8 Steps to Unemployment Bliss

If you have been laid off, or are now in fear of being laid off, I wish you nothing but bliss. I honestly hope that you find yourself presented with a remarkable opportunity to change how you see the world.

Whether you’re employed by a large corporation or a struggling start-up or if you are self-employed, there’s a decent chance that you won’t be doing what you do forever. I’ve been through all sorts of shakeups over my 20 + years of the Corporate American experience. I survived them all. You will too. Here’s how:

  1. Focus on all the other things in your life besides this one bad moment that offer you value (there are more than you think: open your eyes and view the your world like a newborn).
  2. Intend to change what matters most about your life. This is your opportunity. There’s no rush, but intention is the key to accomplishment.
  3. Thank whoever delivers you the news of your layoff. Forgive them and tell them you know it hurts them too. Tell your friends, your neighbors, your relatives and whoever you feel comfortable telling. Express how you feel. You’d be surprised how supporting people can be. Your network begins with your voice.
  4. Work on your resume or brand or career goals, but spend more time playing. Devoting one hour of focused networking leaves the rest of the day to do remarkably meaningful things. Remember: being so serious at work still ended in ruin. Time to loosen up to the larger world around you.
  5. Live in ways that you couldn’t while you were employed. What would you like to learn? Who do you want to meet at Starbucks? What’s the park like at 2pm on a weekday? Who’s hurting who could use your presence?
  6. Honestly assess what you love to do. What would you do for free? (What would you PAY to do?) If you put your effort into what has meaning, whatever money you make will support what matters. Put the effort and time for that convergence to take place.
  7. Open yourself up to the most mundane, ordinary things that happen. What simple things did you miss while you were busy with that cog job? How does the skin around your wrist feel? What’s your breathing feel like, from your nostrils down your throat deep into your lungs? It’s precious, isn’t it?
  8. Focus on the pain of the loss you sustained whenever it arises in your memory. Then gently re-focus on all the other remarkable parts of your life which the rat race distracted you from noticing. Focus on what matters.

Yes, this is a modified Noble Eightfold Path. That path is all about re-conditioning how you see the world. We all are programmed to think in certain ways: if you don’t have a job then you’re whole life is doomed. Nonsense! We are more than one little box.

A layoff isn’t a death sentence. Yes, there are bills to pay. It hurts. Growing hurts too. It’s never too late to grow into something larger than your past.

When in doubt or in depression: value your integrity, not your things. You can’t be laid off from your integrity. Awareness of your integrity is bliss. Bliss is your birthright.

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Depression 2.0: Let’s Cut Teacher Salaries, Please!

This post will start at one place and end at another. I hope you read on to see where it goes.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Today I got a memo from the corporate offices of my son’s school. The management had decided to cut salaries across the board, including the teachers’. Of course, I was angered by this course of action (I even Tweeted it in hopes of contacting a journalist). Teachers, along with parents, are on the front line of ensuring the healthy development of our country’s future. The dark expectations of our economy’s future has hit me personally. It hurts: not for me, but for everybody else.

In my concern, I contacted one of the members of the senior management team. I expressed my appreciation for the corporation’s perspective. Honestly, I understand where they’re coming from. Her response was, surprisingly well-articulated, her voice almost on the verge of teary breakup.

Long story short: we came to an understanding. Enrollment is down across the country and the corporation has little elbow room. Cutting costs and hunkering down through he financial s**tstorm is the standard (and understandable) strategy for preparing for the cycle of doom and gloom.

Still, I think we need a major re-think of how we do business in America. Over the course of the 20th Century a certain model for how we conduct business evolved. Most of that evolutionary process was necessary: academia merged with science which merged with business which merged with mass communication. A whole complex evolved and by the end of the century we pretty much figured a lot of it out.

The basic philosophy of our economy, from the kitchen to the boardroom was this: spend money during a boom and save it during a bust.

That’s wrong. It’s intuitive, but wrong.

What if we did it the other way around? Save (invest) money during a boom and spend it during a bust? Wouldn’t we all be wealthier?

We have lost our discipline. We have followed the wrong gods: consumerism, instant gratification, government. We are going to miss our star, unless we get it right.

For too long, we have aided and abetted a system governed by buy-now-pay-latter. This mentality has infiltrated every single one of our instituions.

And now, my child (even if only in a small way) will be affected by the cost of this childish mentality which my country has accepted as standard business.

So, since I can’t control most of the economy or other peoples’ expectations about our future economy (a nominal value is pure perspective), here’s my response to the paycuts which my son’s teachers will be burdened with (it’s more results-oriented than journalism):

  • Go even further in expressing authentic appreciation for what the teachers do
  • Hold management on the line to do the little things that go a long way for teachers
  • Talk to the teachers personally to express my sadness at what’s happened
  • Pay even closer attention to how my son is doing in school
  • Infect my fellow Americans with (realistic) optimism every chance I get

My anger wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am this evening. In spite of what’s happening, I realize that this is a time for keeping a creative perspective on how we see things. The point here, is that regardless of how hard times might be (or appear to be), there are always ways to change your perspective and create new pathways.

I wish our expectations of the economy were brighter. I wish our economic realites were brighter.

My parents came to this country fifty-seven years ago after spending six years in a Displaced Person’s camp after surviving six years of psychopathic war and oppression and persecution. They were born into, and lived through, Depression 1.0. They loved this country before they even stepped onto its soil.

When my father died over a decade ago, he died believing in America’s status as the last refuge for wrecked hopes. He also believed that Americans would one day find themselves facing the accumulation of their mistakes. He believed that somehow American ingenuity would save the day, but he also understood that nothing lasts forever.

Now that I am father to my parents’ gransdson, I realize just why my parents fell in love with our country, why they came here: America was a model, a hope, a Great Teacher. Sadly: now the Teacher is being taught a painful lesson.

Let’s never again get to the point where cutting teachers’ salaries is a tactic to survive a downturn. Never again.

If you’re reading this post and got this far: please go do something remarkable for the unsung heroes of our dying country. Thank the teachers that you know: the ones who have degrees and work in schools. Also thank the other great teachers in your life: adversities. They’re great teachers too.

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