Lessons About Today’s Economy and Unemployment from George Costanza and Rocky Balboa


George Costanza and Rocky Balboa became indelible characters for different reasons. So, how do they fit into an article about the economy and unemployment? Logic, common sense, and humor are elements that will help to reveal the answer to that question.

George Costanza and Rocky Balboa became indelible characters for different reasons. So, how do they fit into an article about the economy and unemployment? Logic, common sense, and humor are elements that will help to reveal the answer to that question.

We are living in very uncertain times, but will pull through them because we are survivors. A recreated economy, with rules that are still developing, will form because of the ever-expanding variety of our beliefs, backgrounds, and dreams.

If the United States were anything other than a great society, we would have collapsed years ago. We didn’t. We rightfully believe that generations have built a standard of living that will continue to exist.

Rocky BalboaWho created this economic mess along with rampant unemployment and how are we ever going to get out of it?

We did this. We played a part in creating these financial problems – which led to the Economic Collapse of 2008 and subsequent late-2000’s Recession.  We are also moving on from our mistakes, which is necessary and healthy.

We bought stocks and mutual funds for many years. We gave our money to various financial experts to invest in companies they knew little, or nothing, about. We bought homes and cars, leaving slim capital in our bank accounts to cover our debts. In retrospect, some of our vacation destinations were a bit lavish as well.

We saw what everyone else had and got one, or more than one, just like it. We lived way beyond our means. Wealthy people, big corporations, and whoever else is being portrayed as the cause of our problems, didn’t force us to do anything that we really didn’t want to do. We have free will and should have used more willpower.

It was like we all got out of bed every night, at 3:37AM, and felt our way around in the dark. We always kept the lights off, despite the fact that we could have fallen and broken our necks. Then, a few years ago, reality shocked our big pupils when the fluorescents were turned on.

Did companies bilk us? Sure. But, it wasn’t like we had to be overly convinced to jump at the many choices that were pushed in front of us. We chose to ignore the consequences of overly indulgent behavior.

“The Sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli,” George Costanza. During one famous Seinfeld episode, George George Costanzaencountered a situation where he had to pretend to be a marine biologist. He recounted how he had to pull a golf ball from the blow hole of a whale. Kramer, listening to the tale, had created the problem by recklessly using the beach as his personal driving range.

Foolish behavior often does create real problems. Eventually, there were too many for our financial system to withstand and no Costanza to save the day. Seinfeld ended its run in 1998 and is accurately recognized as one of the greatest sitcoms ever. It’s frozen capture of those pre-9/11, pre-economic meltdown, days remains forever funny. Reruns now also offering a fleeting glimpse at our idealistic past.


If your condo complex is on fire, would the self-proclaimed bohemian on the eighth floor question how much the net he was looking down on cost before he jumped into it? Our government safety nets can be costly and imperfect, but there are positives to having them. With reasonable limitation, these programs do serve a purpose.

Detractors of both President Bush and President Obama have screamed about their authorizing stimulus money. Consider what would have happened if millions of people wouldn’t have directly, or indirectly, received printed cash from the Federal Reserve. The price tag of any resulting civil unrest would not have been cheap. The masses have been kept afloat and at bay, for now.

Your financial investments drank slim fast for years, but recent online financial statements do show that some weight has been regained. If you held onto your job, that probably means that your company is doing okay. If you lost your job, you may have picked up something to replace it. If you own a business, you’re surviving. People you know have been talking about the economy leveling out, or even picking up a bit, and you want to believe it’s true. We’re holding on and hoping.

Where we go from here

With continuing questions about the economy dangling, like the Sword of Damocles, above our heads three approaches can be considered.sword of damacles

First – You are in charge of your career. No one owes you a job. Don’t fool yourself, every employer considers you to be replaceable. Remember, a friendly relationship with a long-time employer does not equal friendship. Don’t get bent out of shape if you experience a lack of loyalty, even if you rightfully feel that you have earned it. You are a cog in the wheel and need to roll with that.

As best that you can, save significant emotional feeling for family and real friends. Work is important, but it is not who you are. It is only a part of who you are. When you choose to accept that, transitions will be much easier to make. Then, if you come to the end of a road, you will be able to drive down another without much regret.

Second– Remain vigilant about what you save and what you spend. Value every resource that you have. Try going without certain things, because generally you won’t miss whatever you thought you needed.

Third – (for business owners) provide, or create, a unique product. Fill a niche. Take what you are doing and develop it even further.

You know which clients have stuck with you, so take care of them. Consider partnering with companies that might initially seem like unorthodox fits. Use some of that rainy day stash for targeted future growth. Ask for business whenever you think it is best to do so. Continue to use, or try to use, the barter system.

The internet has quickly created a new type of capitalism. This platform is revolutionizing the entire world. Just take a look at what Myspace (years ago) and Facebook and Twitter are doing nowadays. Continue to learn how businesses are creating success through it by dedicating yourself, or a staff member(s), to trend research. The time investment can reap rewards faster than expected.

Take a cue from local Philadelphia sports teams. Dream big, like the Phillies did. Change course, like the Eagles did. Always go for it, like the Flyers do. Be honest and if truly necessary, rebuild like the Sixers are doing.

The future

Rocky Balboa lost to Apollo Creed at the end of the first movie in the series. He came back in the second to win the title, proving that being beaten once does equal permanent defeat. Rocky regrouped, trained, and then won. That is what successful people do.

Mistakes are opportunities to learn from. Don’t let yourself relapse into old habits. We are all fighters, it’s part of our makeup. We have to get off the mat and keep slugging.

In one way, or another, we will make it through this era of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. A different way of living is emerging. While this transition isn’t comfortable, an element in our collective character is enabling the change to take place. It is something that defines who we were, are, and will continue to be. That essential feature within all of us is our relentless resilience.

Contact Sean O’Brien at sobrien@philly2philly.com

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  1. I sincerely appreciate your

    I sincerely appreciate your comments.  Thank you for reading the article.  It was one that I thought was fit for our times, even though I went back in time with George and Rocky.  🙂  




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