Guest Post - Taking Control In An Age Of Uncertainty
I'm going to be posting a review of the book Road Rules: Be The Truck. Not The Squirrel by Andrew J. Sherman in a day or so. But I also got the opportunity to have him guest-post on Duffbert's Random Musings. So with that... Thanks, Andrew, and take it away...
Taking Control In An Age Of Uncertainty
These are stressful times – the ratio of things out of our control now far exceeds the number of variables – economic, social or otherwise – that are in control and it has created previously unseen levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty that disrupts our lives and our careers.
I wrote Road Rules: Be The Truck. Not The Squirrel. (http://www.bethetruck.com) to help us all better navigate our journeys down the road of life in all weather conditions. Whether on a bright, sunny and clear day or a dark, stormy and foggy day, we are all drivers on the road of life and are all trying to safely and properly arrive at our destinations. We must share the road – the road does not belong to you alone and you are not alone on the journey. We are obligated to drive in a manner which allows others to reach their destination and commit ourselves to playing tour guide or central dispatcher (via coaching, mentoring, consulting or friendship) for those who are trying to travel the roads that you have already successfully navigated.
This also a time when our metaphysical connections and bonds to our work and our careers often takes a nose dive. We feel underappreciated, overworked, underpaid, understimulated and over-taxed. Our expectations about pay, bonuses, benefits and job security are not directly aligned with the level of effort and commitment that is expected of us – and that’s just to keep our jobs, let alone advance up the corporate ladder. We crave enlightenment and spiritual insight in a post-9/11 and post-Enron world, yet we are quick to discard these cravings when we are worried about making mortgage payments on a timely basis. I would submit to you that troubled times are when we must embrace our core values and quest for authenticity and wisdom, not abandon it.
When you are facing less (or no) vacation time, this is not the circumstance to start hating your work even more, it is a time to embrace the teachings of the Zen Master who loves his vocation so much that he is no longer able to distinguish between his work and his play. Don’t get me wrong, if you are not getting this level of fulfillment from your current job, then it is a good time to consider change, but taking yourself completely off the highway of life is not on option. Recalibrate any lofty financial goals in exchange for meaningful work that you can embrace each day with passion and I promise you that the financial rewards will soon follow.
Here are four (4) ways to cope with this stress and chart a new course during these volatile times:
· Redefine your destination – A healthy impatience for reaching your goals in life is a good thing, but not in the middle of a bad traffic jam. Our economy right now is much like a Friday afternoon rush hour before a holiday weekend – everyone is anxious to get to the same place, but most of us are getting nowhere fast and others are moving backwards. We live in an age of speed in our communications and interconnectivity, but must embrace patience in our quest for financial independence when there is so much rough road ahead. Things will rebound and you will reach your destination, but it may not happen as quickly as you would have preferred! Relax – enjoy the ride. Even the best built highway has its speed bumps and toll booths and construction/repair delays.
· Redefine your dashboard. We manage what we measure, both in our lives and our businesses. If we let ourselves be defined these days by our home values or our 401(k) accounts, we will be severely disappointed. This is a time to install some new meters and gauges on your dashboard for navigating the road of life. Have a gauge which measures the quality of your contribution to society and your community. Craft a new warning light which alerts you to a drop in integrity or spiritual energy.
· Redefine your expectations – One of the road rules in the book is entitled “Accidents Can Happen To The Best Drivers.” For many of us, this economic slowdown is the first and most significant that we have seen in our lifetimes. There will be accidents, detours, U-turns and a lack of forward progress during these periods and it can and will be frustrating. But these are a natural part of the cycle in the “tide of affairs of men” as Shakespeare would say. You can either engage the flow or try to fight it, but those who embrace it will win the battle as well as the war.
· Redefine yourself. In the Woody Allen film, Zelig, the main character redefines himself based on his current surroundings to the point of literally magically changing his physical character and personality – that’s a bit extreme. There is a difference between abandoning your core values that define you as a person (which I recommend that you never do) vs. redefining how you apply those values and skill sets to current circumstances. You are the author of your own life story and you have the power to reposition your personal brand as may be necessary to adapt to economic or life cycles. You must give yourself permission and empower yourself to unlock the skill sets that you possess and use your gifts and talents to put food on the table. A talented transactional lawyer may be focused on M&A in booming times and troubled company restructuring in difficult times. A talented forensic accountant may be focused on IPO’s in good times and shareholder litigation in bad times. Use your gifts and don’t build false walls around your options.
The irony of this economy is the inconsistency in which we are all affected by it. Many of us are actually thriving as we readjust and redefine ourselves and our companies and seize opportunities that have been revealed by economic weakness. Some entrepreneurs have adjusted their business models to successfully compete and others have created new business formats to help people cope. For $25 dollars, Sarah’s Smash Shack in Seattle, www.smashshack.com will give you a private room to smash plates to vent your frustration. In what ways can you mimic Sarah’s creativity and approach?
Some of us are experiencing roughness and potholes, yet we are travelling on the same crowded highway – it may just depend on which lane you are in and how fast we are trying to reach our destination. Others have been willing to get off the crowded highway and explore the backroads is one of my favorite rules in the book. Many great books including Walden Pond by Thoreau http://www.waldenpondbooks.com and On the Road by Kerouac http://www.amazon.com/Road-Original-Scroll-Jack-Kerouac/dp/B001KOTU7Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229366361&sr=1-1 have taught us that it is on the back roads in the life that we find our greatest sources of inspiration, innovation and creativity, yet many of us are not willing to take that detour and wind up just sitting in traffic, beeping our horns and uttering expletives at each other, not a very productive use of our time.
For more insights on being an enlightened driver on the road of life, take a look at http://bethetruck.com. I would also strongly encourage you to share with me your own driving war stories, parables and metaphors, advice particularly those that have influenced your driving style or your intended destination.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew J. Sherman is a Partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, with over 400 attorneys nationwide. Mr. Sherman is a recognized international authority on the legal and strategic issues affecting small and growing companies. Mr. Sherman is an Adjunct Professor in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University where he has taught courses on business growth, capital formation and entrepreneurship for over twenty (20) years. Mr. Sherman is the author of seventeen (17) books on the legal and strategic aspects of business growth and capital formation. His most recently published books include the recent three-part Kaplan business growth series, Grow Fast Grow Right (November 2006), as well as Build Fast Build Right and Start Fast Start Right, published by Kaplan in the Spring of 2007. His eighteenth (18th) book, Road Rules Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. (http://www.bethetruck.com) is an inspirational book which was published in the Fall of 2008. Mr. Sherman can be reached at 202-420-5000 or e-mail ShermanA@dicksteinshapiro.com.