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Introduction > Stress and Anxiety Are Rising

Stress and Anxiety Are Rising

Although America's willingness to change, to embrace rather than resist a borderless reality was responsible for the nation's economic ascendance in the 1990s, it was not without cost. Even in the second half of the 1990s, when job growth was so large that the unemployment rate was below four percent, layoffs were still as large as they had been in the slowdown of 1991 and 1992.[8] In a borderless global economy, hard-earned knowledge and skills are often swiftly outdated. There is relentless pressure on individuals to do more and learn more and be cutting edge. The pace of work keeps accelerating.

In November 2001, XEROX ran full page ads in business magazines that exalted multitasking: “If you could print while you scan, copy while you email, scan while you fax, and do it all while printing up to 3x faster…you'd be smiling too.”[9] Real downtime is disappearing because work pervades many people's home life.

The fundamental conditions of today's economy are inherently demanding. Product cycles are short and competitive advantages are fleeting. Most organizations face relentless pressure to create major innovations that will give them a competitive advantage if only for a short time. When normalcy is the sense that the world is unpredictable, inexplicable, and uncontrollable, many people are too stressed and anxiety-ridden to work or live well.

Nonetheless, I am optimistic about the foundations of the American economy and in the resilience of its people. Despite the wave of dot-com closings I believe there is an improved, new economy in the United States and other nations.[10] It is knowledge-based and inflation-resistant because of technological improvements in productivity. Deregulation and privatization encourage entrepreneurs to think large and create the next “big thing.” The future improves on the past, but the path is never a straight line.

But, a borderless Darwinian economy is so stressful that most people need some grounding, somewhere in their world, so they have some sense of control and confidence. It is my task in this book to examine the new economic world we've created in order to figure out what will enable people to flourish in their private lives as well as their economically productive roles. Somehow, work and life have to be joined as human goals.

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