Fake it till you make it the only way to survive

GORDON BURNSIDE
Last updated 07:25 19/02/2013

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OPINION: I had been thrown in a Philippines jail by relatives of an earlier wife who had succumbed quite quickly from the complications of cancer.

As her family battled with me over my own assets, I was consigned to living in a very interesting place indeed and of the multitude of stories I could write from the month I spent in there the best that perhaps suits the moment is this one: Orlando Dizon was deputy director of the Philippine's NBI (their version of the FBI) and as a friend of the family I'd always gotten along quite well with him.

He was actually a close friend (compadre) of my former father-in- law who was Military Judge Advocate for the Philippines armed forces. The first lesson would be beware of friends in high places.

So Orly was the one who got me into the jail and he would come into the courtyard every morning to see how I was doing. We would say nothing, but we would look each other in the eye for a few minutes then he would walk away.

He was looking to see if I would cave in and I was looking to see if he would, but in among the incredible heat, the flies, the stink, the human dregs, the filth, the boredom of being in a hellhole like that I found a way to win.

I would get up at the only time it was cool enough to sleep and the big plastic bucket had filled from the slow drip which was the only water we had.

I would wash myself and my clothes, shave, and then sit around until my clothes were dry in the rapidly building heat, which often came up over 45 degrees in there.

Then I'd dress and pick my way through sleeping bodies to the courtyard where I would wait for my jailer and meet him, seemingly cool and calm, totally unaffected by the experience.

After 34 days of stiff upper lip he gave up and I was allowed freedom again or at least six months of house arrest before I was allowed to fly back home to New Zealand in 1996.

The moral of the story is to fake it until you make it.

Never let your enemy or adversary know how desperate you really might be, how close to collapse you might be, and you will win.

When I returned to New Zealand back then the economic situation seemed about the same as now but I found the prevailing mood was depressed with doom and gloom. Other businessmen used to call in and the favourite sport was to talk about how bad it was, almost like they enjoyed it. As a continuation of my jail theory I totally banned such talk from our business premises and I remember clearly I only had to eject one person before word got around and ours was a quite happy little oasis. And I like to think we did our bit to improve the mood.

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Certainly we've enjoyed some boom years since then but this time I notice our reaction to the global financial crisis has been very different. This time business, large and small, here and worldwide, for the most part and mine included, have been doing exactly what I did so successfully to Orly Dizon.

Many businesses have been and still may be right on the edge of the abyss, with no confidence about when improvement might come; only knowing that to survive means don't blink or you'll lose.

Wherever businesspeople converge they ask how you are doing and with grim determination we all fake it. I think the reason so many have survived almost intact has been the Australian banks. The strength of the Australian economy has helped, of course, and so the financial backing of the banks themselves has been rock solid, which has allowed them to ride this out with us.

Highly paid and deserving economists have their key indicators and scores of others they can analyse to see how the world and each individual country are doing. In my company on the other hand, which deals all over the world, we watch all sorts of other grassroots indicators which might work just as well or even a little better to forecast the global economy.

So from today you can feel sure the global financial crisis is over.

There will be a few more aftershocks but we are finally on the up again and we're all good. The only ones continuing to push the crisis barrow are those who stand to profit from that continuation.

We are all good. We made it.

- Taranaki Daily News

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