The current global crisis, which I’m calling the “worldwide economic mood disorder” (WEMD for short), hit right about the time I was feeling that I’d finally recovered from the dot-com bubble bust of 2001. Although that period of business convulsions did reach beyond the Silicon Valley, my neighborhood was definitely “ground zero”. My cushy job as VP of Program Management and Organizational Effectiveness at a Xerox Parc spin-off evaporated, along with my inflated six figure salary and a very snazzy Jaguar that I hastily replaced with a second-hand Mustang convertible. I watched my exceedingly brilliant, experienced and well-educated friends from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the like, hit the job-search streets like bums looking for a place to crash for the night. I kept a list of all of the people I knew who were unemployed on my desk so I could send them job leads.
A half dozen friends decided to start their own businesses, most doomed to failure from the start, but with nothing better to do than watch daytime TV at least it passed the time, so I contributed my project management expertise to their ventures. As a result I currently own a decent chunk of two profitable businesses. Calling on my project leadership skills of distilling opportunity out of chaos, I did my best to counter the spread of doom and gloom thinking by focusing on what was possible in such circumstances. But after a year or two of scarcity and austerity the oppressive atmosphere really got to me. I noisily campaigned for “Prozac in the water supply!”, but to no avail!
“The last of human freedoms – the ability to chose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” – Viktor Frankl
Survive to Thrive
When the dot-com bust hit I felt a strange mixture of fear and excitement. I never really liked working in the corporate world. So, instead of giving up hope and running screaming into the darkness, I turned down a couple of jobs (kicked myself many times for that during the bumpy times!) and set my sights on starting, running and growing my own consulting business, which I’ve been doing for the past 8 years. With no idea how to do it, I set an intention to expand my business globally, and leaped at every opportunity that smelled the least bit international. That led to a most fortuitous opportunity to work with some Japanese business people who were visiting the US. The first couple of jobs I did for them were not really profitable, but since this work matched my dream I threw myself into the experience with everything I had. That’s how I met the amazing person that I collaborated with to launch the Global Management Consulting Group with ALC Education, Inc. in Tokyo 4 years ago.
Since that serendipitous time I’ve been working increasingly for Japanese companies, spending from one to three weeks a month traveling on business, usually in Japan. Having learned to pack light, I got used to having wet clothing dripping around me. As a result I’m grateful to be home where a washing machine is only a few steps away, and there’s a pile of clothes in the closet that means I needn’t do laundry for . . . well, possibly decades. These days I’m grateful for little things. After watching the news, I’m grateful no one is shooting at me or blowing up portions of my neighborhood. After seeing a couple hundred people in India watching the Oscars outside on a shared TV balanced precariously on a couple of milk crates, I’m grateful to have a home, too!
The last time the whole economy fell apart I got scrappy. . . REALLY scrappy, and wrote a book. Scrappy Project Management has become oddly popular with all sorts of people. A few months ago Nikkei Business Press made me an offer to translate it into Japanese and distribute it in Japan. I thought it was a scam email, so I didn’t respond for a couple of weeks until my Japanese colleagues called and discovered that the offer was indeed legit. Now, like the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” mentioned on her TED Talk, I’m actually terrified to write another book just in case it’s worse. Nevertheless, more scrappiness is on the way.
The World is Getting Scrappier
It’s been my dream to expand The Scrappy Guides (R) beyond the first book. My buddy Michael Seese has written “Scrappy Information Security – The Easy Way to Keep the Cyber Wolves at Bay”, coming soon to a stealthy book vendor near you. It’s a fascinating read, and totally terrifying! I felt safe using my computer until I edited it. Now I break out into a cold sweat every time I access the internet. Check it out. It’s available for pre-order now for delivery once we get all of the commas in the right place. . . and it’s only going to get scrappier from here . . . and more Scrappy Guides are hitting the streets this year and next, some by guest authors, and one by me.
Keep Hope Alive
There are plenty of reasons to despair. There always are. And there are plenty of reasons to hope. What you see depends on what you are looking for. As Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” and survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, wrote – we always have a choice in at least our attitude. I personally recommend being in a really foul mood and having a terrible attitude every now and then just to get it out of your system. But not for more than a couple of hours. It might stick! As soon as you can, pick yourself up, splash some cold water in your face, and get busy figuring out what you can do to help make things better. Or reach out for help. Leaders ask for help. Smart people ask for help. And people feel good when they get a chance to help someone else – it reminds us that we have power to make a positive difference even when we’re experiencing tough circumstances. Keep climbing, and reach back and give someone else a hand on your way up!
Keep hope alive! Survive to thrive once again!
Stay Scrappy! – Kimberlyby