Get to the heart of what will be the vibrant, interesting, & lucrative jobs and careers in the 21st century?

New management

When I went to university, we were told that management is the art of getting work done through people.  A passport to laziness and exploitation!

Today, we say management is developing people through work.

Work should be fun.  It is fun for some of us.

And work should be fair.  Not only should we receive a fair day’s pay for a fair days work.  We should be growing as a person and capable of doing more with each hour of work that we put in.

Rewriting the training manuals for jobs and careers

In 20th century management manuals, Stage 1 of work was doing.  For about 10 years, roughly from 16 to 26, we learned a trade and built breadth & depth through education and exposure.  Our job was to cultivate a deep knowledge of our materials and tools, appreciate our customers, and adapt what we did for their needs.  We wanted to learn enough about the wide range of situations that we might encounter in the future so that we could go with the flow and make a living as the years went by.

Sadly, of course, markets change and revolutions happen in technology.  With very little notice, customers defect to other products and markets, competitors outrun us, or the technology changes sufficiently to require another 10 year apprenticeship.

In the ‘olden days’, HR departments were responsible for seeing ahead and retraining staff ahead of any abrupt changes.  By definition, the HR Director’s job was to spot changes on the horizon and get everyone retrained in new ways without disrupting today’s operations.  There was a reason for that high salary!

You are now your own HR Director

Today’s management theorists and leadership coaches counsel another approach.  They recommend that each of us scan the horizon for changes and retrain ourselves in good time.

This is quite hard to do.  As noobes, we barely understand the business.  We don’t have data to see ahead.  Indeed it might be kept from us.  And training tends to focus on skill  rather than the ‘sweet spot’ where are skills are deeply valued by our customers.

The sweet spot where your skills are deeply valued by your customers

I know that there has been a lot of research on how to train people on the sweet spot.

  • I recall attempts to train doctors by introducing them to patients from day one.  The conclusion, I recall, was that the pre-clinical training was necessary to speed up communication between noobes and experienced doctors and the experiment was abandoned.
  • Cognitive psychologists have developed computer games to test whether it is better to learn the market before we learn the underlying technology of our business.  They concluded no.  First, learn the technology, then try to make money.
  • Military psychologists have found that youngsters trained to manage their attention on computer games performed better as fighter pilots.  In the game, the recruits played the part of captains of de-mining vessels.  Each ‘month’, or game cycle, they would concentrate on the overall outcome of running the ship and concentrate on learning one of the functions only ~ navigation, finance, HR, etc.  The limitation known with this approach is that under pressure we often go back to the “level” that we first learned, requiring, once again, that we can see into the future and pick our “level” correctly.

It seems easy to mess up our mental models of the sweet spot and what we need to do to manage it.  We can overemphasize the money end and underemphasize the skill.  We can also learn to manage situations that are too small to sustain a living.

More research needed on managing our own training for 21st century jobs and careers

None of these experiments have focused though on developing a sense of the sweet spot and organizing skills and commercial acumen around a sweet spot that morphs, ebbs and flows.  I know no experiment where “subjects” were explicitly trained to monitor what is happening around them, to think of their own skills (and the skills of their team) and bring those together into a rewarding balance.

I wonder what would happen if we learned to think that way from the get-go?

 

Organize your own thinking about vibrant, interesting & lucrative jobs and careers in the 21st century

If you want to try, to organize your thinking about the sweet spot between your skills and the needs of customers, this is what I recommend.

Pick on anything you did today that you enjoyed and draw out 3 spokes

  • name the key technical skill that you used to provide your customer with value
  • name the customer and describe his or her needs
  • name the sweet spot and try describe it in one sentence

These three spokes correspond logically to three factors associated with successful business teams:

  • The teams ask questions more often than the give answers
  • They concentrate on the outside world a little more than on themselves
  • The look for what is going well and are positive 5x more than they are negative

Become your own HR Director

I think it will take quite a few lots of 10 to 15 minutes jotting down notes for this way of thinking to come easily.  But when it does you will be your own HR Director

  • Looking ahead
  • Retraining on time
  • Finding the sweet spot where you feel vital, involved, entertained, valued AND rewarded!

Do let me know how it works out!

Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Two)

Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life

What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?

Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task

Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission

John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.

Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.

To fall in love with life again

Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”

Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life

None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.

Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).

Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.

Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again

When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again.  So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors.  Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.

Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift.  Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more.  We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.

Are you living a zombie life :  I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.

Pretentiousness: don’t spin and scam in a world governed by necessity

Pretending to be what you are not

We do it a lot.   It is the hallmark of our institutionalized society.  We have these ‘roles’ which we think we are supposed to fit into.  We think other people expect us to fit into those roles too.

So we try to dress the part, look the part, say the right things.  Why?  So we will be treated as if we are the part.  We are part of a large scam – and we know it.

Economic and other shocks reveal the Emperor’s clothes

When our lives are upset in some way – when our expenses are challenged, when our business model is scuppered by the internet, when our business contracts and our spending power takes a dive through a leaner cash flow or outright redundancy – we often find ourselves unduly taken up with  “how will people treat me?”.  Will I be taken seriously without my big car?    <Panic and dismay>

But don’t make it worse by concentrating on the wrong thing

When someone has the rug pulled out from underneath them, it is sad to watch.  Not because they lose their status but because they hang on to an irrelevant formula.

Get your priorities clear

Mate, just get your priorities clear.  If a tsunami had swept over your town, you wouldn’t be stopping to blame yourself or to score points over you neighbour.  You’d get to fundamentals.

  • Where are the people I love?
  • What are the immediate threats?
  • What do we have to feed us, wash us, keep us safe?  Where is clean water?
  • Who around us needs help and can we help them?

Get real!  It is so much easier!

Stop acting.  Spin and scams looked good but it is time to get real

If you are feeling very uncomfortable in your skin or in your current circumstances, maybe stop acting.  The old model is broken.  Well, and truly bust.  Don’t spend another thought on it.  The tsunami has come . . . and gone. We are dealing with the aftermath.  We can reminisce later. We can ask the climatologists what happened later.  For NOW, we only want to know what happens NOW

Judge people by what they can deliver now.  If they want you to play a part, do you really believe they have anything substantial to offer?  Really?

Imagine arriving at a Red Cross tent after a tsunami and dealing with an official who is pretentious – who makes you fill in daft forms  and play games.  You will be quick to work out whether they have food for your children in their tent or not.  And you will do the minimum to get it.  You will get it, but you will do the minimum.  These are clearly not people to be bothered with.  You may be shocked that the aid workers are scam merchants but, really, you will be busy, so you will put aside the shock and concentrate.

If there is another tent where food is handed out briskly and you can get on with your life, you would choose that tent.   Vote with your feet.  Hanging around a badly run tent full of pompous officials who demand you look the part in some imaginary narrative will not get you anywhere.  The tent might look good, but hang around only so long as they deliver what you need NOW!

Challenge your own pretensions

It really is important to get real.  No one owes us a living, as the saying goes.  Do today what needs to be done today.

We also owe a living to no one except the young, the sick, the infirm and the aged who cannot contribute any more.  We have to learn to give unto Cesar.  Pay the tax that we have to pay. Fill in the forms that we have to fill in.  To use the contemporary expression “fake like they are human”.  But ignore them otherwise.  You are too, too busy, coping with what needs to be done today.

If they think less of you because your world has fallen apart, that is their lookout  They are just not helpful.

But don’t lose more friends because you are worried about spinning and scamming in a world governed by necessity and real challenge.  Attend to what is real.  Leave the spin merchants to their imaginary life.

Who will earn more and who will earn less because of the internet?

Is the internet good for you?

Was it this week that we had the media telling us that Facebook would give us cancer?  And a professor telling us that the internet makes us scatty?

Well, I won’t go where angels fear to tread, but I do know this.  The world has changed in a fundamental way and it is very important THAT YOU GET IT!

The internet has changed the way we make a living and before you go off and spend 5 to 10 years getting a qualification and doing low paid jobs to get experience, have a look at the business model of the profession you are entering.  Will your profession survive the intenet?

And don’t ask recruiters and HR officers either.  They rarely know the answers.

Ask experienced people who are responsible for strategy in their field and don’t join up unless they can ask clearly!  Invite people who have a hig profile in your future career to talk to your school, university or service club, and ask the questions you need to ask!

Managing risk

At the heart of any profession or occupation is the management of risk – yep that thing that bankers didn’t seem to understand.

Very simply, we cannot know everything in the world and when we have an unfamiliar decision to make, we turn to professionals for advice – doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and even, bankers.  Even my lowly purchase of a loaf of bread at the supermarket is the purchase of advice.  I am trusting my supermarket to sell me something wholesome and good at a reasonable price.

But how do we know who we can trust?

We have several mechanisms.

  • First is a system of licenses.  A body, like the British Medical Association gives a doctor a practising certificate, for example, to indicate the doctor has the training and knowledge that we expect.
  • Second is a system of audits & inspections.  Chartered Accountants like KPMG and Deloittes check the financial affairs of a business and tell us if it is a going concern.
  • Third is the business model itself.  Newspapers, for example, would verify information is correct before they printed it and it was for that verification that we would pay a shilling or a dollar for our paper, though we often felt that we were buying the content.  They are motivated to get information correct so they stay in business.

The internet adds another way to manage risk

The internet has changed the game of business, and importantly the careers available to us, because it adds, among other things, an additional way to manage risk.  This additional mechanism for managing risk affects how consumers get advice and who gets paid for giving advice.

  • Google Search, for example, allows us to pull up information from all over the world in the blink of an eye.  For many particularly simple matters, we can find information for free and save ourselves the fees of professional advice.  Knowledge has become more easily available and much cheaper.
  • Twitter provides recommendations with equal speed and allows customers to speak to each other. The wisdom of crowds gives us assurances that previously were only available from auditors and inspectors.
  • Blogs, YouTube, Flickr make us all citizen journalists.  Collecting and transmitting data is now so cheap and easy that events like a plane ditching in the Hudson are transmitted as they happen.  No paper or TV service can report events so quickly.

But there is so much rubbish on the internet

Indeed there is.  And it is very important to treat the information for what it is.  IT IS NOT information provided with a stamp of approval from a professional body or a well established business.

This is frightening for many people.  And so it will be until they think clearly about what is happening and act accordingly.

We have two tasks therefore.

  • First, understand how to verify information on the internet.
  • Second, to understand how the internet changes the value of various professions and how much people in those professions will earn in the future.

A lot of people write about the first task.  I am interested in the second.

How does the internet change the value of various careers and the salary you can expect to earn?

Whether you are in a profession or ‘old school organization’, or if you are changing careers and thinking about your next move, these are the questions that I think you should ask.

5 questions to ask about the value of information in your profession or organization

1   Why did you want to go into this career?

When you chose this career, what value did you believe you would add to the world?  Why did you undertake the qualifications instead of just opening up your business?  What did the qualifications teach you that cannot be taught elsewhere and freely on the internet?  How are the systems of knowledge maintained so the knowledge of your profession is deeper and more valuable that information on the internet? To what extent is the profession protected artificially and will these artificial barriers be stripped away by the internet?

2  How do you maintain integrity?

What are the promises that your profession makes to the public and are these promises genuine?  For example, do you send someone to jail for breaking these promises?  What areas of malpractice does the profession look out for?  How do you check that your core promises are being honoured?  When your customers are able to talk directly to each other, what aspects of your service can they inspect better than you can? If they are able to check themselves, of what value is your guarantee?  What aspects can they not check and is the responsibility of your profession?

3  What does your online profile say?

Are you on professional groups like Facebook, Twittter, LinkedIn and Xing?  If we Google your name, can we find you?  What issues are Googled by your clients/customers/patients and what do they find? How do you maintain your profile?  How good is your understanding of information traffic on the internet and the way Google chooses what to show people?  How is your profession learning about the internet and the way it is developing?  How is your profession managing the conversation about the internet among your members?

4  What is your ‘authority’ on the risk management issues which have been the basis of your profession?

What are the issues on which your profession is expert, experienced and willing to help other people, albeit for a fee?  Who in the internet world defers to your opinion and how do they link to you?  How does your profession monitor your online authority?  How do you manage your online authority?  How do you manage the way one member of your profession competes with another for internet domination?  How do you ensure that your clients/customers/patients get access to well debated information and ‘honest authority’, so to speak?

5  How do you help your customers/clients/patients find the information they need and make intelligent choices?

What choices are your customers/clients/patients making on a daily basis?  What information do they use?  What do they search for?  How does information find them and are they able to process it safely and to their advantage?  How has the internet changed this process? And how have those changes, and ongoing changes, changed the basis of your business model?  How you make a living, in other words, and how future members of your profession will make a living?

Your comments?

This is the first time I’ve written about these issues.  So I’d be very interested in your views – or comments – or indeed questions.

How do you think the internet changes our work and our long-term potential to make a living?

What questions should we be asking leaders of professions and encouraging our young people to ask before they invest in an expensive training?

Poets advice for surviving the financial crisis

In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.

Dante in the Inferno

Mid-life crises, sudden loss, tragedies, and world-wide financial crises are certainly different in degree, and different in content.  But they have one thing in common.

They are unpleasant to experience.  We feel that we have lost our way.  And we have a vague yet pervasive feeling that there isn’t a way and that we were mistaken to believe that there is.

David Whyte, British corporate poet, explores this experience in poetry and prose, and uses stories and poems about his own life to illustrate the rediscovery of our sense of direction, meaning and control.

Using his ideas and the ideas of philosophers and poets before him, we are able to refind our balance, and live through the financial crisis, meaningfully and constructively.

Come with me!

David Whyte has a 2 disk CD, MidLife and the Great Unknown.

If you get a copy of his CD, I will listen to it with you.  And we can discuss it online?

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Sing and dance to the music of the recession!

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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Poetry of solidarity in hard times

Creeping into our shells

Some people are already having a hard time in the recession.  I can see it on their faces in the village.  And I’m sure there are also many others who are having worse, and who are at home, deeply worried.

If you are one of them, and arrived at this post this weekend, I hope I might persuade you to think back to when you were a kid in the school yard.  What you really hated were the times when other kids wouldn’t play with you.  It was in these times, that we creep into our shell.

But not so, when the teacher took our ball away.  We didn’t go home, or shrink back.  Not at all.  We thought up another game.  And we stuck together.

Solidarity

Sticking together, or solidarity, is the key to surviving bad times, and enjoying them too!

Two poems

If you are still reading, I have two poems for you.  The first is called Wild Geese, and it is by Mary Oliver.   In short, it tells you not to beat yourself up, and to come back out to the yard to play.

The second, I stumbled on the web last night.  It is a love poem, by Nizar Qabbani, and though written by a man for a woman, it reminds us, that togetherness and belonging come from commitment.

Back in those school yard days, there was always one kid, who kept us together and suggested other games.

Come with me

Reach out to someone this weekend?

It does not need to be expensive.  A smile for people in the shops.  A chat over the fence with your neighbour.  A walk with a friend.  A companionable cup of tea.

You may not know whom, but somone may need your solidarity very badly.

Here are the two poems.  I hope they give you comfort and inspiration.

+++++

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+++++++

Love Compared

by Nizar Qabbani

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

+++++

P.S.  If you own the copyright for either poem, please do let me know.  And to the authors, I thank you.

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The art of sailing in rough financial waters

Yesterday, I was talking to a young man who apologized for his loss of confidence.  He has had the spectacular privilege of being shipwrecked not once, but twice, in the grand drama of the 2008 financial crisis in the UK.

“Of course your confidence has been knocked”, I replied.  “But you’ve lost confidence in the world rather than yourself.  You just don’t get that yet.”

The earth is moving under our feet and I am seasick

The first time I went on a cross-Channel ferry,  I found myself suddenly feeling immensely ill, almost as if I had woken up in the middle of the night with food poisoning.  I was wide awake though.  I sat down abruptly, quite alarmed by the sensation of being critically ill.  Fortunately, my companions were experienced sailors and they realized the cause of my distress.  “We’re moving”, they said, very gently.  I would have worked it out eventually, but their kind words saved me from several minutes of worrying and the magnification of my physical discomfort.

I still get seasick, though I pride myself on my ability to puke neatly, to lie down quietly, and to take the discomfort without disturbing the rest of the party.  Yachting in the Caribbean last year, I resolved this has simply got to stop.  If I want to go on boats, and enjoy swimming in a warm sea, I have to learn to cope with ‘the earth moving under my feet’.

The unknown and the unknowable

I would rather not be made redundant of course,  and I would rather this had not happened to my young friend and many of his friends.  But it will happen. To many of us.

We have no way of knowing how long the recession will last.  This recession fits into the category of unknowable rather than unknown.  I learn all about it that I can.  I am collecting good explanations on the page Financial Crisis Visually.

But it is not knowable. Not even the experts know what is happening, or how long it will last.

So how do I cope with this ‘unknowableness’ and the equivalent feeling of being very seasick?

I need to plan for the very short term and keep lots in reserve.

  • What can I get done right now, today?
  • What are the wide range of choices of things I might do tomorrow?

If I can keep those two in balance, I’ll do OK.

A practical plan

Practically-speaking:

  • I need to spend some time every evening going over what I achieved each day, and adding it to my resume.
  • I need to be on top of my finances, to the last penny, and know exactly what I’ve spent and what I owe.  I also need to collect what is owing to me, promptly.
  • Then I need to list all my opportunities in a file or a loose leaf binder.
  • My fourth evening task is to pick out what I must do and will finish on the morrow.   I want achievements in-hand and on my resume.
  • Lastly, I leave plenty of time for the unusual and the unexpected.  About 80%.  That’s what’s needed in uncertain times.

It’s OK for me

Yes, I know. When we are facing a crisis, all of this feels like busy work. We just want it done.  We want it over.  Look at my posts from yesterday and last week.  I was in a blue funk myself.

But if you are in a ship wreck, the last thing you do is start swimming madly hoping to chance on another boat.  You must get clear of the boat that is sinking, but it’s best to get in a lifeboat with as much food, water and safety equipment that you can.

You can bring the sense of panic, or sea-sickness, down by sitting down every evening and doing the exercise I listed.

And if you miss a night, don’t beat yourself up. This is not a religious ritual.  It is a process which helps you get the results you want.   Get back to it the next day.

And let’s do it together

Let me know how to improve the advice.  When all is said and done, we are in the same boat, on stormy seas.

Plan for the near term, finish today what can be done today, put it on your resume, and keep lots in reserve.

See you on the beach!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

I am good at dealing with recessions!

or will be!

Professional responsibility can be demanding

In an earlier incarnation, I had a reputation for taking on the tough projects – multiple constituencies, vested interests, and consequences for everyone involved.  I loved that work.  It took listening, carefully; it took discretion; and it took carefully working through details to find solutions that others had missed and being very clear about the consequences we asked each party to tolerate.

During most of the time I did this work, I also taught at the local university.  Students were always surprised when I told them, usually to encourage them when they were losing heart over a project of their own, that there was a moment during every project when I felt the project was going to beat me.  There was always a moment when I had felt that this would be the one.

Running a small business is a lot scarier

Starting a small business took anxiety to a whole new level, and the question I ask myself, is why?  Why is worrying about cash flow so much more scary?

Is it because we are so much less in control?

Is it because the stakes are higher – if we mess up we may have to pack up the business?

Is it because running out of money assaults our middle class identity more severely than not acing a professional project that was regarded as difficult in the first place?

Is it because I have higher self-efficacy or self-belief in professional work?

Is it because professional work is for other people and I am less motivated to look after myself?

Psychological advice almost seems flippant

There is a lot of advice around for dealing with debilitating anxiety and I have dispensed a lot of it myself.

  • I like to be well prepared so I have no reason to be anxious.
  • I make sure I have a fall back position.
  • I remind myself of good times.
  • I value my social support – I know it helps.
  • And I make sure I get exercise, sleep, and eat sensibly.

The truth is is when we feel deep anxiety, it detracts from anything else.  We don’t feel prepared.  We don’t have a fall back position.  Good times in the past aren’t really relevant.  We’re on our own.  And now we, can’t sleep, can’t eat or eat too much, and exercise makes us feel like we will pass out.  And if we are really lucky, we have a full scale anxiety attack that looks like a heart attack to anyone watching.

Lao Tzu might have better advice

I pondered this problem for a day and equally pondered the inadequacy of our advice.  We are able to tell people how to deal with theoretical fear, not the real thing.

Then I stumbled on a saying on the Positive Psychology Daily News New Year blog (which is worth reading for itself – check out the Garbage Truck video and the Gratitude Chain).   About four authors down, Kirsten quotes the Chinese Philosoper, Lao Tzu.

Seek not happiness too greedily and be not  fearful of  unhappiness.

This is very much like Franklin Rooseveldt”s “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”, but it says more.  It does not suggest that we should dismiss negative emotions, or try to arrange our life to avoid them.

A full life includes the positive and the negative, all four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter, and we need to be competent in managing all of them.  To think of winter as the absence or negative of summer, distracts us from learning how to deal with winter, and more importantly, how to enjoy it.

The idea of happiness promoted by Losada’s work on the dynamics of happiness makes us think of emotional space that includes joy and grieving, linked together on a trajectory shaped like a three dimensional butterfly.  It is just as healthy to be in a place of grieving or fear, as one of joy and pleasure, provided it is a place we are passing through and approached  in a spirit of inquiry, inclusion and emphasis on what works.

After reading the Lao Tzu quote, the mental trick I found useful was to think of myself inside fear – not looking at it, but being inside it, looking at it around me.  That seems to restore a sense of what I am doing.

I have to get good at this!

It is not accepting unhappiness, which one reading of the quotation might suggest, but seeing myself dealing competently and effectively with negative situations.

I hope that this helps anyone else who faces perilous decisions this year!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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