# 10 - Effects of Downturn
this issue, you will find:
A discussion of the effects of a downturn and what we can do to
ride out the storm
A summary of the book Taking Charge When You're Not in Control:
A Practical Approach to Getting What You Want Out of Life by Patricia
Pointers to additional information on this topic
HITTING THE WALL AT 100 mph: WHAT TO DO TO KEEP YOUR HEAD DURING
you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust when all men doubt you,
But 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. Companies 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. These 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 evangelism.
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
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 "must read."
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
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
(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.
probably read one of Bill Bridges' other now classic books on
transitions. This is his newest one.
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
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 of effects of contagion.