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LinkedIn sent me an e-mail yesterday that had a whole listing of articles from really smart people on what the next president of the US should do to solve our problems.

I read the titles.  They were the typical LinkedIn article titles.  They included a focus on technology, entrepreneurism, plans and materials.

As well meaning as all of these people are, they are way off target.  I’m saying this without having read any of the articles – yes, I know, I shouldn’t be critical without reading the articles first.  But based on the titles, I could see where the articles were going.  The titles summed up what the authors were going to argue for.

Everyone one of these people is focused on either a step by step manual, a to do list, how to improve technology, what stuff or things we need.  Material things and actions.

I’m guessing these people think that these actions and this stuff will solve whatever problems we face.  Because that’s the American mindset – do stuff and throw stuff at the problem.

A disaster happens anywhere in the world and guess what happens – America jumps into action and provides a whole lot of material stuff.  That’s important…right after a disaster.
The same approach just doesn’t work a few years later – the situation has changed, yet our approach hasn’t.  We are a culture so focused on stuff it’s scary.  We believe our stuff will save us, our stuff will give us prosperity, our stuff will give us strength, our stuff will make us great.

And we miss something huge in the process – people.  People and stuff are not the same.  People do things and believe things that we disagree with.  Working with people takes time.  Trust is essential with people, not so much with stuff.  People make up culture.  Stuff are tools, people are far different.

Here’s my advice to the next president – don’t do stuff and don’t focus on things.  Instead have a different focus – help us as a nation clearly define who we are and help create an environment where we can trust each other and our institutions again.  If you were to ask 100 people the question What is America all about?  I bet you’d end up with close to 100 different answers.  That’s not healthy.  That’s a recipe for disaster.

Mr or Madam Future President please focus your attention on leading us to an answer to the question – who are we?  I believe that once we answer this question, then other things fall in place.  Help us move in a direction in which we can trust one another.

I know this much, if we can define who we are as a nation and we have a foundation of trust, we can do all sorts of things.  But if we focus on doing stuff without trust or defining who we are as a nation, then the stuff won’t matter.