"I'm trying to get people to be comfortable enough with looking for work on an ongoing basis, because that's what a business owner has to do."
To succeed in today's environment, we have to think of ourselves as if we were small business owners.
Sometimes it comes on gradually—the pressure you feel to find work, get your business in the black again, or restore stability to your financial future accumulates, causing sleepless nights or mornings when you sit at your desk not knowing what to do next.
Or there may be a trigger—one rejection too many, a bill you can't pay, or a depressing headline saps your belief in yourself and better days ahead, and you have that sinking sensation of fear taking you over for a few days or a week or longer.
Fear is a natural reaction to change, and you can expect it to be particularly active when your work-life, that part of your existence that provides sustenance, purpose and identity, has been shaken like a snow globe.
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."
At the Daily Grind coffee shop in Cortland, New York, I watched a steady stream of farmers in overalls, contractors in flannel shirts, and 9-to-5 employees in business dress, and I thought about how every town or neighborhood has a hub like this. Find a Daily Grind, full of regulars who stop in on their way to work, and you've found the heart of the work life of a city.
Listening to what was being said there, it became clear to me that the Cortlanders whose daily ritual I was observing were trying to make a living in a place where that is not always an easy thing to do—the town has an 11% unemployment rate and negative job growth.
People usually go about about dealing with work being hard to find in three distinct ways.
A 2005 article in the London Evening Standard about overwhelmed working women advised them “not to struggle into work when ill but to stay at home and rest.” Likewise, the November 2009 issue of Working Women magazine cautioned readers against “dragging [their] fever-ridden [bodies] into the office.”
Under ordinary circumstances, this would be simply a matter of common sense, but the economic slowdown we are experiencing has eroded our sense of work security and had the effect of making people fearful that their absence from work, even for a day or two, could have disastrous consequences. In a new context, this simple advice deserves a closer look.
In Crazy Busy, author and physician Edward Hallowell talks about having to go to work regardless of your physical condition as if it were something that belongs to the past, like the experience of the lower classes as described in Dickens’s novels. But is it?
Raise a glass half full to 2010!” said the headline.
Whenever I thumb through one of those women’s magazines, the kind with a photograph of a triple-layer chocolate mousse cake on the cover with a caption promising twelve effortless ways of slimming down, I usually forget what I’ve read as soon as I’ve read it, but the idea of toasting the new year with a glass half full resonated with me because it is both realistic and hopeful. Realistic because it acknowledges what isn’t there as well as what is. Hopeful because it offers the choice of where to put your energy with a more complete understanding of what’s missing.
Negativity being inherent in the human condition, most of us don’t have any trouble seeing what’s wrong or missing in our lives. But how do we, particularly in times like these, learn to “accentuate the positive,” as the Johnny Mercer song says?