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The Common Ground Between a Diving Competition and a Fiscal Cliff

November 20, 2012

I recall sitting cross-legged on the bed in a hotel room in Pennsylvania over the summer of 1988, watching the diving competition between Greg Louganis and other contenders for the Olympic gold. We all expected a gorgeous double back combination dive, and were never disappointed. It was the epitomy of optimism to be watching that diving competition.

greg louganis gathering his mental energies
Greg Louganis gathering his mental energy and optimism.

Nowadays, the headlines are full of doom and gloom about businesses’ fears regarding the fiscal cliff. This is shorthand for the upcoming deadline of January 2, 2013, whereby a whole array of taxes will rise if Congress and the President do not act in concert, before that date, to institute much less draconian taxes on the way dividends are treated, how individuals may itemize deductions on their personal taxes, how taxes on employers will kick in vis-a-vis Obama’s medical plan, and so forth.

Both large companies and small businesses are sitting on cash piles, waiting to see what the plan is going forward. That is logical behavior; the human condition finds uncertainty anathema, and the plan for a known painful business climate is more palatable than the plan which assumes it could be this way, it could be that way, or even another way.

In other words, you cannot have a game plan to be profitable and maximize shareholder (or investor) value, when you don’t know which scenario your business is facing.

So what is the connection between a diving competition and the fiscal cliff? The fact is, one event is inherently optimistic, and the other is inherently pessimistic. But it doesn’t have to be that we all lose.

We hope Congress acts. We hope that businesses will aim to invest whether it is in capital projects, the hiring of workers, or software and other tools to increase productivity and reverse the slowdown. We take heart knowing that Obama has said he is “confident” an accord could be reached.

Let me tell you a lesser known fact about Greg Louganis, who is the only male and the second diver in history to sweep both the platform and springboard diving events in two consecutive Olympics: His victory came with great pain. That is, as he was performing a 2½ pike in the preliminary rounds of competition, his head hit the springboard and he suffered a concussion. Yet, despite this extremely painful high dive disaster, he went on to perform the dive successfully both in subsequent preliminary rounds, and during the finals. Ultimately, he won the competition by a margin of 25 points.

For viewers like me, it was an incredible and indelible moment of brinksmanship, and excitement.

Like other small businesses, we are sober as we look forward to what may unfold in the halls of Washington, but we also remain cognizant that we need optimism to get through these rough times. We urge our leaders to make the kind of difficult choices, and to make them speedily, that would enable citizens and companies to make their best financial plans, and avoid a draconian cut in spending due to fear.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, findingmuse.

2 thoughts on “The Common Ground Between a Diving Competition and a Fiscal Cliff”

  1. What an interesting read. It’s great to hear thoughts on the fiscal cliff from the perspective of a small business in the finance industry.

  2. There’s nothing more devastating for economic growth than the uncertainty we’ve all witnessed throughout the recent election cycle … and continue experiencing today. What makes it worse is knowing that massive sums of cash are still sitting in company coffers nationwide, sidelined, waiting to see if our politicians can learn to “play nice.” Too bad their political aspirations are greater than their desire to do the right thing for the country … be they Democrat or Republican.

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