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« Understanding Our Humanity | Main | How do corporate clients track their employee participation at fitness centers? »

The 'New Normal'? Balderdash!

Occasionally, I intend to take license to use this column as my bully pulpit. This month, I want to address the notion that, in my opinion, there are individuals from all political camps in federal, state, and local government who are bending the language to manipulate others. And it's affecting this industry.

To have a meaningful debate, or even a meaningful conversation, the participants must be clear and straightforward and agree on the meaning of words. Without this simple agreement, debate cecomes a pointless endeavor. 

This issue has lingered on the periphery of my thinking for decades, as, for example, the word "tax" has mutated into “revenue enhancement,” and then into “investment.” I’m sure that you can think of similar examples.

I’m hardly the first person to have such concerns. William Lutz, for example, began his book Double-Speak: From Revenue Enhancement to Terminal Living—How Government, Business, Advertisers and Others Use Language to Deceive You, with this 1946 George Orwell quote: “Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way.”

Lutz’s book is a treasure trove of twisted expressions, such as “preemptive counterattacks,” “therapeutic misadventures,” “negative deficits,” “virgin vinyl,” “real counterfeit diamonds,” etc.

As for our industry, for the last few years I’ve been reading about the “new normal,” a term describing a previously atypical situation that has become common and expected.

I have no doubt that some folks are using this expression to their advantage to lower the expectations of the citizenry. In other words, the poor GDP is the new normal. High unemployment is the new normal. Stagnant wages are the new normal. In my view, the phrase is becoming ingrained in the culture, serving as a universal excuse for poor performance. A Google search yielded 1.79 billion results for this term.

Dr. Kenneth H. Copper, the father of aerobics, has spoken at many IHRSA events, and I've had the pleasure of visiting him and his staff at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. He often draws a very important and clear distinction between “normal” and “typical.”

To wit: the high rate of obesity is not normal, though at this point, sadly, it may be typical. The high rate of type II diabetes is not normal, but also may be typical.

Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When a person gets a virus, the body responds by running a fever—typical when it is fighting an illness—but the body temperature will return to normal when the infection passes.

Likewise, the American economy has the flu. Poor GDP, high unemployment, stagnant wages, etc., are simply febrile responses to fiscal viruses. While these indicators may be typical now, they will return to normal—unless politicians do too much damage, causing this flu to become pneumonia.

Ours is an industry of entrepreneurs who are self-reliant, who understand that making excuses doesn’t create successful businesses or wellness programs. The “new normal” is actually an abnormality requiring intervention, just like hypertension or a fever.

The health of our economy will return—if we all work at it.

Reader Comments (1)

Normal does seem to be losing its relevance in common thinking Joe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts !!
May 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBryan ORourke

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