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How to recession-proof your life

Know the Score

Posted: June 7, 2008 1:16 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2008 5:03 a.m.
It seems that every time we turn on the news these days we hear an endless litany of big corporations that are closing their doors, thousands of workers being laid off across the country, more jobs being outsourced and everybody losing money (unless you're in oil). The unemployment figures that politicians spout as going down, is only going down because laid-off workers are falling off the unemployment list after using up their 26 weeks. But don't let this discourage you, because it may be to your advantage.

Working from home is the new way forward! Think like an entrepreneur. If you don't run your own business, the idea of developing an entrepreneurial mind-set may not have occurred to you. However, as employees, we can learn a great deal about advancing our careers from those who have succeeded in their own business. Here are some tips to get you thinking.

Create a vision for the future. What do you ultimately want to accomplish, and what major contributions do you want to make? Next make a list of specific, long-term goals that support your vision. Some entrepreneurs fail because they lose their direction in the fog of day-to-day problems, so get your vision clear.

Regularly add one new activity that stretches your ability. You're not only challenging yourself to be more productive, you're also becoming more valuable. We all know there is a payoff for being fit and healthy, but how about a fitness plan for your mind?

To keep your brain in shape you should read constantly. Especially you should read about improving your skills and then follow them through. Spend time each day on the treadmill of routine activities. Getting them off your mind is like shedding unwanted pounds. You'll feel better and the tougher, more complex tasks won't seem so daunting.

Problem solving
Meet or talk regularly with others to discuss new ideas and plans. You may need a few mentors to help you reach your goals. You should also treat decision-making like an athlete trying to see how many sit-ups you can do. Start with a few easy decisions, and then work up to the more difficult ones. In time you'll have the stamina to handle many decisions with little effort.

View problem solving as an exercise bike that lets you gradually increase pedal pressure. Get out the kinks with some easy problems, so you'll be able to deal with the more uphill ones. Give your mind the same break you would your body when exhausted. Set aside a little time each day to let your brain bask in a mental sauna. This will prepare you for future hard exercise.

With information and communications technologies increasingly liberating entrepreneurs from the daily trawl to work, the benefits of working from home are many. With the price of gasoline increasing almost daily, avoiding the journey to an office is a big benefit. From relaxed and private surroundings many people can and will produce better results.

Being an at-home entrepreneur also requires forgetting the nine-to-five routine. You'll find that you're "on-call" 24 hours a day, with a notebook constantly at your side, because ideas and solutions to problems might pop into your head at any time. When this happens you must capture them before they get away, and waiting until you get back to your office tomorrow may be too late.

Be sure you find sources of positive reinforcement. Often times this can be found with our customers. If you make it a rule to give them uncompromising customer service, you're likely to collect plenty of kudos. Another technique is to treat yourself to a special reward when a goal is met. Take the responsibility for motivating yourself and keeping a positive attitude.

Succeeding needn't be a complicated, contrived process of scheming and manipulating. It can be as simple and natural as "doing the right thing." Develop a reputation for kindness and genuinely caring about the needs of others, especially customers. Keep your ego in check and be willing to put aside your agenda to benefit mutual goals. Work hard and your first priority should be to do the best you can to meet your goals. Remember your vision and press toward achieving it. Always keep your word, don't make commitments you can't keep and consider verbal promises as contracts and write them down to ensure they are fulfilled.

Stay positive
Don't become discouraged when some steps along the way to achieving your vision fall flat. Just dust yourself off and start again remembering that what just failed can be done another way. Every time that happens, don't look at it as "failure" - instead look at it as a way of not doing what you wanted to do. It's a lesson in "learning," not "failing." How many times do you think Thomas Edison tried to get electricity to work? Do you think that the first thing he tried worked perfectly? It's only through trial and error that success is achieved.

Perseverance is the name of the game for entrepreneurs. Look at these statistics of one of America's most honored man:
* Age 22: Failed in business

* Age 23: Ran for Legislature and defeated

* Age 24: Again failed in business

* Age 25: Elected to Legislature

* Age 26: Sweetheart died

* Age 27: Had a nervous breakdown

* Age 29: Defeated for Speaker

* Age 31: Defeated for Elector

* Age 34: Defeated in Congress

* Age 37: Elected to Congress

* Age 39: Defeated for Congress

* Age 46: Defeated for Senate

* Age 47: Defeated for Vice President

* Age 49: Defeated for Senate

* Age 51: Elected President of the United States

That's the record of Abraham Lincoln. I think this man knew how to persevere and not give up at the first failure.

Just think of each mistake as a lesson, and how much wiser you're becoming.

Commentary by Maureen Stephenson, a local author and owner of REMS Publishing & Publicity. Her column represents her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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