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Monday, April 27, 2009

Bluegill and Crazy 8

Sometimes I think challenging times are God's way of hitting our 'pause' button. In the pace of our crazy whirlwind of a life we forget to slow down so He does it for us. It could be an illness that shuts us down for awhile or a missed flight or a lost sale, or in our case job loss. It's our own personal 'time out'.

As the summer crept in, two more creatures were now living in our midst 24/7. Wide eyed creatures with the zest and zing that only summer break can bring! This brought stark contrast to the world of job search and life re-invention. Welcome reprieve on some days, a rattling disruption on others.

For a family accustomed to two traveling parents and a healthy dose of chaos, having a parent at their disposal was an interesting twist to their normal summer camp (otherwise known as daycare).

With the bank account still in tact and the life's decisions not yet made, I gave more advice. My advice was born of a little bit of jealousy. Ok, a lot of jealousy. Crazy isn't it. As I'm rushing out the door to my next appointment, there are my gifts from God sitting at the kitchen table playing crazy 8. I couldn't see this situation yet as anything more than a really cool gift. Remember I said the bank account was still in tact, it might not be so 'gifty' this summer but we'll take it as it comes. I advised to hang out and suck up the summer. Long days, lightening bugs, Popsicles, digging for worms, planting tomatoes, floatin on a raft....... Sounds more like vacation than unemployment. All a matter of perspective.

I've often said, and only half joking, that we have a therapy fund for our kids instead of a college fund. Our schedules were so whacky at times I was sure we had screwed it all up and I at least wanted to fund the therapist that would need to fix it.

So to think of having a summer to just hang out with these little buggers was such a cool notion. I had to believe that this was the summer that would bring my guy closer to his kids than he'd ever be. I'm always a little freaked out that they go from diapers to drivers license in about 12 days so to hit pause and have some real summer time antics. Wow.

I was pleasantly surprised when my guy really took this advice to heart. I was returning from an 8 day international gig and I called home to check in. I asked how the search was going and he said, I took your advice, we spent the week fishing and playing crazy 8. Rock on dude, very cool!

I hope when we look back on the summer of 08, it's not about the unemployment story, it will be the record bluegill catch from the 6 year old that will be the great memory. We've got the fish log to refer to if the lies start flying at her graduation party.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pride and Perspective

Pride is an interesting thing. The actual dictionary definition is ... a dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
How do you maintain that after a job loss? AND, don’t you need a sense of pride in yourself to go out and sell yourself for the next job? It’s a bit of a hairball to get caught up in. Just when you need it most, you’re questioning everything.
My first concern in our new reality was not about the money. I reminded my guy that he may not have a paycheck direct deposited every 2 weeks right now but because of his savvy business negotiations, he had, in fact, made us some nice cash from the sale of our house that he could support us with until the next career. Remember, we need perspective.
My biggest concern was about helping my extremely intelligent husband maintain his sense of pride in this situation. While my opinion may be biased, I’m also admittedly one of his toughest critics, but here are the facts….
This guy has been the top sales person in the nation; he’s had clients sing his praises for years. He changed industries and shot to the top in record time. There’s a ton of career stats that validate his brilliance and contribution, on LinkedIn.

But wait there’s more…
He also, built a 2 1/2 acre lake in our back yard with absolutely no prior experience by downloading topography maps and laying out water flow and hiring some guy with an excavator to dig it out.
THEN, he drew the design for a huge dock with our daughter’s sidewalk chalk for scale, went to Lowes and bought the stuff, and in several backbreaking weekends with a really good friend who thankfully works for beer, built the dock he engineered. See evidence of brilliance below…….
(thanks “will work for beer” friend, you know who you are)

And, we can’t forget he married, me, clearly an act of brilliance on his part.
The crap of it all is ….. even when we’re surrounded by this evidence of success and contribution throughout your life, without a job you’re left feeling like a failure. A job, by the way, I was thrilled that he no longer had to deal with because it truly had sucked the life out of him and our family a bit. It still sucks.

Here’s a note to all you leaders out there… if you go out and actively recruit someone because they’re highly skilled and you want their skills to bring you the same results they achieved before, then don’t try to change the way they sell that got them those results and frustrate you and them in the process! Ok, had to go into consultant mode for a minute.

Back to the lesson, whew, got a little worked up there for a minute.
So, my role as the coach was, help him maintain his pride. I said, “You know, we don’t have to tell people about this until you’re ready. Because quite frankly, I’d like to pour a great glass of wine and celebrate the next chapter in your life and treat this as a blessing.” Here’s what I was picturing that I didn’t want to happen….
I pictured telling our parents about this and watching them freak out on the inside while giving my husband the, “oh poor baby” look. No one wants the “oh poor baby” look! Especially, a really studly guys’ guy like my husband. I think a root canal would have been easier than the “oh poor baby” look.
I was sure that they would immediately freak out that we had just moved into this beautiful new house and now he has no job and, oh no what if they lose it all, and what do we do now, oh no oh no oh no. Which by the way, wasn’t the case and I didn’t want to feel like I had to give them a copy of our bank statement to reassure them. I didn’t want them to think of ridiculous reasons to call us way too often only to really find out how we were doing. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I love my husband way too much to put him through that. Now, I’m also a mom so I would likely do the exact same thing with my son if it were turned around. I’m not faulting them. We have great parents that are loving and caring with great intentions, but …. You get the picture.
So, we poured the wine and toasted to our future. Pinky swear we won’t tell until we’re ready.

So here’s today’s lesson. This goes out to all of you that have a family, friend, neighbor, son or daughter that has lost their job or may lose their job.

Here’s the list of Don’ts….

1. “That’s terrible, what will you do now?” – here’s why that’s bad, we know it’s terrible and quite frankly we’re not sure what we’re going to do and we’re tired of thinking about it every second and talking to you about it isn’t helping
2. “Got another job lined up yet?” Duh, no, or we would have said, “Hey lost my job but good news, already found another one.”
3. Hug them and act like someone died. Not helping…. don’t go drama queen on us now; we’re trying to maintain some pride people.
4. Invite them out for dinner to that great French place we’ve wanted to try. – not a great time to be spending money and we don’t want to start acting destitute yet either so putting us in a position to choose is uncomfortable.
5. Don’t invite us to the great French place and offer to buy. Please don’t treat us as a charity case yet. Pride people, think about our pride.

Here are a few Do’s ….

1. Go through your contact list and start looking for key contacts you can give us for networking. Real people, real names, with phone numbers and email addresses.
2. Better yet, contact some of those people on your own and say, I’ve got a great friend that’s looking to change industries and is doing some networking. He’s not expecting a job from you, just wants to get out and see what’s happening outside of his industry and talk to as many people as possible. He’s going to give you a call next week.
3. If you have done any business transactions with us, write a nice letter of recommendation with some meaty credibility statements. Send it to us in an electronic document that we can use email and mail us a nice letter on your business letterhead that we can keep in our portfolio.
4. Invite us to any and all social situations and networking functions that we might meet people, don’t just tell us about it, invite us to join you because we’re still getting comfortable with all of this.
5. Instead of going to the great French place for dinner, have a dinner party or a barbecue and invite people that might bring us all together in a comfortable setting without putting a sign out front that says, “my poor friend lost his job, can you come over for a burger and help him out”. Keep it upbeat and positive.
6. Bring beer over once in awhile and just hang out without talking about the job search. Chances are dining out and the money spent socializing has been cut from the budget. But we still want to socialize. Remember, we’re spending lots of time alone at the computer in between networking and interviews, we could use some downtime.
7. Send us articles about interesting companies or job search techniques.
8. Most of all, pray for us. Pray for our job search, our pride, our family, our finances, and that we keep the faith.
Not once, but regularly, until that great day when we call you up and say, “Dude, just made reservations at that great French place, my treat, landed a great job today!” Then we drink and toast and laugh and be thankful for friends like you that supported us well!
Stay tuned next for Bluegill and Crazy 8

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Summer Sabbatical

By now you probably understand that if you were to ask my lovely husband his perspective on this situation it might sound a little different. You see, I'm the coach. He's the athlete. He feels the aches and pains, my job is to cheer him on and help him through some of the obstacle course. My guess is that once he finds a job and this is all in the past, he'll have some different perspective too.

Once the original shock passes, now its time to reinvent the rest of his life. Now there's a project huh. When is the last time someone gave you the freedom to just reinvent yourself with all the time and space you need? Another funny perspective. When we're working and struggling and clawing to get through the week, we dream about what we would do if we weren't locked into that job. And then one day you wake up with so much time and space you're not sure where to start. Not only is he changing jobs, he's changing industries. Ugh, that's different, starting from scratch.

As a coach, I spent alot of time reminding him, "it's not what you do that matters, it's who you are." Of course, who you are without a job doesn't pay the mortgage on a new house. So, I also gave him a ton of names and said, get your butt out there and start meeting people and showing them how brilliant you are! And, he hired a career coach. Not sure that was the best money he spent. He might have just bought a few new lures and spent some more time in the boat and come to the same conclusions. Who knows.

So maybe the lesson here is, do you have any ideas what your next career could and should look like? Maybe you should. You never know when it might start.

He spent a lot of time in his little Johnboat last summer. Like some folks go to church, he goes to fish. (FYI, we go to church too, you get that little spiritual metaphor right?)

Here's another lesson, I think this one applies to guys a lot, when you've spent your whole adult life providing for yourself and your family, giving it up to God is a lot harder than it looks. Faith sounds all warm and fuzzy when you're reading about it. It's a little dicey when the story is about you.

Ok, a little practical tactical break from the philosophical part of these lessons.

Can someone explain to me why this cracker is $3.19

And this one is .99 and they taste exactly the same?

These are the kind of things I just don't get. And why before now did I never question the cost of crackers? Why did my Mom always buy Zesta crackers for 3 times more than the others? Probably because her mom did or because she was going to prove to her mom that she had a better life and didn't need to buy those stinkin' generic crackers, she was moving up in life to the big name brand.

Time to question some things people.

Does your quality of life increase because you buy name brand crackers? So far, mine has not been changed adversely by lowering myself to generic crackers, in fact, I'm liberated by my new found freedom. This was just one of the many things my lovely husband and I have learned together. I will not forget the day my groom walked in the door with that proud look on his face, holding a sack of groceries and said, "hey, try this cracker." And the moment we rejoiced when we learned that it tasted exactly the same for a third of the price.

Victory my friends, victory. United we stand.

Stay tuned, more to come from, Lessons from the Recession.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Now What

It's funny. Before my husband lost his job, I was his biggest critic. I had a laundry list, some of it including laundry that I could easily have made a Six Sigma project for improvement. In a matter of moments, we were a team again. I went into 'coach' mode, dedicated to support him, love him, albeit some tough love some days, as we moved through this challenge together.

He looked at me that night and said, "now what?" I can only attribute my following comments to Divine guidance because I had no time to come up with this on my own. I said, " I'd go fishing."

My husband built the most beautiful lake. (Yes he built the lake, with no previous experience, which is why I know he'll be ok. He's freakin' smart.) Anyway, I thought maybe God was giving him some time and space to just 'be'. So he went about the business of coming back to who he really was.

It's funny how all the stuff we aquire, jobs, spouses, houses, cars, kids, toys, boats, dogs, vacations, all the stuff that we chase in the name of success, becomes the ball and chain that weighs us down and changes us. All that time putting up with a job that is supposed to bring us more stuff. Tires me out just thinking about it.

Don't get me wrong. We're not living in squalor. My house rocks and we still have a charmed life. We're just getting back to the basics sorting out need and want. It's amazing what having a common goal does for unity.

How it all started

Last year, late spring we moved into our dream home. The home we planned for years, put our heart and soul into. We were giddy about the stone fireplace, the lake out back, the color of the walls and the very essence of its being.

Two months later, my husband lost his job.

Often times people get that sad, "oh no" look when you tell them this. Interestly, it's not been all bad. Don't get me wrong, I long to go to Target or have a great little Asian girl paint my toenails again, but really, in the scheme of things, let's get something straight.

Most of us had way too much of everything going into this recession. As my savings account declines, I get so much clarity about the difference between want and need.

All those little cliches' about Less is More and all that, I just admit are rooted in some fundamental principles that I think are playing out in our lives. This is the place I'm going to attempt to document some of the things we've learned about faith, people, pride, relationships and the quality of generic cheese and saltine crackers.

Follow along if you'd like, because LIFE is about choices.