I’m not much for self-help books, but a recent article quoting an author named Rolf Dobelli caught my eye.

He thinks many people are snatching irritation and unhappiness from the jaws of contentment. He writes: “Six percent of all the people who have ever lived on Earth over the last 300,000 years, since Homo sapiens first populated the world, are alive at this moment. They could just as easily have been born into another era; indeed, the probability of that is 94 percent. Imagine yourself as a slave in the Roman Empire, a geisha during the Ming Dynasty or a water-carrier in ancient Egypt. How many of your inborn talents would have been worth much in those times? Remind yourself daily that everything you are, everything you have and can do, is the result of blind chance.”

This is a particularly useful perspective for Americans, in my view. The ones who are employed, healthy, have no shortage of loved ones, live in safe neighborhoods and still find themselves in a battle to avoid slipping into a daily state of near non-stop agitation, convinced that things have never been worse and we’re all stones rolling down a hill. Dobelli is on to something; the historical view can be instructive. A few years ago I read a book called Armageddon by Max Hastings. On the eastern front, boots were hard to come by, and the Germans had better footwear than the Russians. The Russian Army had a guy who was tasked with sawing off the legs of dead German soldiers in the winter so when they thawed he could remove their boots. Things can be bad these days, but they have been worse. Like much worse.

Ok, that’s an admittedly extreme example, and we exist in the present, so let’s get real about that. Listening to the opening “View from the Top” session at G2E, it’s pretty clear we as an industry are not in a bad place. For instance:

Geoff Freeman, CEO, American Gaming Association: The state of the industry, from where I sit, is quite strong. Last year, we saw the industry hit a record high in gross gaming revenue of $70 billion. Tribal gaming revenue is nearly as high as commercial gaming revenue; there’s tremendous growth on that front. It’s a $240 billion industry in terms of total economic activity, supporting 1.7 million jobs, providing nearly $40 billion in taxes for vital public services.

Michael Rumbolz, president and CEO, Everi: Our company provides payments across the country to casino operators and as a result we end up seeing on a real-time basis the amount of money that is actually being used by patrons in their gaming and entertainment activities. We’ve seen the macro activity in casinos lifting up. We’ve seen very small pockets where it’s stepping back a little, but overall the U.S. is healthy and it’s still growing.

Robert McGhee, vice chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indian: One of the things that’s unique about tribal governments that are involved in gaming is that we also build communities. So when we build gaming facilities in the state of Alabama, we’re also involved with providing infrastructure, educational resources, health and social services. A lot of this is not just through tribal governments, but partnerships that have been established with local communities. Tribal governments have been in poverty for generations, but now it’s an opportunity to move to prosperity. And there are many areas where we can work together.

Craig Clark, general manager, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh: From a Pittsburgh regional standpoint, we’ve been saturated with Ohio and Maryland growing these past few years. But what we see is strength because of what we’re doing as business leaders. We’ve been reaching out and creating relationships with the community around us, educating them about who we are and how people can benefit from the facilities that we have and the people who work for us. That’s what makes us strong; we’re having more communication with others on how to use our business.

Solid stuff, which brings me back to more from this Dobelli guy, whose latest book is called, The Art of the Good Life: “Our brains love short-term, spasmodic developments. We react exaggeratedly to highs and lows, to rapid changes and jarring news, but continuous small changes we barely notice. This makes us underemphasize the value of a slower-paced, everyday sort of satisfaction that eventually adds up to long-term happiness.  Perseverance, tenacity and long-term thinking are highly valuable, yet underrated, virtues.”

Obviously, no news to the speakers above, and, doubtless, too many of you either. But our distractions in the age of connectivity never cease to mount, so a little common sense and reassurance is always helpful, especially when it comes from our colleagues.

Happy holidays to all. See you next year.