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Courier Article by Sean Davis
Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bringht Spots In Financial Darkness Provide Hope

If there is any one defining emotion we share, it is concern for our collective financial future. Every day brings new faces with the same stories, and many of us feel helpless to watch the fall. However, in this darkness are pinpricks of light, promises of future successes.

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell is back with his thoughts on the subject with "Outliers: The Story of Success." Gladwell gives many examples of successful individuals and some of the commonality to which he has become aware. He shows how genius is no guarantee for fame or fortune if it is not used in the correct manner.

Rather, it is the opportunities that so many don't get that can guarantee success in the future. Through study of success, we see where such examples were able to separate themselves from the rest.

This idea of helping others get a leg up, and the problems that may arise are at the heart of "The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History - and How We Can Fight Back" by Alan Michael Collinge.

With the aid of true stories, Collinge makes the argument that the student loan system is predatory with little consumer advocacy at all. He points to increasing numbers of student loan defaults and the potential threat to our greater societal good, while giving ideas to avoid falling prey.

Another such threat is the issue debated in "Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation" by David Denby. Denby's essay explores the catty, condescending side of modern culture.

He argues that satire and criticism has its place, but not when it becomes a personal attack that does not offer constructive return. Denby gives several "snarky" examples from throughout history, and then follows them with popular culture examples of what he considers to be positive critical assessments.

Using a familiar cultural example, author Jeff Jarvis ponders the future of society with his book "What Would Google Do?"

Using the Google model of business, Jarvis imagines how other industries may be revolutionized. He points to several characteristics of the company as being core necessities for any successful company. The only exceptions Jarvis sees as being impervious to Googlefication are PR and lawyers, each of whose business guarantees being representative of the changing desires and beliefs of the client.

Through first-hand account, "The Race For the New Game Machine: Creating the Chips Inside the Xbox 360 & the Playstation 3" by David Shippey and Mickie Phipps brings readers the story behind the ever changing, hugely successful gaming industry. Through work on both leading brands, the authors helped to create a revolution of entertainment, and learned valuable concepts that may help others to succeed.

With the help of some of the world's leading business people, "Creative Capitalism: a Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Other Economic Leaders" editor Michael Kinsley provides a stage for these leaders' vision to be heard. A responsible, positive paradigm is called for to help usher in an age of corporate responsibility in all aspects of said companies' lives. This includes at the business as well as philanthropic level.

Each essay gives a different angle on the changing face of capitalism, and characteristics that may prove to be telling in the new economy.

Learning from others' success is what mankind has done for thousands of years. While the obstacles to our success may be unique to our times, the road to the solution to our problems may be found on a map from earlier days.

By understanding the negative behaviors and systems to avoid and perhaps rework, we can better see the positive examples in the thick of so much that has gone wrong.

Sean Davis is a readers' advisor in the Reference Services Department at Central Library.