Posts Tagged ‘recession’

“In a tornado, even a turkey can fly”

October 21, 2008

“In A Tornado, Even A Turkey Can Fly!” is a quote from venture capitalist Eugene Kleiner. He understood that when the economy is strong, even bad companies can look good.  His principle seems to have application as we look at the current economy and workplace.

We know the job and business market have taken a beating in the last 2 months. In the five years prior to that it seemed any investment was sure to go up, any house would appreciate in value, even questionable products could be pushed through with flashy marketing and “just doing your job” could still get you a paycheck.  Now it’s pretty clear we are in the downward turn of a cycle – or perhaps it should be called a cleansing, a purging or a healthy realignment.  Wall Street is admitting that many of the “investments” they sold us were nothing but smoke and mirrors.  Houses do not automatically just appreciate in value.  Interest only mortgages are a really bad proposition.  Starbucks cannot just keep adding new locations without careful planning. 

But we also know that great people prove themselves in tough times, not easy ones. Butterflies don’t fall out of trees; they first struggle relentlessly to push out of the cocoon.  Great people survive adversity by returning to integrity, character and hard work. 

In No More Mondays I outline the five characteristics we see in highly successful people:

  • Passion
  • Determination
  • Talent
  • Self-Discipline
  • Faith

Those characteristics will allow you to survive this cycle, and to thrive in the next five years.  This is a time to clearly identify your strongest areas of competence. “Turkeys” will fall back to the ground — but YOU are not one of them – you can find those unique opportunities and soar even in tough times. And remember, this is a cycle. If you focus on the “downturn” you will be discouraged. Focus on the “cycle” and prepare now to take full advantage of the inevitable upswing.

A tornado is a temporary and artificial environment.  Don’t depend on one to create artificial success either.

Think You Can?

July 26, 2008

This week in an interview the host asked me what were the three things I wanted listeners to remember.  This is what I gave her:

1. Expect Change.  The workplace is going to remain volatile and unpredictable.  Our only choice is to decide how we will respond.  If you make those decisions in advance you will reduce the uncertainty and vulnerability.

2.  Look inward for your best ideas and solutions.  85% of the process of having confidence about your career direction comes from looking inward first.  Define your unique skills and abilities – then 15% of the process is the application.

3.  You are not in a “recession” unless you think you are.  The old Henry Ford adage is true – “Whether you think you can or think you can’t; either way you’re right.

Oh No — the Sky is Falling

May 29, 2008

In the constant interviews about No More Mondays, it seems inevitable that the question about being in a “recession” comes up.  I wish I could convey that whether or not we are in a recession is much like whether or not we believe the sky is falling. 

Remember that famous children’s fairy tale?  One day Chicken Little was scratching in the garden when an acorn fell on her head. She decides to tell the King, and on her journey meets many other animals who join her in the rush to share this startling news.  “How do you know the sky is falling, Chicken Little?” asked Henny Penny.  “I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears, and a bit of it fell on my head,” said Chicken Little.

There are many version of this story, but the basic premise of the happy version is not to be like “Chicken,” but to have courage and don’t believe everything you are told.

I think believing we are in a “recession” is very similar.  If you experienced a little piece of a layoff, a real estate downturn, or the increase in gas prices, you can easily confirm that “I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears, and a bit of it fell on my head.”  And thus you share the news with your closest friends. And certainly now would be a poor time to start something new or to leave the “security” of a real job.

But what if you recognized that the fear of a “recession” is going to immobilize most people, leaving you multiple opportunities for separating yourself from the pack and moving ahead.  You can counsel, coach, teach, or speak to those who are stuck in life.  You can come up with better solutions for economic transportation, reduce fuel consumption with efficient housing, improve health care, education, or provide methods for spiritual growth.  You can invent a better dog leash, or a more nutritional energy bar. Many of our 212Connection members have created fulfilling opportunities in the midst of this “recession.”  You can provide encouraging men’s conferences in 36 cities like member Brian Doyle has done.  Or offer more economical pharmaceuticals like West Conner is doing. Maybe you can find beauty in everyday settings with photography like Deby Dearman does or bring hope to struggling parents of unique kids like Theresa Lode is able to do. 

Of course in the unhappy version of the fable, the fox eats the chicken.  I like to think that the moral of that story is if you have nothing but bad news; just keep your mouth shut.

The Sky is Falling — Isn’t It?

February 5, 2008

The headlines screamed this week – Jobs Cutbacks, Jobs Lost, Job LossesThe Labor Department has reported that total job numbers were down by 17,000 in January, the first monthly decline since August 2003. 

Remember the wonderful children’s fable The Sky is Falling?  This is an old tale about a chicken who believes the sky is falling.  The phrase “the sky is falling” has become a popular cliché indicating a hysterical belief that disaster is crashing down on us. 

In the original story Chicken Little is eating lunch one day when an acorn falls on her head.  She mistakenly assumes the sky is falling, rushes off to tell the King, and along the way meets a lot of other animals who join in with her belief and the accompanying fear.

What this week’s headlines fail to announce with as much fanfare is that the unemployment rate actually FELL from 5.0 percent to 4.9 percent.  AND – average hourly earnings ROSE to $17.75 in January – up 0.2 percent from December.  How can the job loss be such a catastrophe if unemployment dropped and earnings rose?  What the government figures can’t see are the thousands of people who are exiting traditional jobs in companies with 50 or more employees (the basis for the statistics) and finding meaningful, fulfilling work in the No More Mondays fashion.  The exploding number of consultants, independent contractors, temps, electronic immigrants, entrepreneurs and eBay merchants are below the radar of traditional “job” tracking. 

Sometimes I think the news media should just be called Chicken Little.  How about Chicken Nightly Nonsense (CNN) All Boloney Chicken (ABC) and Nothin But Chicken (NBC).  Incidentally, although I am not a man to wish anyone harm, in the fable the FOX ending up eating all the doomsayers. 

Go Ahead — Take a Big Sip!

January 31, 2008

Theologian John S. Dunne tells the story about a group of Spanish sailors who reached the continent of South America after a long and dangerous voyage. They happened to approach right at the headwaters of the Amazon River, an expanse of water so wide the sailors assumed it was a continuation of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Amazon River is the greatest river in the world. It contains over 20% of the earth’s fresh water. During the rainy season it expands to 24.8 miles wide at inland points. Where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean it is 202 miles wide, discharging eight trillion gallons of fresh water a day into the ocean. That fresh water can be detected over 200 miles out into the sea.

But these Spanish sailors didn’t realize that subtle change in the water. They had spent months knowing they couldn’t drink the water in which they were traveling. Any experienced sailor knows that drinking salt water will kill you. Although it didn’t look much different, and the change had taken place slowly, now they were right on top of the largest quantity of fresh water in the world. And with that nourishing, fresh water all around them, some of those sailors died of thirst.

That picture serves as a metaphor for how I see many people in the workplace today. They have become accustomed to work being drudgery, a bitter pill, a curse from God – something to be endured, a necessary trade-off for a paycheck – the “salt water” that life has dealt them. They know that work is not to be fulfilling, they eagerly anticipate Friday or retirement when they can leave that stinking job and really do something they enjoy and care about. But at the same time they are sitting right on top of the greatest opportunities for fulfilling work the world has ever known. Companies are desperately seeking people who understand their areas of competence and are ready to make a clear contribution to their corporate mission. With our shift from production work to knowledge work it has never been easier to transition into free-lance or independent contractor status, providing more time freedom and income potential. Being an entrepreneur no longer requires a big chunk of start-up capital or even a bricks and mortar structure.

Several years ago Jim Hodges was eager for a change. Over a casual dinner conversation his wife asked Jim, “If money were not important, what would you do?” Jim responded immediately, “I’d sit around the house and read old history books.” Guess what Jim does today. He reads old history books. He creates audio CDs as he brings to life old historical novels with his dramatic, engaging readings. With primarily a home schooling customer base, children beg to hear the next installment as they are simultaneously learning the rich stories from history. Recently I received this note from Jim – “Just thought you’d like to know that, doing what I love, my gross sales increased 49% this year to over 104K (and the year isn’t over yet), gross profits are up 69%, and net income is up 241%. All with a 7 second commute.”

Kathy came to see me because she wanted a change. She was a high level human resource director at a Fortune 500 company. With that she made the trip to the office complex each day in her business suit to find the cubicle with her name on it. I proposed that because of her training background she was an excellent candidate to present the training that companies like SkillPath, CareerTrack, Fred Pryor and others offer. They promote for a specialized workshop, fill a hotel conference room and need someone to walk in and do the presentation. Kathy was eagerly accepted by two of these companies as a presenter. For that she chooses 3-4 days a month where she presents the material and is paid $2000 for each day. In addition she is now an online faculty member for two major universities. She “teaches” and has office hours from her ranch where she sits at her computer in her blue jeans and cowboy hat. Recognize that she is still using the same skills that she used previously in a corporate setting. But Kathy told me recently that she is working approximately one third the time she did in her former position – and she has more than doubled her income.

Is it possible that rather than sitting in “salt water” you are actually right on top of your greatest opportunity as well? Let me assure you that as we hear about layoffs, recessions and economic downturns, there are opportunities all around you. Business is not declining and opportunities are not diminishing. However, they are most surely changing. We have seen subtle changes as we have moved from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the Technological Age to the Information Age and now to the Idea Age. But just as we have seen transitions from production work to knowledge work, we are now moving into an era that embraces “high concept” and “high touch” models of work. In place of the left-brain skills that were so important in the recent Information Age, we are seeing empathy, caring relationships, storytelling and compassion as the defining characteristics of those who are prospering today.

Any time is a good time to draw that proverbial line in the sand and ask yourself, “Where am I and where am I going?” Don’t let life happen to you – put yourself in the driver’s seat by designing the future you want. I know you don’t want to die of thirst while you’re sitting on top of an unlimited body of fresh water – stop, take a drink and savor the nurturing, life giving properties freely available to you.
Principles from No More Mondays.

This is a “Recession?”

January 29, 2008

So the Super Bowl is this Sunday. A recent survey indicates that spending related to the big event could reach an all-time high of $10 billion. Consumers plan to buy nearly 4 million new television sets. And then the 158 million viewers will spend an average of $59.90 on related merchandise, including furniture, food and “beverages.”

And this doesn’t even begin to account for the money spent by the advertisers to have a shot at these 158 million TV watchers. Fox is charging a new record $2.7 million for one 30-second slot in Super Bowl XLII. 65 of those babies add up to more than $175 million in advertising revenue. Incidentally, I just did the math and that appears to be $90,000 a second. Apparently Budweiser, Pepsi, General Motors, Kraft, GoDaddy and Audi are convinced we are easily persuaded.

Doesn’t a “recession” imply that times are tough – that no one can afford anything new, not even new shoes, let alone TVs, lavish parties, booze and new cars? I think the real deal is the “recession” is an elusive term that impacts interest rates and general trends. Most of us have an incredible number of opportunities right in front of us. Thankfully, your chances for success are not determined by what happens in the White House, but by what happens in YOUR house.