Forbes at UI: In tough economy, graduates must 'hustle'

BY SAM LANE | SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Media mogul and former presidential hopeful Steve Forbes said students graduating from college this year will be forced to work harder than those before them.

“They’re going to have to hustle more than their predecessors,” Forbes told *The Daily Iowan* during an exclusive interview. “It’s an economy where, because of the uncertainty, people are reluctant to hire.”

But Forbes — who spoke to a crowd of around 800 in the IMU Main Lounge on Wednesday afternoon — said the future is more hopeful.

“What that means, though, is it’s only going to get better from this rough and rocky start,” Forbes said, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media.

John Schlifske, the chairman and CEO of life insurance company Northwestern Mutual, joined Forbes for a panel discussion, where the pair addressed “The Power of a Game Plan.” Northwestern Mutual and the UI Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center cosponsored the event.

UI students, professors, and local business professionals clamored to hear the duo’s take on post-graduation success, running a business, government regulations, as well as the current state of the American and international economies.

“The economy’s going to be trouble for the near future,” Schlifske told the *DI*. “But I’m very bullish on America long-term. It’s a great time to be entering the workforce from a long-term perspective … Ultimately, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of opportunity. It’s just, right now, because of some of the policy we have, we’re in a slow growth to no growth kind of environment.”

But neither Schlifske nor Forbes expressed complete support of the economy. When asked about the fiscal cliff — a set of grave economic consequences that experts say could be the result of legislative inaction before the end of the year — Forbes predicted policymakers will delay activity to allow new members of Congress to deal with the situation.

“It’s amazing we did this to ourselves,” said Forbes, shaking his head.

His recently released book slams government regulation in favor of a free-market approach.

“Government deals with the present, with what’s there, not with what can be done in the future, which is what entrepreneurs are trying to do all the time,” Forbes said.

And with the presidential election looming, Forbes — who ran in the 1996 and 2000 Republican primaries — offered some advice for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“[Romney has] some good ideas, but if you’re not out there on TV, social media, and yourself on the campaign trail, hammering those home in the way Ronald Reagan did against Jimmy Carter, you’re not going to make it,” Forbes said. “If you do, you will make it.” 

After the panel, some members of the audience said they embraced the pair’s message, which also urged young people to save rather than invest.

“Emotions are your enemy,” Forbes warned the crowd. “If it feels good, don’t. If it feels bad, do it.”

First-year UI law student Clint Hugie said the event was “very needed” and said the panel’s emphasis on hard work was key.

“As far as I can tell, it resonated,” Hugie said. “A lot of students come in with big dreams and they get crushed in the real world. They’ll have to look forward to long nights and failure. A lot of students needed to hear that.”

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