How To Stay Up When The Chips Are Down (You Know, When The Economy Stinks)

I think that the state of the world right now is the scariest that I’ve seen it since that whole post 9/11 bit.  At the same time, it’s very exciting; there’s a world of opportunity in front of us, and if I had the stones, I’d be starting my own business.

But my stones aren’t really the important topic at the moment.  In times like these, people are anxious and often stir crazy. It’s easy to be frightened and be concerned about the next bit of bad news–which, thanks to the media, it’s always just around the corner or one CNN alert away via your favorite medium.

But I’ve been through this before, and while I will admit to my own concerns, distractions and sometimes all-out fear, I learned a lot from the last time and I think there are a few things that are useful to hold on to when you start to get caught up in the crazy times around us.

Without further delay, I’ll share some of the things that I do to fight of the the crazy, battle the negative and stave-off defeatist feelings:

  • Network - Get in touch with your colleagues and peers.  That can be via a mailing list (and in my opinion these are still valuable, allow you the opportunity to lurk-and-learn and participate), through LinkedIn connections you’ve fallen out of touch with, or by simply attending an event.
  • Go to Events – Go to events. Someone is always hosting some sort of an event from MeetUps to TweetUps to IxDA local events to David Armano streaming a ride in weiner mobile. Things happen and you should find a way to attend.  And if you’re not finding something, then…
  • Plan an Event – That’s right, plan an event yourself. There are plenty of organizations looking for volunteers, many would love to have a local presence in your community if they do not already.  And if they do, get in touch with the local planner–that person would be happy to have your assistance, as this type of effort is often thankless.  Many places are starving for an unconference or a BarCamp (and if you’re interested in something like that in the Chicago area for, say, January/February/March of 2009, then get ahold of me as I have something brewing!).  Just dive in with both feet, ask a lot of questions and start to figure it out.  You’ll feel better about yourself, learn a lot and meet new people.
  • Volunteer – See above, but don’t stop there. There are plenty of organizations in your community that could use your help–not just professional groups.  Deliver some meals, serve food, canvas an area for a cause or help build a house.
  • Be a Mentor, Get a Mentor – There’s a good chance you’ve got some experience that you could impart to someone else and that could help them immensely.  Do it.  Get involved in a mentoring program (like the one at the IA Institute!) and give back a little–even if, if not especially if, the chips are down.  This is a great way to earn some karma and add to your balance.  Also, don’t forget to get a mentor of your own–I can think of several people that I consider mentors, many of whom are peers, as well, and they’re invaluable.
  • Get Involved in Pro-Bono Work – It’s no time to sit on your duff and do nothing. If you’ve got skills, apply them. So, if there’s a Habitat for Humanity that could use some of your carpenter skills, get up and do it.  Take pictures, add it to your resume and discuss it as part of who you are. If that doesn’t work, find a non-profit organization or cull CraigsList to find someone looking for assistance that would utilize your skills and talents.  In some cases, you may actually get paid. In all cases, you’ll get experience and you’ll keep yourself busy.
  • Get Involved in Communities – This may seem obvious, but it’s an easy thing to do. This can be online or offline–from Mom’s groups to a Facebook group for like-minded people to setting up your very own fan club for David Armano.  It doesn’t matter what it is–either get involved or get to creating and evangelizing and getting others involved.
  • Update Your Work Examples -There’s no time like the present to get your stuff together. I know far too many people who wait until a few days after bad news to update their resumes and their samples of work, and frankly, that’s just a little too lazy than anyone can afford to be right now.  Don’t wait to find your next gig or job because you’re not prepared; every day you lose is a day where someone else is applying for your next dream job (or getting through crappy times job, whichever).
  • Go Out to Dinner at Least Once a Week -This is a big one. I was unemployed for a healthy 6 months many years ago (and by unemployed, I mostly mean self-employed, project-to-project, little stability) and it was horrible. I’d wake up when my wife got ready for work and I’d surf the world all day, refreshing job boards, applying for things out of my league and getting fairly stir crazy.  We adopted a policy of going out at least once a week for dinner–often these weren’t fancy places, but at least a step up from McDinner.  This gave us something to look forward to and often was the hinge pin to getting me to shower.  Just saying.
  • Spend a Little Money Once in Awhile -Yeah, I know, that’s hard to swallow. But do it. Buy yourself the video game or go to a movie or something similar to that. You don’t have to go buy a brand new MacBook Pro, but at the end of the day, $50 is not going to make or break your success in surviving turbulent times.  It just isn’t.
  • Plan How to Run Your Own Business -You’ve probably thought about this for a long, long time anyway.  What would I do if I were the boss? Figure it out. Write it down. Ask friends and family for input, sketch the office layout, research the cost of rental space (if needed), figure out what kind of equipment you’d want/need…
  • …And Design Your New Business Cards – Why not? It could be a little frustrating, but it could be fun. If you’re really serious, get ahold of the folks at crowdSPRING and invoke the awesome power of crowd sourcing to find you a bunch of logo options and then start dinking around on your own (or with their help) and put it all together. It may be something you can start doing today, and it’ll give you a rush!

Certainly, these aren’t the only things you can do, but these have helped me in the past.  They’ve helped me retain my sanity (if not my marriage!) and they keep the wheels spinning.

It’s not easy to do anything when there appears to be doom and gloom at every corner. Put one foot in front of the other, don’t be afraid to fail and keep moving. You’ll be fine, really.

We all will.

Do you have some tips of your own? Please share!

4 Responses to “How To Stay Up When The Chips Are Down (You Know, When The Economy Stinks)”

  1. Here are some of additions:

    -Get in touch with old friends
    -Get that long-stewing blog up and running
    -Start a personal art project
    -Watch a Busby Berkeley movie now and then

    Cheers…

    Reply

  2. Kind of interesting–I left off the blog on purpose.

    Why?

    Because you really should have some degree of a plan for your blog. I started with one, but writing a book threw a giant curve ball at my blog writing availability.

    The planning around a blog can be tough, so can keeping frequency, and if you’re going through these tough times, it’s often even more difficult to simply not unload about how you feel–unless, of course, you’re doing any of those other things listed above, in which case, I think I have to agree with you.

    Way to make me think about it!

    Reply

  3. Thanks, Russ! These are all very solid pieces of advice. I am running my own business, and got pretty freaked out in mid-September by the world economic meltdown. I’m generally a very optimistic person but found myself dwelling on all sorts of failure scenarios.

    For me lately, the biggest thing has been:

    STAY POSITIVE

    For me, that means things like taking care of contingency plan B and plan C with a smile on my face…singing silly songs with my daughter…reading fewer financial news feeds…watching more comedy, less drama…. :)

    Thanks again!

    –Liz

    Reply

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