A Few Brief Thoughts on 9/11

Ten years ago today, I arrived at work without knowing anything of what was going on in New York and Washington. One of my coworkers told me about it (there was still some genuine confusion as to what was going on, so he thought there were planes also headed to crash into the White House) and I thought he was pulling my leg, as he often did.

I actually worked normally for an hour, but I did notice that none of my coworkers were anywhere to be found. I shrugged it off for a while until I tried to check cnn.com for the news – and it wouldn’t come up. Neither would several other news sites. Eventually, I did find a site that confirmed what was going on.

Like a lot of other Americans, I spent much of that day watching the news coverage in shock. How could this happen here? What happens now?

That day (and the events afterward) taught me four real lessons.

You can’t predict the future
Very few people saw 9/11 coming. It changed the lives of almost all of us in some way or another, either due to the incident itself or due to the actions taken in the aftermath.

One very good friend of mine has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has one of my best friends from my childhood, and both have had effects on their children, their spouses, and their friends. Many other people have had far deeper connections than that, losing family members and loved ones due to the events resulting from that fateful day.

The other consequences are less severe, but present. Airport security immediately comes to mind.

9/11 is just one strong example of how you can’t predict the future. It’s never the smooth ride you envision it to be.

You can, however, prepare for it
Simply put, you can’t predict the future. The best thing you can do is put yourself in a position to handle the widest range of things the future can throw at you.

This means having a healthy emergency fund. This means having a skill set that’s useful in a wide variety of situations. This means having enough of a handle on your financial situation that a job loss wouldn’t be devastating in the short term. This means having adequate life insurance and, if you’re in a good financial position, long term care insurance. This means having a great circle of friends and business acquaintances.

Be prepared for whatever may come.

The person across from you isn’t really all that different than you
The people I disagree with the most politically today are the same people I sat there with on 9/11, with all of us feeling socked in the gut by what had happened.

Those people want a bright future for everyone, just as I do. They want a safe future for everyone, just as I do.

Just because we believe in different paths to get there doesn’t mean that the other person is stupid or wrong. It just means we need to set aside our disagreements and actually have a rational conversation about it.

There is no winner here except us. If we keep playing the “my team” versus “your team” game, no one wins. If we can put it aside and actually try to solve the problem, everyone wins.

This is true in every aspect of life, not just politics or business. Almost always, the person opposite you is pretty similar to you. They have some things that they believe in. They have a goal they want to achieve. The end result of achieving that goal, to them, isn’t all that much different than the end result of you achieving your goal.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re upset at someone who doesn’t seem to agree with you. What’s their goal? What do they really want?

There is no better day than today to reach out and take action
Since you can never be sure what tomorrow will bring, today is the day to start taking positive actions.

Get in touch with that old friend you disagree with. Cancel a few frivolous bills and start building up an emergency fund. Come up with a debt repayment plan. Decide where you want to be with your career, then start getting the education and connections you need to get there.

These are the steps to take to ensure a brighter tomorrow, and today is the day to take them.

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