culture impact of the Roman empire ultimately drove the tribes around it to unite in ways that wouldn’t have occurred without Rome on their borders. By the time Odovacar closed up the imperial shop & turned the lights off, those barbarian tribes had won Gaul, Burgundy, Africa – well, it’s simpler to just leave it at “they got everything except Italy”.  It was strategically sound for the western empire to fold…

So, with that – are we really surprised at this?

WSJ: The fair if depressing takeaway from Mr. Obama’s press conference is that he continues to believe, despite three and a half years of failure, that more government spending is the key to faster growth and that government really doesn’t need to reform

That said – there are important times to stand your ground, as unlikely as it looks that you can be successful.

The final credits for “The King’s Speech” state that: King George… became an unlikely symbol of national resistance. Unlikely because he stammered, because the English had a very low opinion of the monarchy – King George only became King because his brother abdicated – and because many people (my grandparents included) thought it possible that Hitler would win in the end. King George didn’t ‘fold’ at a crucial time. This was also a strategically sound decision – had he capitulated, well, we’d be blogging in a different language if we blogged at all.


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