When I look outside of my personal bubble, the world has recently felt strange and Kafkaesque. I’m generally an optimistic person which is why I’d put off writing this but I found myself not being able to move forward until I got this out of my system. So here goes!
First, everything that’s got me down.
- Geo-Political Madness: Crazy times as we head into the eye of a global meltdown. Everyone is at odds with each other whether it’s generationally, politically, scientifically, culturally, socio-economically.
- France is burning as is Hong Kong, Chile, and Bolivia.
- California is not only burning but without power.
- NYC turned down 25,000 jobs from Amazon because AOC said so.
- We have a President who appears to spend all his time tweeting and watching FOX News.
- Every city has a major homeless problem
- Mental illness is rampant. You can’t take a subway ride without witnessing something unseemly if not outright dangerous. NYC’s solution is to give the mayor’s wife $1 billion to deal with it. She has zero qualifications to run such a program which might explain why we’ve gotten zero results for our money.
- Mass shootings outpace the number of days in the year. So far, 369 mass shootings over 321 days.
- Conspiracy theories abound. We’re pro or con science as it suits our whims, e.g., anti-vaxxing but pro-climate change. The Flat Earthers are a growing force (more about that later). Lawmakers in Ohio just passed legislation that says it’s okay for students to be wrong in science class as long as their reasoning is based on religious beliefs.
- We’re stymying technological progress, e.g., banning businesses from going cashless because some people are unbanked. Asia, on the other hand, is full steam ahead on becoming a cashless society.
- And then there’s #cancelculture. The latest subject in its crosshairs: the artist Gauguin.
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2. Aging Into Poverty: In America, 10,000 Boomers are turning 65 per day.
- The average boomer only has $136,779 in retirement savings.
- A third have between zero and $25,000 in savings. That is a recipe for disaster.
- Getting older can be fantastic (I’ve never enjoyed my life more than I do now) but it won’t be if people haven’t met their savings goals.
3. Tech Meltdown: The WeWork fiasco will become a Harvard case study on what can go wrong when VCs and their silly money become enraptured by startup hustlers.
- The paradigm shift is palpable. All of a sudden having a plan for profitability is where it’s at.
- Will WeWork tumble into bankruptcy in 2020 as Scott Galloway predicts?
- Which hotshot IPOs of the previous decade do we think will go bust next? The way the ex-Uber-ites are cashing out, it doesn’t look good for ride-sharing. And e-scooters? Forget about them.
- I’m also ready to say goodbye to all those online fashion companies that overpromise and under-deliver like the RealReal and Rent the Runway.
- Or the ones that send you absurd subscription boxes filled with snacks or dog treats. So many ridiculous ideas finally getting the heave-ho.
4. The 3 “Rs” Go Bust: Retail, Restaurants, Real Estate all in deep trouble.
- More than 9100 stores closed in 2019. More are anticipated to close in 2020.
- Vacant storefronts – and empty malls – signal the apocalypse is not yet behind us. While prime storefronts are good for pop-ups, it’s not a sustainable business model for landlords or brands.
- Restaurants (of all kinds) are shuttering. In my neighborhood, which is a hot area for nightlife, independent restaurateurs are throwing in the towel. National chains are also closing, e.g., TGI Fridays, Kona Grill, Subway.
- Dean & DeLuca closed this year (and they had just opened up a fabulous take-out restaurant in Meatpacking).
- Residential real estate is harder to get a read on. Apparently housing prices are going up but in major urban centers, condos are languishing.
- In NYC, one in four luxury condo units, i.e., 4,100 of 16,200 completed since 2013, remain unsold.
But here’s what I consider the saving grace, providing the essential wakeup call and learning experience we need
5. The Asian Century Is Set To Begin. As the West’s global dominance fades, China is becoming especially dominant. (Source: FT)
- Asia is home to more than half the world’s population.
- Of the world’s 30 largest cities, 21 are in Asia.
- China is now a bigger economy than the US, accounting for 19% of world output this year, more than double the 7% recorded in 2000.
- India is the world’s third-largest economy, with a GDP double the size of either Germany or Japan, both of which had economies larger than India’s in 2000.
- Indonesia is on track to become the world’s seventh-largest economy by 2020 and will have overtaken Russia by 2023 as the sixth biggest.
- Vietnam has overtaken 17 countries in a ranking of economies since 2000, including Belgium and Switzerland.
- The Philippines is now a larger economy than the Netherlands while Bangladesh has overtaken 13 other economies in the past 20 years.
The historical role of asia
Asia’s recent surge represents a return to a historical norm. Asia dominated the world economy for most of human history until the 19th century.
- The dramatic rise of Japan and South Korea has been “dwarfed” by China’s take-off following the country’s introduction of market-oriented reforms under Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.
- India and China’s per-capita income gap with the US and Europe has narrowed dramatically since 2000.
I’m excited about Asia for many reasons.
One, I am booked on a “Future of Everything. Global Innovation” trip with Nat Geo and the WSJ next May. Our itinerary is filled with meetings with innovators and experts in Asia including Japan (future of environmental conservations), China (future of health and medicine), South Korea (future of the brain), Mongolia (future of natural resources), Uzbekistan (future of trade).
Second, I am excited to learn and see firsthand what Asian countries are doing to surpass America and Europe economically, technologically – and soon, creatively.
From my perspective, the West lost it when they started spending too much time and energy looking backward instead of forward. If our priorities are all about returning to or maintaining, the past, we will be stuck there and deservedly so. And it is happening. In France, taxi drivers rejoice because they’ve kicked out Uber. In NYC, they rejoice because they’ve stopped Amazon from bringing in 25,000 jobs. Americans elect a president who promises to bring back coal.
The only direction I want to head in is towards the future. And we do that by saying YES (resoundingly) to the new.