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Good Things About the Recession

Good Things About the Recession

good-things-about-the-recession

Here in the Spring of 2009, it’s easy to say that the financial crisis has decimated the global economy:

*Unemployment in the U.S. (and many other countries) is at a 25-year high

*An average of 40% of wealth has been lost by investors around the world

*Consumer spending is down almost everywhere

*Federal Interest rates are close to 0%

The gloom-and-doom is getting serious, people. Are you all ready to go down in the storm shelter and start putting gold under the mattress? Hopefully not, because we have something important to talk about today.

I’m not trying to make light of hardship in any way. I’ve previously explained that the recession sucks. All of us have been affected one way or another. If I had the choice, I’d prefer to have 15% gains for no work every year. Bring back the bubble!

The problem is, that’s not how it’s working at the moment. We’re running into the reality that the world as we know it has changed, and like it or not, we must change with it. That’s why I wanted to ask the question:

What’s the contrarian perspective on the recession? What should we be excited about during this time?

As best as I can, I’ve tried to capture it here. See, I want to get away from the gloom-and-doom perspective of the news. I honestly think there are a number of really good things about this situation we are in.

(I also think, however, that the choices we make now are critical to how well we will each come out of the recession – but stick with me, we’ll come to that.)

First, let’s look at the obvious. Here are a few basic, good things about the recession:

Inefficient businesses will cease to operate. When consumer spending tightens up, customer service that sucks doesn’t stay around very long. A store in my new neighborhood just put up signs that they are going out of business after 28 years. Am I sad? Not really – the first time I dropped in, I found it overpriced, rudely staffed, and with nothing compelling to sell. I left thinking, “How have they been in business for 28 years?” Well, I don’t know exactly… but I know they won’t be there next month.

Good businesses will thrive. On the other hand, a tough economic climate forces businesses to bootstrap and get serious about value. Everything comes down to perceived value, and companies know they have to compete better. For example, I called Verizon the other day to ask about a cheaper rate – and it took about 30 seconds for the rep to offer me $40 off my monthly bill without any loss of service. I had been thinking about going to a prepaid service, but not after that offer.

Young people, and presumably investors of all ages, now know that investing in the stock market involves risk. Sometimes the stock market goes up, but sometimes it crashes dramatically. We’ve all known about risk for years, but for my most of my generation’s lifetime (I’m 30, so this certainly includes everyone younger than me too), we’ve been told over and over that the stock market is the safest long-term investment. Is it still? Perhaps, but it’s good to know that the risk is very real.

Those things are true, and I’m sure there are other observations… but I think the best thing about the recession goes much deeper than the initial effects.

As I see it, the best thing about the global economy falling apart is that it forces us to take a look about some core issues we often ignore.

The core issues are values and deeply-held beliefs about security. This is going to be challenging for some people, I know, but just like the story of a professor who is willing to fight the system to his own demise, I also know that many of you will appreciate it.

On a basic level, we may choose to rethink what is important to us. When I asked about this last week on Twitter, several people said they are spending more time with their family and friends. Others mentioned a return to the simplicity movement or just “living well with less.”

On a deeper level, the change goes further as we are forced to re-evaluate some of our most ingrained beliefs. This is probably the most challenging thing to let go of, because when a belief is deeply-held, it usually means it has been internalized through repetition and by numerous authority figures.

Some of the beliefs that are being openly challenged during this difficult time include:

We can have everything we want at the same time. Don’t get me wrong — I believe we can usually do anything or have anything we want… I just don’t think we can have it all at the same time. Lifestyle design is all about making deliberate choices, and many of those choices involve forfeiting something to receive something else in return.

All we have to do is save regularly for 40 years and then we can retire. This may still work for some people, but not others. The people who invested heavily in financial stocks or with Bernie Madoff have seen their savings obliterated. Sure, we can blame them for making poor choices, but the choices were hardly unconventional. The stock market worked for a long time. You put money in and took out more money later. Even portfolios that were “properly” diversified have seen tremendous losses recently.

(Side note: I’ve always been troubled by this particular belief, even when it seemed to be true. My objection is “It that the best we can do? Spend the most productive years of our lives toiling away in hopes that we can have fun in the final years?” Now that this is no longer a guaranteed safety plan, I think even less of it.)

Taking on debt is normal and healthy. Until recently, taking on a large amount of debt was socially acceptable, and sometimes even fashionable. When I would talk about how debt is a chain around our necks that drags us to the bottom of the ocean, the room would get quiet and I learned to keep my opinion to myself. Now, I don’t need to say it, because for the most part, the belief that debt is unhealthy is now fairly conventional.

Traditional employment is safe. Working for the man may remain conventional, but you can longer assuredly say that it is safe. Again, I know that some people will be uncomfortable with this, but I’m trying to help. I’m not saying everyone should go out and quit their jobs (although it’s not a bad idea for some). I think there is at least as much risk involved with working for someone else as there is in working for yourself. The way things are now, I don’t see how anyone could continue to claim a correlation between employment and security. This is why it is even more important than ever to create our own security and independence.

Someone (else) will always get us out of this. Much of the U.S. population, and by extension much of the world in general, is seemingly waiting in hopes that someone, somewhere will solve the problem and take care of us. This is wrong. No matter whose fault this situation is, we have to get out of it ourselves… which brings us to the most important part of today’s conversation.

The Response

When presented with a major challenge to our worldview, how should we respond? Regardless of our own individual situations, there are essentially two possible responses. You can clearly see the first, most common response on display around the world right now. The second, however, is the only one that will help us get through this intact.

Response #1: Complain About Other People

If you want to be mad at someone, you have plenty of targets. Here are a few that have been coming up recently:

  • Those damn subprime lenders
  • Those people who bought houses they couldn’t afford
  • Bernie Madoff
  • Alan Greenspan
  • The Bush Administration (+ Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper, etc.)
  • The Democratic bailout
  • CNBC, James Cramer, et al
  • The credit card companies

Complaining about these people or entities is a socially-acceptable choice. You can find a picket line or Facebook group for any of them. Furthermore, none of the complaining is really unjustified. Yes, the executives at AIG are greedy barons who don’t deserve million-dollar bonuses for screwing over their company. But… what does that have to do with you and me?

See, you can pick your own breed of scapegoat, but at the end of the day, the way you feel about any of them will not make your life any better. Complaining does not put the money back in the 401k account or recreate the 4.4 million jobs that have been lost thus far in 2009.

Sorry. But cheer up, because there is some (much) better news in Response #2.

Response #2: Change and Adapt

Spend a day or whatever times it takes to complain about the scapegoat of your choice. Then, get over it. Let it go, and think about the life you really want for yourself. Are the scapegoats part of your ideal life? I’m guessing probably not, so why bring them in?

Instead, acknowledge that the world is different now. Acknowledge that some of the things we’ve believed were not true. The rules have changed. You can still make it out there, and you’ll be better off than you were before.

The primary change required of many of us during this time is to shift where our focus lies. Is it external or internal?

If you chose to focus externally, you think about all of the people who screwed up to get us where we are now. (See the scapegoat list and pick your favorite.) You wonder what will happen next. Will the market recover? Will Obama’s plan work?

If you chose to focus internally, you think about what you can do to create your own independence and you get to work on making it happen. Instead of wondering, you decide what will happen next. What will you do regardless of market conditions? How will you get what you really want?

One of the best things about the recession is the radical opportunity for change and growth. You can use this time to start a very small business. You can discover what you’re really good at and put those skills to work helping others. You can be remarkable in an unremarkable job, and find a reason to show up every morning.

You can completely change the trajectory of your life, and when people ask you later when it happened, you can say, “Well, it happened during the worst economic crisis of my lifetime…”

The process of change is usually a painful one. But fear not: the same kind of pain produces growth and change, if we are willing.

The Wrap-Up

Listen, I know it’s hard out there. I haven’t opened up the champagne here at World Domination HQ. But I also feel strongly that this is a time for dramatic personal growth. Most people are going to complain and wait for someone else to help them. The rest of us will change, adapt, and succeed in the new land of opportunity.

I want you to be one of the ones who changes, adapts, and succeeds. I want you to make it. If you’re in, here’s something to think about:

One year from now, where will you be?

My theory on where you’ll be in a year has nothing to do with AIG, Barack Obama, James Cramer, or the closing price of the S&P 500.

IT HAS TO DO WITH THE CHOICES YOU MAKE BETWEEN NOW AND THEN.

I’m not thrilled about losing 40% of my savings, but if that’s what it takes to grow and change for the better, I consider that a reasonable price to pay for freedom.

What is freedom worth to you? Where will you be one year from now?

###

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Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Thanks to several friends on Twitter for helping out with the brainstorming for this article:

sciencesays scottquitter TriExpert globtrav mkf1031 summerae ericschiller samdaams donpinger s_vonschilling timbursch MartiMeersman andrea_r doubledanger AlanPerlman evandeaubl metroknow darrickjlee Kazimor pederhanson NathanBowers megmoir KevinEBlake victoriashmoria brooksnt nhangen bSquared13

If you haven’t connected with me over there yet, come and hang out! It’s fun.

Recession Image by MotherPie

43 Comments

  • Jay Schryer says:

    Hi Chris,

    I think you’ve made a lot of really good statements here. I, for one, am so sick of hearing about how bad the economy is doing. We all know it’s bad, we have all felt its effects. It’s time we stopped focusing on the past, and started figuring out what we are going to do to fix things going forward.

    I really like how you outlined the old beliefs that we need to change. I especially like that you mentioned a return to simplicity and the necessity of creating our own wealth. As for myself, I have been working on my own “voluntary simplicity” for a while now, and I’m just now trying to figure out how to start creating my own wealth. For me, these are the true keys to freedom, and that is something that I am passionate about.

  • Brandon W says:

    Chris,
    This is a GREAT post. Thoughtful, clear, important. Frankly, I think it should be read by every American. Thank you for this.

  • I heartily agree with what you are saying, the world is still spinning, people are still buying products and services, go out and create your own future instead of relying on flawed companies and their stock to allow you to retire.

  • I just got this in my inbox and had to click through to say this: Thank you for publishing this post. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

    It’s a funny time to be optimistic (my industry is touted as recession-resistant, but is traditionally flooded during economic downturns) but I am, because I honestly believe that if you dream long enough and work hard enough you can outlast a downturn – even succeed in one.

    I think the most crucial idea in your article is that there are things more important than money. Success, lessons learned, living the kind of life you want… It seems like the US was living in a paradoxical haze where money was the most important thing, yet no one was paying any attention to how it worked. No economic trend is indefinite.

  • Vicki A says:

    Hey Chris,

    This is my favorite recession story so far: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101362474

    It’s about two young guys who leave high-powered jobs in NY to return to their home town in Ohio to create a domestic Peace Corps. They energized the town and had it declared the first green-enterprise zone. Given the economic conditions, a community that might not be open to new ideas now embraces change.

    I believe that the recession could have a positive effect on the environment. If nothing else, we are no longer a disposable economy. Thrift shops are thriving. High energy costs have led more people using public transportation or biking to their destinations.

    If we can get past the anger and the blame, and that is a big if, I think we can turn this recession into an opportunity.

  • l.j.t. says:

    Another high point for the world travelers is the fire sales in international travel and accommodations going on now. Take that trip of a lifetime now!

  • Jess says:

    Hey Chris,
    once again I feel enlightened, humbled, and completely excited after a date with your writing.
    I want to mention the last conversation I had on these issues with friends from college. We all agreed that we were kinda thankful for the “world falling apart”, because it brought us face to face with our fears, hopes, and core values. The fragility of the economy, people’s opinions, etc. has opened our eyes and minds. We’ve started taking finances seriously, but family and friends even more so. It’s a love revolution!!

    I’ve also noticed (maybe because I am a college-student) that the college kiddos are much more optimistic about the future than our parents. Of course, we haven’t had much to lose and not too many of us are in debt…but I like to think it’s because our youth makes it easier to adapt to the changing world.
    What do you think? Combination of both?

    Thanks again for being remarkable.

  • Jess says:

    Ooh, and we’re all learning that we’re entitled to NOTHING. If we want a life well lived, we have to actually do something. Creativity is flourishing.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate your feedback and contributions. If anyone has a different perspective to share, that’s fine too.

  • Alex says:

    Great post and great timing. I agree that this recession will give all of us the gift of learning how to deal with uncertainty. I also think that we should not wait until the recession affects us directly to start making plans or take a different course. Almost every day I hear about someone I know being laid off. Most of them have very little savings and the world is coming down crushing on them. Work has been their life. If one waits until he/she gets laid off to think about alternatives or hoping to find a way to survive, it may be too late. A bit of planning in advance may make the curse feel like a blessing. As for me, I’ve always dreamt about an extended RTW trip. I was planning to make the dream a reality in the next couple of years, but with how things are going, fate may give me a boost and I could embark on my RTW voyage any day. With the great travel deals, I think we can all become around the world travelers. We can come back to our home countries (or states) after the recession is over. Bon voyage !

  • Eileen says:

    “I think there is at least as much risk involved with working for someone else as there is in working for yourself. ”

    Oh yes! Whenever people ask me if I’m worried about owning or starting my own business in this economy I always respond with something along these lines…I mean, I might lose some clients here or there, but it would be very unlikely for me to lose all my revenue streams at once. But if I worked for someone else that could happen in an instant with no warning. That’s security?

    People don’t tend to like it when I talk like that. So thanks for this extremely clear and true manifesto.

  • Metroknow says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am generally a fan of news resources like NPR, but lately I feel as though the continuous stream of negativity is actually contributing to a general sense of cynicism – so much so that I’ve stopped listening. While of course, of course, we are still hurting economically, and will likely for some time, it is the exact right step I believe to start looking to what we can make of our situation in this moment rather than lamenting what has taken place.

    “Woe is me” doesn’t really get us anywhere.

    Related to this, I’ve had an idea that I lack the room to pursue, but makes a whole lot of sense (in my own mind, anyway). It seems like with the masses of tech folks who are now unemployed, now is the ideal time for the US tech community to start picking itself up by it’s bootstraps in catching up on our general technical skills. If unemployed tech workers start cross-training each other, it would advance a lot of creative ideas, get new ideas and projects going, and generally stimulate innovation. There are a lot of exceptionally creative, skilled programmers for example who until recently have not had the time to pursue their own ideas. Now is the time to band together and start sharing what we know. Not just online, but in person. Somebody who knows C# inside and out should share that knowledge with other technically-oriented folk. In return, the C# programmer could use lessons in Open Source development. And so forth.

    I know here in Portland there is some of this, but I’d like to see it grow to be a national effort under the idea of helping each other to make the most of this down time by exchanging knowledge.

    It’s an ideal I’m sure, but one I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and had nobody to tell – until now. :) Thanks Chris, as always.

  • Tim Bursch says:

    Chris,
    Thoughtful post. Your point about inefficient businesses stuck with me. I think we have some issues with death in this country. If a business is not working, should it be kept on life support?
    Bad businesses might need to fail. I’m not for people losing their jobs, but let’s be honest about our reality. This is a good time to re-set expectations.

  • Metroknow says:

    I meant to amend the previous comment by saying this certainly isn’t a “US-only” idea – but for all of the talk about how we “as a nation” are struggling, I think the patriotism angle can be a useful motivator. I’m in favor of this globally, but I think it’s smart to start locally and grow from there. Particularly because I think it’s has much more impact when you see people in person, face to face, which is tough to do globally unless you have an unlimited travel ticket. Ahem. :)

  • Nicolai says:

    The economy has changed the way I look at things and how I view my own capabilities. Everything I see, I envision how it could be utilized. Walking around, I see more fliers made by people offering their skills. Months ago such fliers didn’t exist.

    It sucks, but then again, I didn’t really have much wealth before either. People are becoming more independent and (re)gaining a mindset of unconventional living you talk about in your blog.

    Offsetting my flattened savings (that I worked so hard for!) is the excitement of this new life. Reading your post has helped me understand what I’ve been feeling lately. Thanks Chris.

  • Bethan Charlotte Sutherland says:

    Thank you for your positivity. It means a lot to read such positive responces when all you hear is negative these days. I left my job, and all I hear is; What are you going to do? Its a recession, noone is hiring! And I have to plod through and really think. Yes. This job isn’t right for me, and you’ve just confirmed it. Thanks Chris.

  • Sheila says:

    Thank you! I’m currently dealing with being unemployed and trying to figure out if I even really WANT a ‘proper job’. Kinda wish I’d had a little more money in the bank when this hit, but, hey, at least I’m not underwater in debt.

    I worry that way too many people are sitting around waiting for other people to ‘fix things’ so they’ll be back to where they were. We can’t go back to where we were–the only way out is through.

    I recently reread your little manifesto and it served as a nice reminder of where I need to be focusing my energies. Thank you for that.

  • Ron says:

    Great post! It echoes similar things I’ve read elsewhere and heard in my own head.

    Personally, my decision to pursue less-than-conventional career options have less to do with the economy and more to do with the realization that working for the man just doesn’t work for me.

    I don’t see the economy as an obstacle. Even before it went south, I planned to work harder and smarter than my competition. Despite the fact that many are predicting an increase in the number of freelance writers – one of the avenues I’m pursuing – I plan on being better, no matter how many there are.

  • Bill Riddell says:

    Logical and well thought out as always Chris. Very true thoughts.

    I think this is absolutelly a oportunity for everyone. There are so many life lessons to come from these ‘bad times’.

    My grandfather often talks about the great depression in Australia during the 30′s as he was growing up. What he speaks of most is not the hardships but the sense of community that those conditions produced and the ingenuity and creative thinking it fostered. I cant help but think these times will be the same.

    His father was quite a wealthy businessman in their large country town as a butcher, livestock owner and more. He firmly resisted putting off workers, he did not pay himself or his sons – drawing instead on his dwindling savings and selling off assets. Further still he was a patron of the community, everyone helped out where they could and he was in a position to donate money, food, his families time to those not as well off.

    My grandfathers brother became an engenering and mechanic genius thanks to the need to adapt things in the depression. Many things where not available so you had to make do. Petrol was heavily rationed so he would run cars on ethanol and kerosene, modifying and tuning motors to work with new fuels long before bio-fuels were in our vocabulary. Farm machinery was hard to come by so he would create it from hand using whatever scrap material was available.

    As the depression was easing there was a glut of cheap cars on the market but a desperate market for pickups (or utes as we call them). With his brothers help they would buy up to 20 cars at a time for cents on the dollar, modify the bodywork, remove the back seat and sell for a tidy profit the resulting pickup. Over several years he produced hundreds of these vehicles, and became independently wealthy from his father in the process.

  • Panzer says:

    “All we have to do is save regularly for 40 years and then we can retire.”

    I think this myth is what’s wrong with the current model of investing (and hoping) that our assets are worth something when we need to sell them to fund our retirements.

    The more I think and tinker around with blogging for side income, the more I believe that’s the way to go: i.e. to go into a few micro-businesses for more sustainable streams of retirement income.

  • Carl Nelson says:

    Great response to the upside of the recession. While I lost my job right before the major crash in the fall I’ve made this period in my life one of the most creative and productive I’ve ever had.

    The opportunity out there is great for people who really want to work for it.

  • Carolyn says:

    Thank you Chris for putting this so well. I agree, especially: “You can discover what you’re really good at and put those skills to work helping others.” I LOVE the illustration you’ve used to, the people picking up the pieces, and in doing so, the arrows point up! (Who is the illustrator, do you know?)
    I see positive in people observing and questioning their spending habits, not out of fear, but with perspective.

  • darrickjlee says:

    Now is a great time to start your own venture. As long as you start it wisely and have a full business plan with contingencies for emergencies. Piss poor planning makes for piss poor performance. With everybody giving incentives to start your own business and help boost the economy, there are deals to be found and benefits to take advantage of.

    Great Post and a good discussion topic during these trying times.
    I never really saw these times as a recession. Too young to know about the booming economies of the 90s, I just knew the Internet had everything and I could ship anything to my door for a nominal fee. That still hasn’t changed. Sure people spend less and companies go under, but that was a normal event during history class. The only difference is, it happens sooner and all at once instead of spread out over years. People still cook dinner and watch movies and visit parks. People just spend less and learn to be content with the little things. People learn to reuse, recycle, and repair what they have. I was always brought up to save for the curve balls life throws and life seems to throw them often.

    Sometimes we don’t know what we have, until we have lost it.
    And now that we have lost it, we cherish what we have left, and value what we lost. And from that experience, comes good judgment.

  • Rick says:

    Nice post Chris –

    Another angle on this story is the role of the media and government in creating an enviornment of fear. We’ve lost sight of the fact that 90% of people are employed and that 80% of people are current on their mortgage payments.

    Don’t get me wrong – things aren’t as good as the could/should be, but it’s not like we’re being hunted by aliens… yet.

    peace, Rick

  • Jenn says:

    Your piece was exactly what I needed to read! For the past few years I’ve been stuck in a horrible, but well-paying job. I work for people whose values are so far from my own that it sucks the life out of me.

    I’ve been letting it get the better of me by not completing my own projects which could lead to self-employment, satisfaction and more control over my own life.

    As a single mom, I have to be practical and realize I can’t just walk off my job – tempting as that is! But I can certainly put forth some effort into creating my own life and stop letting them in, as you so accurately write.

    So I send you my thanks…

  • Genevieve Hawkins says:

    Great Post. I’ve personally always liked recessions, because they force people to turn inwards, become more spiritual and philosophical, and spend more time with friends and families. I think boom times are actually an illusion designed to get the vast majority of the people to run faster on the work (debt) treadmill in order to break even. For these overworked souls, the time spent away from family is replaced with junk food and crappy toys to buy love. For others, it becomes an effort to borrow money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. Who needs that?
    Me and my boyfriend went on a timeshare presentation in LAs Vegas in late 2005 and couldn’t believe how many people were buying, but they felt wealthy from the artificial values of their houses. Somehow the whole thing felt unsustainable…

  • rowen gower says:

    Great article – its so refreshing to read a kick-back to the seemingly constant negative news stream out there. Working in the travel industry we see many changes and agree that we have to adapt to survive. However we constantly strive to provide better customer service and value for money so are hopefully working in the right direction.

  • Laura says:

    The world as we knew it was shrinking, as an annoyingly popular Disney tune likes to remind us. Now the world is starting to expand again. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like looking at a picture of something, when you zoom out to make the image small, you lose a lot of detail. When you zoom back in again, you notice all sorts of things you couldn’t see in the smaller version.

    I’ve put off some travel for financial reasons, and I’ve discovered in the process that my hometown is really a fascinating place. There’s a state park down the road, the riverfront, the library (I love libraries!)… This has been one my biggest attitude changes — learning the value of my own community.

    There’s still a lot for me to learn.

  • Peter says:

    Chris,

    Excellent post. Reminds me of something I heard years ago. Business conditions are neither good nor bad – - they just are. It is what it is, as they say. What is most important is asking “where do we go from here?”. Finger pointing has become an art form, but it doesn’t pay the bills! And, it is rather boring besides…

  • Kt D says:

    What a refreshing post! I agree with Brandon W, this should be read by every American. While those struggling to pay off their rent or loans surely do not want to hear how great this entire economic situation is, nearly everyone can appreciate the need to reevaluate and get by with less. Maybe, as you point out, this can even have greater effects in the future–ideally, a national readjustment of living, spending and international relations.

    I sincerely hope (and believe) that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown share some of these ideas in a truly pragmatic way, as has been seen by their work this week at the G20 summit in London. It’s not easy–just take a look at the thousands of protesters that have lined up on London streets or listen to the words of France’s Sarkozy–but they are certainly not giving up. I watched an interesting video on their recent meeting at newsy.com today. It highlights their basic goals and gives a few opinions on the challenges that the two leaders face.

  • Jacqueline says:

    You talk about doing things now that make you happy, give you fulfillment, give meaning etc., but I wonder how you plan for a time when your body is no longer able to clean the house, do the dishes, keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and medicines in the cabinet? I agree there is no point in working now to have fun in the future, but given the socio-economic culture in this country how do you plan for a time when you are no longer young and healthy enough to do everything for yourself, can no longer withstand certain hardships, and need money to keep yourself safe, warm, and fed. Even when you are young enough to do those things how do you pay for health insurance without doing things you might not want to,sometimes?

    So, my question is not about how one lives in the moment vs. working to have fun for later, but how do you plan for a hoped-for future where you will need money/resources and may not have the physical ability to provide for your needs at that time?

  • chacha1 says:

    I am very fortunate … have a decent, steady job and an employed mate, and the time & energy to actively work on developing my own business; but what is really fortunate is that my own personal recession started a year ago, by choice. I left a very high-paying, very stressful job in favor of quality of life, and took a 30% pay cut to go into the job I have now.

    At first, I thought I was interviewing for a similar position to the one I had before, and had strictly an “anything to get out of there” mentality. Then I was assigned to a different position with a much slower pace. It took me several months to downshift, but now I have so much more energy and enthusiasm for developing my own business. The ideas are really flowing, and my ability and confidence in my chosen field have greatly improved due to the greater time and attention I’ve been able to devote to working on my skills, network, and infrastructure. I feel like I totally dodged a bullet.

    As people review their current working lives and try to plot a course to an improved quality of life, it’s worth considering this: any time you work for someone else, no matter how good you are at the job and how fulfilling you may find it, it’s not YOUR business. That business will succeed or fail based on factors far beyond your control. When you work in YOUR business, on the other hand – even if it is just part-time while you cultivate a clientele – every choice YOU make directly affects your success. It’s very liberating.

    So, for me, the good thing about the recession is that it is sort of validating entrepreneurialism. For a long time there, the big “stars” in business were the traders – people who created nothing and provided no real service, who made their money by manipulating markets, in real estate or stocks or whatever. I am hopeful that in the next few years we are going to see a more local economy, a more local agriculture, and a more local focus to business development.

    As, during these leaner times, people turn more to their communities, I believe we will begin to see all the opportunities. They may be smaller in scope, but I think we may see a trend toward equating wealth with having ENOUGH, as opposed to having EVERYTHING.

  • Sher says:

    Hi Chris,
    This is a spot-on article and everyone should give it a good read and digest it completely! I’ve lived through a couple of rounds of these recessions (yes…I’m a mid-lifer and a proud empty-nester!) and things eventually do come around.

    There’s definitely a chance for us to come out of this stronger and wiser–and make some important Life changes–even at this stage of the game (here, I’m speaking to those my age and older!). I can say this even though I’ve been hit pretty hard by the current downturn. I’m currently working on trying to put together a freelance career. We’ll see how it goes…but at least I’m making the effort!

    I sure wish you all the best…and I’ll be back to read more!!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  • laura says:

    For years Americans have been relying on old school politics and what society pushes as “the way”. We are all responsible for this crisis we are in. As Chris stated, we cannot wait for everyone else to SAVE US. We can only save ourselves and live a life if the change in times. This is an excellent read.

    I got laid off in December and are TRULY thankful for what that has given me. The freedom and to be honest the push to make my day and I love every minute of it. I am inspired!!

  • Michael says:

    Thanks everyone! Very inspiring stuff. It’s great to hear how everyone seems to be on the same page; we’re all learning from our past, finding that what we thought we wanted (toys and status) isn’t really what our hearts wanted….connection. I see the very best of myself in these posts and I’m grateful to be aware of this website and the amazing individuals who are contributing toward a shift which is unfolding in such profoundly beautiful ways.

    The times of worry, guilt, fear and scarcity is coming to an end…the transition from a society based on self interest and personal profit toward a society based on harmonious health and unity is being created. It’s a joy to be living in the most exciting time ever in human history. The doom and gloom mentality which was seemingly so real is starting to crumble as people become aware of who they really are. I never would have thought that I would enjoy living in the “scary economic collapse”, but I would rather be living in this time than any other.

    We are starting to take back our power…..

    I’ve been on a hardcore holistic detox evolution during the past 8 months. I’ve been living on raw living plant foods, super foods, meditating, juice feasting, getting all sorts of body work and colonics done, going to group with others, jamming with local musicians, donating, volunteering, gardening, getting our in nature, walking barefoot, drinking spring water, sungazing and I just started foraging. These are the most powerful transformative things that I have found (although I can see how some of the latter seem questionable) and I’m honored to share them with you:) Mind technologies such as paraliminals can also help empower us to serve others. These things resonate with me, and there is so much out there that can help with your creative writing/business endeavors; getting involved in local art classes, dancing, acting….perhaps some of these things can assist you in your purpose. Community, sharing, environment, music, art, spirituality, nature and gardening (among other things) are all very important, but without our basic fundamental physical health how are we going to create and maintain a solid business or life of self employment? How can we be of service to ourselves and others without good health? Holistic health is our best asset toward security, sovereignty and a life of Peace On Earth.

    Peace,

    Michael

  • Elodie says:

    Great post. Finally someone that realized stocks are bad.

    Although go look up decimated in the dictionary and I think you’ll find the financial sector is no where close to decimation; they surpassed that a long time ago.

  • Great post Chris. I’ve been waiting for this collapse for 25 years; not because I want to see people suffering; quite the opposite. I want to see them really live. Great quote today from Bill Bradley taken from a symposium on the economic crisis back in April: “Finally, we might want to remember that the chairman of the Federal Reserve is supposed to remove the punch bowl from the party when the party gets out of control. And that did not happen in the Greenspan years. The opposite happened.

  • Hannah says:

    Chris, I realize this comment comes long after your post, but I’m just discovering your site and am loving it.

    I feel like this time in history aka “the recession” is resonating in some ways with where I’ve been most of my life. For years I’ve been a creative person in the background, making something from nothing, watching people accumulate huge amounts of stuff. I enjoyed traveling, meeting people, and making art – and never had much debt.

    Then I got the idea that being a holistic doctor was a better way to contribute to the common good. I borrowed up the wazoo. Out of school, I had money struggles complicated by a series of devastating health crises.

    Sadly, I then got seduced into the idea of a house as an investment – thinking I could later sell it to pay off my huge student loans. After buying at the height of the market, my business dipped for the next year and a half. I lost my house last year.

    The amazing thing – in this recession- is that my healthcare practice is booming like never before. I also sold 6 paintings in the last 3 months…without having a show. People just started saying they wanted to buy paintings from me.

    It’s amazing that everyone around me has been going gangbusters for all the years I struggled and suddenly I’m having some kind of “luck.” I believe it’s because I was resonating with the idea of service and creativity for years…and those concepts are now valued in whole new light. I think this is all about people valuing things that really matter: building relationships differently, giving to others, living more simply, expressing gratitude, and looking deeper into reality.

    Thanks for being a voice of sanity – in an ocean of sales pitches, gloom and doomers, and superficial b.s.

  • Ivan Campuzano says:

    Hey Chris great post :)…just wondering if you have ever watched the documentary Zeitgeist Addendum…that basically explains why our economy is crumbling..my favorite part was how we can solve it through some ideas discussed about the “Venus Project”. If you have not seen it, I think it would be worth your time.

  • MzMelanie says:

    I agree this is a time of change. Change is usually painful. I am living proof but also that change make creativity flourish at least in me it does.

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