10 - Hitting the Wall at 100 mph: What to do to Keep Your Head during
you can keep your head when all about you
losing theirs and blaming it on you;
you can trust when all men doubt you,
make allowances for their doubting too"
I was in junior high school, we memorized Kipling's poem, "If."
Some of the lines have stayed with me all these years, and they
seem particularly apt in times like these.
in Silicon Valley, at "the epicenter of innovation" according to
a recent newspaper article, the bottom has fallen out. Overnight,
literally. Not just at the dot.coms, but everywhere. Companies that
were on the steepest growth ramps ever have suddenly found themselves
with dramatically reduced demand, excess inventories, and too much
capacity. Shortages of qualified workers have quickly given way
to RIFs, VSPs, and unemployment.
who thought themselves to be immune from the effects of dot.com
carnage discovered that they were not protected. There are also
unobtrusive measures about the state of things: less traffic and
faster commutes, less heft to the local paper as advertising drops
off, and the list of weekend real estate Open Houses is way longer.
Business, like everything else, is cyclical, so that part's not
new. And what we now recognize about this round that's different
is the speed with which it hit and the extent to which it was unanticipated.
we, like others, have wondered about the extent to which the downturn
and its effects have been exacerbated by the media. How it's
been endlessly obsessed over, hyped, speculated about. How it's
been the hottest item about which to create "news" which is then
broadcast through every channel, until we believe that it must be
true, even if our own experience runs counter. If you studied contagion
theory in school (and if you took Freshman Psych, then you did),
you know that our beliefs about and then our behaviors in response
to mass events are heavily influenced by the messages that we receive,
especially from mass communications sources that we're exposed to
over and over.
messages also have an emotional aspect, so that we don't get just
content but affect instructions, both subtle and overt, for how
to feel about the message and how to react. This effect is well
researched and documented and applies to how products and ideas
as well as messages and behaviors spread, resulting in social change.
Seemingly innocuous shifts like fashion trends occur this way; so
do much more disturbing and deliberate ones, like the rise of fascism
prior to and during the Second World War. Like viruses, they are
epidemics phenomenon that are programmed to self-propagate and spread,
the effects and speed of which are heightened by inducing or encouraging
in times like these, it's easy to lose your head rather than keeping
it and to get increasingly caught up in the emotion and the speculation
which, of course, contributes to the contagion. This happens
in subtle ways, gradually, often without our being aware of it.
And then one day, we have bought into a reality that's characterized
by fear and cynicism; we feel more and more out of control, more
are our alternatives? Much has been written about things that
businesses can do to weather the downturn storm and emerge with
resilience. But what about individuals?
are three things to consider, things you can do that will enable
you to be more centered, more clear, and more likely to be satisfied
with yourself and your life regardless of what's going on around
aware of and stay focused on what matters most to you. This
requires that you know what your values are, what your personal
life purpose or mission is, and where "there" is for you. During
difficult times, it may not be possible to make as much progress
as you'd like, but it is nonetheless important that you not lose
sight of your larger and overriding life goals.
attention to your beliefs. A belief is a statement of that in
which we have trust or confidence, and our beliefs are life shaping.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that what we believe
is what gets manifested in our lives. (Just because this may sound
"New Age-y" doesn't mean it isn't true.) So if you're believing
that things will get worse "or better in your life, you are right.
your attitude it's contagious. Attitude is a mental position
about a situation or experience, how you think or feel about the
events in your life that then gets expressed directly or indirectly,
and often unconsciously. Events and experiences are, in fact, neutral,
and we assign valence or meaning to them. We can internalize and
accept someone else's construction of meaning, or we can choose
how we think and feel, which in turn affects how we behave. How
we think and feel also effects and influences others: what kind
of impact do you want to have?
these three things have in common is that we have control over them
They are perhaps the only things that are completely within
our control. Together, they are our anchors, our grounding, that
which gives meaning and purpose to our lives. In his classic study
of Holocaust survivors (including himself), Man's Search for Meaning,
Vicktor Frankl found that those who survived were more likely to
have had a clear sense of life purpose and meaning. So we know that
these small but important awarenesses can make an enormous difference
in the very worst of times, and they can make a significant difference
in how we view and react to the times we are currently experiencing.
Taking Charge When You're Not in Control: A Practical Approach
to Getting What You Want Out of Life by Patricia Wiklund, Ph.D.
(Ballantine Books, 2000)
these times of uncertain business environments and economic downturns,
Patricia Wiklund's Taking Charge When You're Not In Control is a
introduces us to the concept of Imposed Change: life-changing
events we can't predict, didn't cause, don't want, and can't avoid.
Many of us believe that if we just work harder, longer, differently,
or more diligently, we can control any situation. Wiklund tells
us that this is simply not possible with imposed change. Control
in these cases is a myth. However, although we cannot take control,
we certainly can take charge. Taking charge means doing what you
can do rather than waiting for the situation to change, an other
person to act, or a white knight to come and rescue you. Doing what
you can do means finding the options that are available and then
making choices about those options.
valuable are chapters 8 - Tell Yourself the Truth; 11 - Consider
Yourself Empowered; and 15 - So Don't Just Sit There, Do It!
we start telling ourselves the truth about any given situation,
we have to deal with what is and what is not, rather than what should
be. Wiklund says that as we continue to tell ourselves the truth
and take charge of events, we'll move from denial to detachment.
Detachment lets us move painful, uncomfortable, and/or unpleasant
experiences away from the main focus of our lives. We acknowledge
what has happened, without the emotional charge that denial holds.
Once we are a bit detached from the situation, we can start using
our critical thinking skills to help us take charge.
has been embraced as a management concept, almost a sacred business
model du jour. Yet empowerment--having confidence in your competence--has
an incredible impact on your ability to take charge when you're
not in control. If you can acknowledge your accomplishments, accept
appreciation graciously, and use failures for their lessons, you
are well on your way to having confidence in your competence. Wiklund
also reminds us that choosing to take action can be empowering,
almost regardless of what you do.
doing what needs to be done is the final step in taking charge of
a situation we can't control. But it isn't a quick step. It
involves finding your purpose, setting effective goals, scheduling
for results, and linking your purpose to your daily behavior.
makes this book so useful is that Wiklund provides clear examples
and case studies for every concept she introduces. At the end
of every chapter, there are a series of exercises that show how
to integrate these concepts into our daily lives. This book serves
as a practical guide to defining and achieving success in today's
ever-changing economy and business environment.
Websites and Other Resources we've found about this topic include:
Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara offers several innovative programs
that focus on and integrate life purpose, beliefs, values, and goals,
including one called Life Launch. www.hudsoninstitute.com
Institute for Applied Behavioral Science offers a program called
Acting with Deeper Meaning in Life/Work that addresses these issues
and topics, as well as others that deal with personal and professional
you're interested in a local view of what's going on at the "epicenter
of innovation," where high-tech news is the local news, check out
the San Jose Mercury News Business section (beware of contagion
:-) ) www.mercurynews.com or www.siliconvalley.com.
(Added bonus: you can create your own customized comics page and
the daily strips are in color!!)
Viktor. Man's search for meaning. (1998). Washington Square
William. The way of transition: Embracing life's most difficult
moments. (2000). Perseus Books. You've probably read one of Bill
Bridges, other now classic books on transitions. This is his newest
Spencer. Who moved my cheese?: An amazing way to deal with change
in your work and in your life. (1998). New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Richard N. (1991). How to find your mission in life. Berkeley:
Ten Speed Press. By the author of What color is your parachute?,
this book is a reprint of an Appendix from the Parachute series.
(Note: the author has and represents a strong Christian bias in
this book; however, his process is nonetheless reliable.)
Malcolm. (2000). The Tipping Point: How little things can make
a big difference. Little Brown & Co. This is an interesting
and informative work on the dynamics and effects of contagion.
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