We're all learning how to engage with each other in venues and settings we've never imagined.
I, for one, think it's pretty great. Still, it takes some adjustment, awareness, and a willingness to take decisive action….even when we don't want to.
In Part One of this Recession Playbook, I dropped loads of big brain questions, that hopefully, you've had time to ponder.
There were three points in particular that resonated with our community:
Remember who you are - If you've been stripped of your life's trappings pre-pandemic, have you discovered your core, the real you?
This is your perfect time to… No, I'm not asking if you learned a new language or finished the second draft of your novel. I mean, that would be terrific, but did you walk the dog more? Regroup and recollect? Find gratitude in the small things? Stop living by default and begin to live by decisive action?
Be the silver lining - Are you becoming more you than you ever thought possible? Are you a better listener? Are you living in the positive? Are you noticing the effect that has on everyone around you?
Reflect for a moment on what you were like six months ago and how well you have adjusted. I bet you'll see some pretty remarkable changes in yourself and your outlook. I'm sure other people are noticing as well. It's always easier for others to see the growth in us.
So let's keep going, OK?
Part II -- 8 Simple Strategies For Complicated People in Novel Times
1. Capture your personal stories.
You might not realize it, but you already have incredible stories. Dig deep. Find those now.
For example, in my advertising career, my role was to help "underdog" brands succeed without a huge marketing budget. A startup launching? No problem. A scrappy brand competing with an 800-pound gorilla? Not an issue. I told stories about the MINI Cooper team competing and winning against the VW Beetle, with a fraction of the budget.
Think back on your career and your life: the high points and the learning points. Make a list of those forgotten nuggets, those quirky and much-needed epiphanies from your past.
2. Deepen your emotional understanding.
We each respond differently in chaos. Especially now. How is your business community reacting right now? Absorb what people are saying, thinking, and feeling.
I heard Tom Hanks being interviewed on the Ellen DeGeneres show (pre-COVID). He said something about an important lesson he learned from researching Fred Rogers. It has stayed with me since.
"He taught me that listening is a million times more important than talking," said Hanks. "There is an acronym that I've now started using in my own life — W-A-I-T, wait — which stands for 'why am I talking?' You should just sit and start listening to everybody that comes across your way, and you'll be amazed at what you learn."
3. Develop subtle distinctions in your understanding of "stress."
When my son was very young, he had particular perceptions of colors. He'd look at flowers and show me which were "lavender" and "violet." (Not even sure I could tell the difference.)
Similarly, "nervousness" is a little different than "worry." You can have both or one.
So when I say "distinctions," that's what I mean—a very fine-tuned perception between subtle differences.
How are people in your life experiencing — and responding to— stress? Think of a client. Which best describes the stress they might be feeling?
- Tense anxiety
- Fearful depression
- Paralyzed overwhelm
- Energized focus
Is it physical or mental?
Can you see it on their face?
It's useful (and empathetic) to have distinctions in how people respond to stress in your life.
Again, think of a client. Are they anxiously pacing? Or are they energized by the prospect of pivoting?
Remember this. Retain this. Our current period won't go on forever, so write down what you observe and realize. It will provide you with a lifetime of material to draw upon.
4. Offer something surprising, based on your Advantages.
Maximize every ounce of opportunity to develop creative solutions for clients that don't rely on the currency of money or time.
One advantage I offered clients in the past was an enormous volume of ideas in a short time. Instead of pricing my business on THE idea, I guaranteed 100 ideas in 2 days.
It was a tangible way to prove the worth of my ideas… or I did a fast turnaround on delivery. I couldn't offer clients the hand-holding or on-site consulting service that others could (since I had young kids at home at the time… and have dormant Alert/Trust). But I could dig deeply into my branding background and wildly over-deliver in idea presentation.
So, that was the card I played. I made sure that my proposals emphasized the lasting value of ideas in my presentations -- rather than their execution.
5. Invest in long-term projects.
Monetize any downtime you have right now.
My book Radical Careering was published in 2005 as a direct result of 9/11.
The original edition of Fascinate was published in 2010, while the country was still in the 2008 recession's depths. This so-called "disadvantage" gave me the liberty to create something crazy… a personal branding test you might have heard of. 😊
6. Absorb even the most challenging lessons during this time.
Take time to think through how you've solved problems in the past. Right now, you're learning new lessons — even if you don't know it yet. Take time to fully experience what's going on.
For instance, after the 2008 recession, I was an advertising consultant for Fortune 500 brands. The first line item they chopped from their budgets? Advertising. I didn't see that one coming, because my head was stuck in the sand. The lesson I learned is to proactively reach out to clients and take action.
7. Grow into a better parent and family member.
When my first son was born in 2001, I was at the height of my career. I felt confident, perhaps even a little invincible. Yet that year, I gained a sense of humility and gratitude in becoming a parent. Having a child connected me to the world in a new way, and I became a more grounded, empathetic person. (Oh and by the way, my son--who is now 19 years old!-- is teaching me Dungeons & Dragons this weekend.)
8. Be vulnerable.
Be present to what it feels like to feel discouraged. Are you floundering? Nervous? Relieved to not be in the office? Whatever your response, it's understandable.
In any case, take note of your emotions.
Instead of deflecting, saturate yourself in this phase. Remember, this struggle allows you to understand your clients, your family, and even yourself in the future. Your emotions are human and universal.
I'm appreciating more and more that life is simply a process with a lot of pauses. When I identify the pauses and use them wisely, I can make some real headway on the process.