These are tough times. Whether it’s a lack of respect and civility among some coworkers, a lack of loyalty that some companies show toward their employees, jobs being shipped overseas, or wages failing to keep up with the economy, these are challenging times.
What makes the situation so much more difficult is the way some people respond to these tough times. They take an upside down and backwards approach that makes their situation seem all the more hopeless.
That became very clear to me on a recent TV news program … where people were being interviewed about company lay-offs. One employee said, “I want to know what my union is going to do to save my job?” Another individual asked, “How is the government going to make sure I don’t lose my job?” And so went the interview.
No one asked the employees the KEY question, “What are you going to do?” Everyone shifted the responsibility for job preservation or career enhancement to somebody else.
And that, my friends, is a dangerous position to take. As Bettye Jean Triplett, the mother of entrepreneur Chris Gardner, notes, “You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.”
When I’m called into companies that are going through some restructuring and downsizing (tough times that are happening in companies all around the country), I tell my audiences … those who are being let go and those who are staying on …
“We must stop blaming external people and forces in our lives and begin consciously choosing appropriate responses.”
Donovan Price, a Systems Analyst at Boeing, learned that when I was speaking in his company. He said, “Change is like a runaway train. It’s coming and if you don’t jump on it will run over you. The trick is how to get on board and enjoy the ride. And that’s exactly what I learned in Dr. Z’s program today.”
So I ask you, are you taking responsibility for yourself, your job, and your future? Or are you waiting for the train to run over you?
Well, I can tell you from experience, no highly successful person ever got that way by waiting for good things to happen. They took responsibility for making good things happen. As writer Sara Henderson says, “Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel. Stride down there … and light the bloody thing yourself.”
There are four appropriate, healthy, and self-empowering responses you can and should take when you’re faced with challenging and insecure times.
1. Focus on Your Replacement Value, Not the Tough Times.
In his book, Earl Nightingale’s Greatest Discoveries, Nightingale observed that, for the most part, the size of a person’s paycheck is determined by how difficult he or she is to replace. Oh sure, “Every field of human endeavor has its stars,” he said. Movie stars, sports stars, and the like. And they’re paid way more than they’re worth.
The vast majority of people, however, are paid according to their value. The more difficult they are to replace, the more money they tend to make. And the more job security they tend to enjoy.
That being the case, I strongly urge you to ponder your answer to entrepreneur Dan Kennedy’s four questions. If you’re ever going to have any semblance of control over your career, you must have an answer to each question. They are as follows:
- What am I going to do to increase my value in the market place?
- What am I going to do to demonstrably increase my value to my current employer? Or to my clients and customers?
- What am I going to do to increase my value to prospective future employers?
- What am I going to do to make myself so valuable that I’m the least likely to be cut or the last to be cut?
When you figure out your answers to these four questions, and when you do something with your answers, you become a great deal more irreplaceable – tough times or not. Then you need to…
2. Stop the Excuses. (You Can’t Excuse Tough Times Away.)
Stop finding excuses for NOT upgrading yourself, for NOT learning more, or NOT getting better. Stop sounding like the pathetic souls who say, “I don’t have time … I can’t afford to … My employer should take on the responsibility of training me … or … It’s the government’s job to look after my future.”
Stop sounding like the crybabies who say, “Take evening classes and spend my own money? Hey, I already work hard all day. Besides, I can’t afford to take classes.”
Stop sounding like the whiners who say, “If these classes are going to give me skills I’ll use on the job, my employer had better pay for them. And my company had better offer the classes during regular work hours. And if I have to go to classes on my time, I should get time-and-a-half.”
Philosopher Eric Hoffer said it very well. He wrote, “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than achievement.” And these alibi-makers, dare I say, will never turn into great success stories.
In my UP Your Attitude program, I teach people the exact six skills they need to become personal peak performers who let go of the excuses and get on with creating the success they want, need and deserve.
You see, highly successful people…
3. Refuse to Settle for “Good-Enough.”
In the Telephone Prosperity and Selling Report, Art Sobczak says, “Good-enough does not win championships or make people excellent, wealthy, or healthy.” Champions know that “good-enough” is seldom, if ever, “good-enough.”
And when I’m about to offer training in a company, some sourpuss will always say, “I don’t need to go to those classes … I’ve taken plenty of training in the past … I have already heard all that stuff … and … I’ve been here a long time and I’m doing good enough as it is.”
On the surface, the sourpuss may sound reasonable “enough,” but put his comment in another context. As Sobczak asks, how would you like to hear your cardiac surgeon say, “I had a class on heart surgery once back in medical school. That’s good-enough.”
Likewise, you would have your doubts about the professional baseball player who says, “I don’t need to go to spring training. I’ve been playing the game for years. I’m good-enough.”
All those comments are just plain ridiculous. To have a measure of control over your career future, you can’t settle for “good-enough.” You’ve got to…
4. Aggressively Pursue Continuing Education.
Hugh Nibley, a scholar and university professor, said it very well. “Our search for knowledge should be ceaseless … never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements.” And conflict resolution consultant Paul Davis adds, “The greatest minds and highest achievers are committed to continual personal growth and inward expansion.”
That means you’ve got to take classes and read books all your life. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I can already hear some of you saying you don’t have time. Well we’ve all got the same amount of time. It’s just a matter of adjusting your priorities.
Historian David McCullough says the average American spends 28 hours a week watching television. If that same amount of time were devoted to reading, in seven days a person would read…
- All the poems of Maya Angelou,
- One novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
- All the poems of T. S. Eliot,
- Two plays by Thornton Wilder, AND
- All 150 Psalms from the Bible.
Basketball executive Pat Williams says most people can finish an average-sized book in a week by reading an hour a day. That’s 52 books in a year. And as Williams notes, “You can become quite knowledgeable about ANY subject if you read the right five books on THAT subject.”
Philosopher John Dewey said it quite well. He said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
So if you’re going to enjoy a better life … with a more secure future … you need to keep on taking classes and reading books. It’s one of the best ways to make yourself more valuable, harder to replace, and out in front of the pack.
Action – Do five things that will make you more valuable to your company or your customers.
Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 903 – 4 Self-Empowering Responses to Tough Times on the Job