I am a big believer in what my friend Bill Evans preaches in this same blog: a positive attitude can and will drive our economic recovery. Most of the time I do have a positive attitude, and when I don't, I'm pretty good at faking it. So I had a real conflict going on inside of me last week after spending just three days in Washington, D.C.
I guess that I perceive negativity emanating from D.C. for two reasons: first, most of the news reported out of D.C. these days is either negative on its face, or is contrary to my own fiscally and socially conservative views. The negative press has been well-documented and at this point is just "a given," and my political differences with the "powers that be" are really a personal problem to be remedied through the democratic process. So, there's no reason to let them get me down. The real reason I get a bad attitude soon after arriving in D.C. is disillusionment.
This was our third year in a row to attend the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Summit in D.C. The first time, I was excited and had grand visions of sitting down with my senators and representatives to discuss the issues facing small business. After all, I was there with the U.S. Chamber and thought they would want to hear what I, their constituent, had to say. (At this point, you are laughing at the typically naive first-time visitor to The Hill, right?). Well I wasn't laughing, I felt pretty small after getting turned away at every office I visited, without even getting to talk to a staffer. That's right, I relinquished my control over my own attitude to people I didn't even know, and I "let them" turn me into a cynic with a bad attitude.
I regained control of my attitude pretty fast, though I did remain a devout cynic in regards to our representative form of government. When we returned the next year, we had strength of numbers--a small delegation of award-winning companies, rather than one lone voice. While we did rate a private tour of the Capitol from a congressional staffer (it was her third week in D.C., and I think she found the tour to be educational), we again realized how important we are in Washington's eyes as we were leaving. We had been told that the Congressman was not in, but when we left his office, we saw him leaving through another doorway! Props, however, to Senator Hutchison--she took time to speak (ever so briefly) with us and pose for pictures. Of course, the newfound cynic in me wants you to note that this could have been somewhat self-serving, as she is about to run for governor ...
Last week, our third visit in as many years, saw mixed results again. At least this time I wasn't surprised. The Congressman that dodged us last year made up for it with a lot of special attention, devoting a couple of hours to personally give us an after-hours tour around the Capitol. He seemed sincere, and he does have the best pro-business voting record around, so he somewhat redeemed himself. Our other senator, on the other hand, pretty much blew us off. I had to just laugh. Actually, I had entered the week with a sarcastic attitude toward the whole thing, but I ended up with a net improvement in my feelings about our Congressional delegation.
In the end, I did leave D.C. with a positive outlook. The U.S. Chamber puts on an excellent summit, full of experts and well-known personalities. They are a good resource for small businesses, and (as I discovered first hand), they do have clout on the Hill, and they exercise it on our behalf with much success. They also offer first-class business seminars, but the best part of the summit is the opportunity to meet and interact with other business owners from around the country--this is where meaningful learning takes place. Don't be tempted to cut out professional and personal development when times are difficult, this is when we all need to be growing, learning, and looking for that next opportunity. This is when we need to be setting an example for others in our business community, and even for our employees, by investing in ourselves, our businesses and our economy. It's really a win-win opportunity to improve ourselves and our businesses while helping others to do the same.
Everyone reading this should take at least one such opportunity in 2009: The Glass Build America show in Atlanta Sept. 30-Oct. 2. I personally guarantee* that your benefits in attending the show will come back to you 10-fold. See you there.
*Chris Mammen's personal guarantee only applies if you bring a good attitude and make a bonafide good faith effort to learn something. Does not apply if you already think you know everything. Any claims against this guarantee must be made in writing and must include the correct answer to this question: What is the original source for the title to this blog, "The Captivity of Negativity?" Eligible claims will only receive an e-mail from me telling you that you must not have had a positive enough attitude and stop being a victim! No monetary guarantee is made or implied. Guarantee void in D.C.