Friday, March 12, 2010

How Is This for My Good?

Jack Canfield (who got it from bezillionaire W. Clement Stone) has a tip for when bad things happen to you: Become a “reverse paranoid.” Instead of being lost in the badness aspect of it, ask, “How is this happening for my good?” How might the universe be setting you up for something better?

Clients hate being in the liminal state they sometimes find themselves (liminal: strung between two worlds) in their careers. They live in anxiety and despair. Because I see it every day, I KNOW that good frequently arises from where they are now. A laid-off executive’s mother becomes suddenly and terminally ill, and he’s able to help her through her last days (and sees it as a gift). A young graduate doesn’t get a job in another city with a financial services firm, which folds several months later. A student leaves his graduate program and gets a fabulous marketing job. A professor can’t get a job teaching but through a side-rail job at an agency is pushed closer to her dream of working in a corporation. An exhausted, bitter attorney gets plugged into independent selling of cosmetics and becomes a happy, wildly successful director.

I get excited when I see clients struggling to make a better world from the one that just collapsed around them. If they can tolerate the discomfort of the transition from what they knew to what’s POSSIBLE, and they don’t give up, they WILL find a better way. The only time I despair is when clients start moving heavy furniture into their dark cave of misery with a clear intention to stay there. They’re gonna be there a long, long time. . .and angry, to boot.

I’m sorry if you’re having challenging experiences right now. But see what occurs to you if you look at it in a different way, and ask: “How is this happening for my good?” You’ll be amazed at what’s possible for you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Movie Stars Work for Less

On Oscar night, red carpets and gold backdrops and a shouting, clicking press adoringly cocoon the arriving stars. The day after on Hollywood Boulevard, it’s just another show that’s left town. Billboards come down at the Kodak Theatre, litter skitters along the bedraggled street which is generally a stage for truck-stop-quality souvenir shops, has-been museums and stars-homes barkers. The chain link fence that kept the sidewalk honky-tonk at bay will soon roll up and drag away, leaving the seediness to reshape itself.

It’s an apt metaphor for the bad economy that has struck Movieland. The real we see today does not resemble the real we believed in yesterday. The game is changing. Few actors command high salaries these days. Angelina Jolie may still get $20 million for a film. Many more are getting contracts that pay a paltry million or two up front, but require the movie to break even or make a profit before additional money kicks in. The actors in “Precious” got about the Screen Actor’s Guild minimum of $65,000. Ed Asner got a small fee (think $50,000) for his voice-over of the old man in Best Film nominee, “Up. “I was paid for sessions,” he told New York Times reporter Michael Cieply, but negotiated more for the film’s success. “If it does well, you do well.”

Sam Worthington, who starred in “Avatar,” had the best message for you who are job seekers: “Every actor fears unemployment,” he told the Herald Sun (Australia). Working “beats sitting there waiting for the phone to ring thinking, ‘Give me some work, I’ve got bills to pay.’”

His drive to work as much as he can “raises my game because it means I will always be trying to improve on myself.

“I live an ordinary life. I go home, drink beer, do my washing. . .Doing normal things, that’s how I recharge. . .I love working. It beats being unemployed.”

I want you to dream big and reach for the stars and to get what you’re worth in the marketplace. I also want you to be a hard-eyed realist and understand that marketplace. It won’t do if you’re an aging star wafting the mean streets in her blue chiffon scarf believing a producer will give her an ingĂ©nue role. You may have to take the job you’ve thought was beneath you, to make less, to work more than one job. While we’ve never walked this harsh a reality before, WE HAVE ALL BEEN WHERE YOU ARE, AND WE ALL FOUGHT LIKE HELL TO GET OUT OF THERE.

You may be tempted to wait for your agent to call or to meet some director at a glamorous party, but – hey – you’re not in Hollywood, and even Hollywood’s not looking great these days. Go get some work.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Live in Your Car

Ryan Bingham, whose song “The Weary Kind,” (from the film “Crazy Heart”) won Song of the Year at the Oscars, said in a post-award interview that, four years ago, “Me and my band was living out of our Suburban.” It doesn’t get much lower than that.

You could, in your work life, be in an equivalent dilemma. You got down-sized, laid off, fired. You’re burning through your resources and the horizon’s looking grim and smoky. What WILL you do?

This is a familiar land to me. I work with down-sized, laid off, fired folks. I know exactly what this terrain looks like, and how people in this situation want to throw their hands over their heads and sink into the pool of depression pulling on them. I also know that miracles live here; that when you look around for one, you’ll find it. Talk to somebody, many somebodies. Join a job seeker’s group. Make sure you stay OUT instead of job-searching on your computer. Say “What the hell!” and try out your idea. The way out is never easy, but this disaster is a gold-plated invitation from the universe to you to create a better way.

In the case of Bingham, “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper gave him a copy of the script and said, “If you’re inspired to write anything, let me know.” And, Bingham said after the awards ceremony, “Here we are.”

You don’t go immediately from car-living to red carpet. You take nothing jobs, maybe TWO nothing jobs. You make missteps, like taking something that proves wrong for you. You max out credit cards or borrow money from family members. You forego vacations, maybe even hit the food pantry. You have to fight from desperation to hope every day in learning how to survive, then thrive.

But you can do it. I swear you can. Get out of your Suburban and pick up your guitar, or whatever your Bingham-like get-on-it strategy is. I’m beggin’ you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

When Others Create Your Life

I was beginning to write a mystery called Murder in the Orphanage. The murder victim was to be the priest who ran it. I asked my brothers and sisters what they remembered about "Father Joe" during the years we spent in an orphanage. Turns out they didn't remember much, but they loved the project and it became the topic of enthusiastic conversation among us. Where would the murder weapon be hidden? Who would solve the mystery? How could people we knew be woven into it. They were INVOLVED and called regularly with fun new ideas.

The book may never get written, and here's why. I asked too soon for input. The process of beginning to write is tentative and lonely. I'm both timid and highly "influencible" before I get myself straight in my own mind. I'm as tender as a newly emerging butterfly, able to be trounced by enthusiasts before my meaning has hardened. I don't belong to a writers' group because THEIR thoughts begin to write MY piece. I don't show my stuff till a first draft is done because everyone's an editor. They would use MY writing as a dress form for what THEY would want to write. I've learned it's better to huddle in my writer's garret till I'm ready for the twin beams of comment and criticism to hit my creation.

You are like me as you decide to take steps toward a new you, whether it's a business or a job or an education. You probably talk about your idea before it's fully formed, and let family and friends pull it apart, leaving it a twisted little heap you quickly abandon. Everyone has a different opinion about what's best for you, and too often they're really giving YOU the advice they would give THEMSELVES if they were in your situation. It's not truly about you. Actually, we sometimes deliberately tell others too soon so they can talk us out of that scary thing.

Why would you hand your life to others to shape? You might think it helps you to get input from others, but it mostly confuses you because the counsel conflicts. Why not spend time with yourself instead? Find out what YOU want and why and how it would work. Go for a walk and talk to yourself. Write out what you're thinking of doing so you get to the core of your meaning. This is different than simply mulling over the idea when you go around in circles. Get INTO where you want to head. THEN invite others in.

You could also talk to someone like me, whose only agenda is to help you get what you want. I'm not your aunt or your father's secretary who just KNOWS what would be best for you. Even with me, you'd have to do difficult heart work to find that fire in your center of what you want to be next.

Don't be the twisted little heap lying next to the wreckage of my unwritten mystery. Scurry to your garret and begin to explore your heart's desire.

When Fear Stops You

Everyone else around you seems so brave; the truth is we ALL get stopped by our fears. You are not alone. Some of us are just better at faking it, OR we've adopted tricks that get us to begin acting. That first small action is the threshold to courage. Try these and see if they help.

1. Write your name on a paper. (borrowed from Alan Lakein)
You have a project that feels too big. What CAN you do? Write your name at the top of the paper. What else? The title of the project. What else? The names of the sections. Before you know it, you'll be IN it, the fear abated.

2. Begin where you can.
I was beginning to write my doctoral dissertation. Scary. I had on a white board a listing of its five chapters and the sections in each. Each day I looked for my courage there. Where DID I feel competent to write? And I started there. By the time I got to the scariest parts, my courage muscle was flexing nicely, and I could do them.

3. Do what you're willing to do.
A client was paralyzed in making a step toward finding a new job. . .a first phone call she'd been putting off. We discovered she was more willing to send an e-mail than make the call because less fear lived there, but that e-mail set the contact in motion and she was on her way.

4. Make a commitment to an accountability buddy.
It's possible at the deadline you set with your buddy to complete a thing you might say, "Didn't do it." But the odds are pretty high that, because you've agreed to report to someone, your sense of responsibility will nudge you to action. We want to look good in another's eyes, and that sense drives our behavior.

5. Set up a meeting.
If you're involved in a project with others, schedule a meeting to review progress. This is your burn-the-boats strategy. If you have to report your progress (or hear about others'), you may be putting in late nights just ahead of the deadline, but you won't walk into the meeting room empty-handed.

6. Model it for someone else.
Do you have a child who's afraid of doing something? You need to model courage, to demonstrate how we behave when gripped with fear, how we DO rather than freezing in place. A child's eyes on you can be a powerful motivator for YOU to act despite being afraid.

Action conquers fear, and most achievement comes from taking baby steps. Courage happens as a result of taking action; it doesn't precede it. Find where your willingness lives. Find any technique that gets you to move. . .and move.