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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for January 2009

62,000 jobs cut today and somehow I’m telling you to remain upbeat?

18I see those headlines — the ones about tens of thousands of Americans losing their jobs, about our sinking productivity, and (groan) the CITI execs planning to spend $50 MILLION from our bailout money on a nice new jet for themselves. The news makes me sick to my stomach.

download bobby movie I’m trying not to read it, but there it is — everywhere. So much news, and all of it is bad. It is so easy to go negative in this climate, but try to keep your head in check. Negativity will only hurt you. It will program to expect bad things, and then bad things will happen. It will zap you of all hope and enterprise. If you allow yourself to be victimized, you will be a victim. It is your choice.

As bad as things are — and believe me, I know they are bad — we still have the opportunity to spend our days in ways that fill our lives with good things. We can either wallow in the bad or pick ourselves up and use the moment to enjoy something good. Fortunately, there is a lot of good out there. Good people. Good nature. Good food. Good times. Make your own list. There is a cliche that the best things in life are free, and it is true. I can’t imagine anything meaning more than the love I get from my family and loved ones, or my pets. I can’t imagine enjoying anything more than a gorgeous sunny day. 

If you feel like you are losing hope, remember to count your blessings and see how fortunate you really are. You aren’t out there on the streets eating out of garbage cans, and you know that won’t happen.

Things will work out. They always do. And as you wait for it to happen, look around and see what you still have. Yes, 62,000 people lost their jobs today and I know every single one of them  is frantic. But, the world has not ended. We are strong enough to get through this economic chaos, as long as we don’t freak ourselves out and go dark. Find the joy in the moment, come up with a plan and remain positive.

Who’s winning — despite the economy

18This was a heavy travel week for me, and I am setting aside my travel fatigue to take a minute to tell you about some of the great lessons I learned on the road this week.

First, I think a lot of us have settled in and started to roll with the bumpy ride we are getting from the economy. I had three events this week and, after each speech, I was heartened to hear how resourceful people have become, whether it is in an effort to propel their company or keep their families afloat after a hardship. I think we are all learning that we have to demonstrate a little courage and resiliance, and we must find ways to contribute more than we ever have.

Second, we are doing a better job of leaning on each other and asking for help. I met women and men who ordinarily like to project power and success, but now are finding new power by telling the people in their networks that they are in trouble and need help. It’s a rough year for everybody. You don’t have to be embarrassed if it’s rough for you.

Third, life goes on.  I spoke in Orlando yesterday and my best friend and I stopped by her brother’s house afterwards. In the last two years, he married and adopted two little girls. Before we could eat dinner, we had to put the girls to bed. Since it is customary for the 2-year-old to dance before crashing for the night, her dad turned on his Ipod and all of us danced together. We danced silly and fast and it was more fun than I have had in so long. I looked at these way-cool parents and thought, “They have filled this house with joy.” No matter what happens outside your home, you have the power to fill it with life. You can’t buy joy. You create it.

So, it was a great week. I love this work.

Your true “potential.”

Not long ago, one of my clients showed me her written performance evaluation and pointed to the line her manager had written: “You aren’t living up to your potential. By now, you should have…” Following was a list of all the things my client could have done if she had applied herself in the same way her obsessive-compulsive, workaholic manager had done.

She launched into a tirade.

“Who the hell is she to decide what my potential is or is not? I don’t want to be like her. She is the most unhappy person I know.”

I agreed with my client. I have always hated the word “potential,” because it is usually lobbed by one person judging the progress of another against standards of achievement that the judger values. To some extent, it is the job of a good teacher or manager to assess potential and help his or her people achieve it. But, human potential is far more complicated than any set of quantifiable tasks, levels or accomplishments can allow. Human potential takes into account things like purpose, mission and individual happiness. My client was doing well in her position as a mid-level manager, but hadn’t pushed herself into the higher echelons of management because she wanted time for her family and herself.

Is that such a crime? Is it so wrong to make decisions about what you want in life based on the kind of life you want? No! Is a mistake to make a conscious decision to live your own way, rather than the way others would live for you? No! Is it a crime to set your own standards, based on the big picture priorities that matter to you? Absolutely not.

Too many of us live small because we lack the courage to dream big and go for broke. That said, there is nothing wrong with making a conscious decision to live a meaningful life that does not tap what others see as your full career potential — if that track is not important to you. You should live the life you want to live.

 We all get on treadmills where we work hard and try to meet the expectations of others. Some people sacrifice their souls to keep moving on those treadmills, even though they are not fulfilled or happy with what they are doing. They seek the paycheck, recognition and security that comes from doing what they are told to do – even if it offers them no meaning. It’s a sad decision that many of those life travelers don’t even realize that they are making. They just move along, as expected. As you grow, you will hopefully learn to choose your own treadmills and spend your time doing work in a way that will bring joy to your life. That means you don’t have to apologize for not fast-tracking your career if that kind of approach doesn’t work for your heart or soul.

Be mindful of your priorities and honor your time on this earth in a way that makes you happy. That’s all that matters. Work is an opportunity to achieve, but it doesn’t have to define you as a human being. That’s your real job. To live on your own terms.

Knowing when to quit

Life is complicated, and what works for you might not work for me. When you find yourself at one of those life test points and feel your commitment to your goal starting to wane, you have to honor yourself. If you decide to persevere, do it because it is best for you. The same rule applies if you decide to quit. Don’t give too much power away, worrying about what people will think if you quit, or ultimately “fail.” These tests are all about what you learn in the process, not what you gain in the end.

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People use their power in different ways. I don’t judge those who quit, but I do applaud those who quit a challenge because it is the right option, not the easy option. Use the moment to build strength and character, not sacrifice it.

There are occasions where our greatest growth comes from making the hard decision to cut losses and move on. Let’s say you launch a business and quickly start losing money. Time passes and you lose more money. It continues like that until you realize the hemorrhage won’t stop until you either shut down or file bankruptcy. You prove nothing by sticking with an obvious loser. The boldest option is quitting before you are completely sucked under. But, get the information you need to know that your decision is made from the power of information and insight, not fear.

Turn off the autopilot!

I have a close friend who began her second career as a realtor when she was in her mid-40s. She dove in, contacting all of her friends and asking all of us to pass her name on to all of our friends. She went through intensive training on cold-calling, then spent hours every day on the phone making those excruciating calls to strangers. She had to make a success of herself, and she did. Within two years, she was one of the nation’s leading agents for her company.      

At that point, things got very easy. People came to her, she didn’t have to go to them. The market heated up, then became red hot and her business expanded so quickly she could barely keep up with it. I could never reach her directly – she was that busy.

And then? Everything stopped. People stopped buying homes, she stopped making money and she confided a great sense of helplessness that made her feel defeated. She’d started living off of her savings and lamented having to start a new career at age 55.

“Why are you giving in so quickly?” I asked.

“Real estate is dead.”       

“Dead?”

“Dead.”

“You mean, dead as in nobody is buying homes?”

“Nobody is buying homes.”

“Nobody? Not one home has sold in the last month?”

“Well, a few here and there.”

“Because I look at the paper and they still have a hundreds of real estate transactions listed here every week.”

“Your point?”

Somebody is buying those homes and somebody is selling them.”

“I haven’t sold anything in three months. I’m not getting any clients.”      

“What have you done to attract them?”

“Postcards and the usual.” 

“Cold calls?” I asked.        

She grimaced.

“I stopped doing those years ago. They don’t work very well.”

“But, they worked well enough for you to start your business. Right?”

“Well…”

“When is the last time you reached out to your network and said you needed referrals and asked for help?”

“Everybody knows I am here now. I don’t need to…”

“Are you making any money?”

“No.”

“Then, you need to. You need to reconnect with your network, get the buy-in, ask everyone to start referring you to other people who will refer you to other people and then, you get the joy of making some cold-calls.”

“That’s for beginners. I am beyond that.”

“It’s for beginners who want to build their business. Don’t be so impressed with yourself that you think you are too good to do the things that made you successful in the first place.”

She grumbled a bit, but apparently, my coaching advice worked. We talked several weeks later and she’d gotten a few clients who were ready to buy. One of her friends even referred a transferring executive who called her one morning, rode around with her that one day, then bought a $600,000 house.

“I guess I’d gotten smug and forgotten my roots,” she admitted.

We all do that. We work so hard to make our name, then once we’ve got it, we turn our noses down at the hard techniques that helped us succeed in the first place.

Good news for Scott.

I remember my friend Marilyn urging her husband Scott to chill out for a minute and go play golf. He’d just been laid off and was so intense about his job hunt that she worried his health would suffer.

His determination paid off with a job near Dallas that will pay him more money in an area where the cost of living is 35 percent less. Basically, he got laid off then traded up. Not only that, he had his choice of three jobs across the country.

Good for him, bad for me. I’ll miss Marilyn more than I can say. But, I am just so happy to have heard some good news when I keep hearing about more and more layoffs.

I know people who aren’t out there aggressively pounding the pavement because they think there isn’t anything out there. There ARE jobs out there. They are just harder to get. Make it your mission. Do what Scott did. Make it your job to find your new job.

It’s a beautiful day

 

Here is the bad news I have gotten in the last three weeks: Two of my friends have died — one was 48 and one was 63. Two friends lost their mothers. One friend (whose husband just died of cancer a year ago) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and was told she needed more surgery because they didn’t get it all. One friend is in such despair that I am worried she will harm herself. Another continues to linger in a nursing home, unable to care for himself at all. My cousin has prostate cancer and my uncle was almost killed in a wreck when his car slid out on black ice.

I’m not even 50 yet, and I fear this kind of bad news is going to pile up even higher as I get older.

So, this is what I think: I’d better party now. I’d better get on my bike, ride out the the beach, drink in some sunlight and laugh really hard. I’d better call up my friends and get together this week. And next week. And the one after. I’d better enjoy every minute I have with my mother (who is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s) and my incredible father. I’d better get up early to have more time in my day and watch every sunset to remember its glory. I’d better pray. And count my blessings. I’d better live every single magnificent moment that I have.

For those of you who find yourself worrying about money and the tough times facing our nation, just look at that list of difficulties that my friends are experiencing. I feel pretty confident you wouldn’t want to change places with any of them, so their suffering really gives us perspective on what matters. It is life. It is health. It is one another.

These may be tough times, but it really is a beautiful day. Let’s live it large.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.

Enjoying the Downturn

In 2000, I was a starving author. Well, not quite starving. But, I had no job, no publisher, and no clear path ahead of me. I knew I needed to save every penny.

But, I wanted a kayak and it cost $800. I knew better. But, I wanted to go kayaking. Dipping into my dwindling savings was risky and foolish. I remember thinking, “Yeah, but you are never going to have this much time off to enjoy that kayak.” So, I spent the money and had a great time kayaking. It was one of the best investments I ever made.

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I know many of you are holding on tight to every single penny, and that is probably wise. But, the tighter you cling to those last pennies, the harder it is experience life in the moment. I am NOT telling you to go out and blow whatever money you have left, but I am telling you that you should not sacrifice this year or any other year to being miserable. Find ways to live and enjoy yourself. If work has slowed down, do everything you can to generate more business — but also get out there and enjoy your life.

Last month, I learned that two of my friends had died. One was 48 and the other was 63. It is a reminder that we aren’t here on this earth forever. We should enjoy all that we have right now. Not later. We don’t know what is coming.

Yes, I bought that kayak when I should have been saving every cent, but I had dozens of great adventures that year. And, it is a good thing I did. Things turned around and I didn’t have as much time to play as I did when things were rough.

Enjoy yourself. Nature is free. Live large.

About that Linda J. Brown

This morning, I went for a walk on the waterfront trail near my home. It was an unusual Florida morning because the sky was dark and the wind was mighty. I am so sad that my sidekick, the indomitable, 71-year-old Linda Brown, was not with me to enjoy it.

Actually, she is in Medellin, Colombia. By herself. Traveling on her Social Security check. She does things like this. Last time, she strapped on a backpack and took off for a full year. This time, it is only five months, but that’s way too long for me.

She’s such a great soulmate. We met when I rode my bicycle in front of her house as I raced to catch up with some friends who were meeting me ten miles up the road. I told her I loved her house and we talked for a minute and, well, my life changed. She found me the realtor who found me my home that brought me to my beloved Clearwater. She is the only person I have ever known who will consistently say yes when I call at the last minute to say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” or, “You up for a trip to the beach?” or, “Wanna grab a bite?”  Her life is an adventure and I am so lucky she has included me in it.

She is fearless and ageless. My hero. This is the last person who acts seventysomething and the first person to boldly do what others wouldn’t dare. I mean, seriously. Would you have the guts to go to Medillin, Colombia by yourself? Me either. She’s loving the youth hostel and the food and the whole trip.

I check her blog constantly for an update on what she is up to. I hope you’ll check it out, too. You’ll come to love her — just like I do. Please visit www.heyboomers.com .

And, if you feel like going for a last-minute walk or something, let me know. I have a lot of time on my hands now that Linda’s globetrotting again.

Bad blogger!

Okay, I know I have neglected this blog. My excuse is not that I was on virtually non-stop travel in December, first for speaking and then for a cruise. It is not that I was lazy over the holidays. It is that I have been immersed in writing a book on winning in a losing economy. I was writing — but not for this page.

I’ve heard from hundreds of you over the holidays, and that has been heartening. Thanks so much for all of your good wishes.  

I know that many of you are very, very discouraged over the economy. Hang in there. Things have to turn around. In the meantime, make up your mind that you are not going to bottom out because your attitude bottoms out. It is awfully easy to get caught up in the negativity. Instead, have great confidence that things will ultimately work out.

I have a close friend who showed up for work yesterday, the first day of work in 2009. She got laid off. This is devastating because she is the sole support for her disabled husband and two children. She spent yesterday and today really getting out there and circulating her resume. She’ll be at it again, tomorrow. I hope she will keep this up without getting discouraged because, if she does, she will find something.

So many people have given in to the negativity. They invest some effort to finding a job, but they convince themselves that there isn’t anything, so they wind up finding nothing. Look, there is no denying the shrinking workforce and terrible economic climate that exists today. That is reality. It is truth. But there is more to it than that.

Some people are finding work. Some people are finding opportunity. Make up your mind to be one of them. That decision makes such a huge difference. Stay positive. You’ll get through this.