Entrepreneurs, small business owners and others who work for themselves enjoy the autonomy that comes with independence but know that there is a downside—feeling alone.
People in transition who are considering starting their own businesses also worry about the isolation that might come with being a freelancer or independent contractor. Maybe they’ve had enough of the sort of being-on-your-own that comes with looking for work, or maybe they feel that if they were self-employed they would miss the stimulation of working with others.
Both groups speak of the need to have someone to brainstorm or problem-solve with, or just to talk business with over coffee. They may prefer not to answer to a higher authority or deal with office politics, but they instinctively know that being challenged now and then keeps them on point and that the expertise of others, particular in business disciplines they are not strong in, can help them achieve their goals.
The antebellum architecture of the South Carolina Low County around Beaufort ranges from the mansions of dignitaries and wealthy merchants to the three remaining praise houses of the Gullah people.
As much as I enjoyed looking at the former, it was my visit to a small white cabin, no bigger than a farm stand on the side of highway, that impressed me the most. Intended as places for slaves to worship, praise houses were intentionally kept small by plantation owners who feared the slaves might organize if allowed to congregate in large numbers.
There, as many as could fit on the benches of a 10x15 room would do the only thing they could do without asking permission, sing praises to a Christian God, while they beat out the rhythms of their West African homes with their hands, feet, walking sticks and dried gourds and created a unique culture by singing, stomping and shouting their own identity.
Like most people who live on the outer hook of Cape Cod, where the land juts thirty miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, I've long accepted my vulnerability to howling winds and rising seas, but I’d be less than honest if I didn't admit to thinking a great deal more about it since Hurricane Sandy. When the images of devastation on television look a lot like the beach houses, marinas, and sand dunes you see every day, it's a powerful reminder that it could be your turn next.
So how do you get ready—not physically, but psychologically and spiritually? Whether it’s a superstorm, a professional crisis, or a personal loss, how do you prepare yourself to move beyond your own fears so that you can be a calm and supportive presence to others? What can you do to make it more likely that in a disaster you will be able to offer the best of who you are?
I am writing this on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Because I like to finish one holiday before leaping ahead to the next, I am making this a quiet day, a space to reflect on what this annual feast, now so narrowly focused on eating and football, really means.
The actual history of Thanksgiving is far more complex, both messier and richer, than the story everyone knows about the Pilgrims inviting the Indians to dinner.
We hear very little about how the Pilgrims stole seed corn from the Nauset Indians of Cape Cod a few days after they arrived, or the fact that the land around Plymouth had already been cleared and cultivated by Pokanokets who had been wiped out by disease shortly before the newcomers arrived, or that when Native American neighbors came to help the Pilgrims they usually showed up naked!
We cheat ourselves when we settle for an oversimplified view of history because the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth represents a nitty-gritty struggle for survival which is as relevant today as it was for the residents of Plymouth in the 1620s.
Growing a lawn, as opposed to isolated clumps of grass, is a problem on a sand bar, which is a good description of outer Cape Cod, where I live.
After years of trying without success, this Spring my husband announced that he was giving up, and he was going to put down mulch because he was sick of mowing dirt.
I have a strong preference for the natural look, so I balked at the idea of covering what little green we have with brown—or worse yet, red—mulch.
We compromised on ground cover and shrubs in the front, but what to do on side of the house remained unsettled until I had a wild idea in the middle of the night—we could build a labyrinth.
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol for wholeness. It combines the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path representing a journey to one’s own center and back again into the world.
I heard some of the best work search advice I've come across in a long time at a career event sponsored by a Boston university where I was invited to give the keynote address.
After I spoke, a panel made up of career counselors from the university and a former executive recruiter answered questions from the audience and talked about how they managed their own professional lives.
The former recruiter had recently been elected to a leadership position with a volunteer organization serving professionals under 40 on Cape Cod (a minority here!) and each time she spoke, she would bring up some activity she had participated in with the group.
She talked with unrestrained enthusiasm about spending time the previous weekend, restoring the landscape around one of the Cape's precious kettle ponds, and then she announced:
"If you're looking for a job, go plant trees. You'll probably find yourself digging in the dirt with a bank president or a business owner."
I could barely contain myself!
A few months ago I acted on a goal I have had for a long time—to start a business book club.
Although we have only met a few times, the coming together of this like-minded group of professionals has been more delightful than I could have ever anticipated.
Instead of being limited to my own conclusions on a particular book, I now have access to the ways that others with different backgrounds and expertise take in, interpret and utilize the same information.
It’s like arriving late at night to a vacation destination you’ve only seen in brochures and waking up in the morning and opening the curtains to find a beautiful, expansive view of the world your imagination could never have fully pictured.
The US government reports two different unemployment statistics. The one we are most familiar with is the one most talked about in the news media, something called the "U-3 unemployment rate." It currently hovers just under 10%.
There is also the less well-known "U-6" rate, which is now over 17%. It includes what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls "involuntary part time, underemployed workers" and "discouraged" workers who have stopped looking.
For people struggling to stay positive after a year or more of unemployment, I'm sure that even the higher number must seem too low.
Yet there are many who know what discouragement feels like and have chosen not to give up.
All we know about the woman in this photograph is that she was 80 years old in November, 1936, when Dorothea Lange took her picture, and at the time she was living in a camp for migrant workers outside Bakersfield, California.
If we think of her in the context of the times, we can deduce that she and her family were probably among the thousands of farmers forced to migrate from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California in search of work. This would mean that she had been enduring dislocation and acute poverty for some time.
Yet the old woman's look is strong and her demeanor is positive. The shadow from the hand that shields her eyes from the bright sunlight obscures much of her face, but we can see enough to know that she is looking straight ahead and determined to keeping moving forward.
Everything about her embodies the courage expressed in the philosophy of life she shared with Lange in a brief dialogue just before the picture was taken. "If you lose your pluck," she said, "you lose the most there is in you—all you've got to live with."