Stuck? You may need somebody to stand by you

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istock_000006307944xsmallA friend mentioned today that we are in another age of "creative destruction."

In other words, everything we got comfortable with is being blown to bits. Consider these statements which may have seemed very reasonable a short while ago:

And, for some:

  • I have a job
I have been chipping away at the "jobs are stable" myth for quite awhile now.  And suddenly, I don’t feel like a heretic, since reality is proving this to be the case.  We are all self-employed, no matter our employment status, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be.
But despite knowing that there is some real good that can come from our individual and collective discomfort, while you are going through it, it can feel pretty lonely.
This is what I picked up on when I received the first email from Jon, the 23 year-old employee who had the opportunity to quit his job and go play ball in Germany.  He was concerned if he was making the right move, he didn’t want to disappoint his parents, and he didn’t want to do anything foolish that would jeopardize everything he had built in his life so far.
The outpouring of advice and support for him was really remarkable.  And perhaps more profound, in my opinion, was that it also impacted his parents.  When they realized that they were not alone in providing career advice to their son, and when they saw that dozens of people all over the world were concerned for his happiness and success, they let go of some of their fear.
Jon set a wonderful example of reaching out for support in a time of uncertainty.   
Intellectually, especially if you have lived on the earth for a few decades, you know that any challenge or difficulty or discomfort usually brings positive learning and growth. You may have your own dog-eared copy of my favorite book The Prophet by Khalil Gibran:
On Pain
And a woman spoke, saying "Tell us of Pain."
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief…"
The key to making it through the awful, scary parts of life is to get someone to stand by you.
The process is not complicated:
  • If you feel the weight of a challenge (financial, personal, health-related), find someone safe and confide in him (or her).  Let him know what is going on, and share any fears or anxieties that you have boxed inside. Hearing yourself talk about your challenge can give you a different perspective. And receiving sympathy and support from someone you trust will go a long way to lesson the anxiety you may be feeling.  If you stay stuck in your own head, the tendency is to completely lose reason and perspective. 
  • Look to others who have gone through similar situations and come out thriving. It seems the media is on a bit of a shark feeding frenzy of bad news lately.  There is a huge blast of "look how many poor schmucks got laid off today!" on every media platform.  And this can make all of us feel on edge.  To combat this, limit your news, and follow stories and individuals who have lived through really difficult economic and personal challenges and came out swinging.  Yes, times are kind of rough at the moment.  But it doesn’t mean we need to curl up in a ball and act defeated.
  • Stand by someone else.  When I have my down moments, one thing that always makes me feel better is to do something that will help someone else.  Often, this is writing a blog post that addresses a common concern. Sometimes it is connecting two people who I know will benefit from each others expertise or service.  Sometimes it is just taking an extra moment to really listen to someone who is in my life, like my son’s preschool teacher, or the pharmacist at my local grocery store.  By doing so, I have learned that my pharmacist is a poet, and my son’s preschool teacher wants to write a book.
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself.  Do you have great ideas, but are a bit challenged getting them off the ground?  Now is an excellent time to look in your extended circle for joint venture partners.  I am working with my good buddy and fellow business coach Michele Woodward on a marketing program for our tribe of Martha Beck coaches.  I have forgotten how fun it is to work with someone else, especially someone like Michele who is open, fun and creative.  By working together, we are delivering a better program, more quickly, than if either of us had done it ourselves.
  • Get connected with those outside of your day-to-day circle.  I realize that not everyone is a social media weenie like me, but if you are open to new things, experiment with online communities like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. It may make you feel much more optimistic about employment and work opportunities if you realize that you don’t have to meet with employers or clients in person to make a good living.  I will probably never meet most of my clients face to face, but through the wonder of technology, we find each other to our mutual benefit.
I received this video clip from my friend Rafe Eric Biggs.
We met about ten years ago, when we were both leadership coaches in the
Bay Area.  He was the picture of perfect health.  And then:

In 2004 I had a life altering experience. While traveling on spiritual
retreat in India, I fell from a building and broke my neck. In an
instant, I became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. In
that single moment, my life was transformed from "having it all" (a
successful leadership coaching practice, a home in Sausalito, a
beautiful girlfriend, and a healthy body) to "losing everything" – or
so it seemed. I have spent the last several years learning how
to take tragedy and transform it into a positive extraordinary

Your own challenge may not be as life altering as Eric’s.  But you can get a feel for his resilience and heart by taking a moment to watch this video clip.

Thanks for standing by me.  I will do the same for you. 

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17 Responses to “Stuck? You may need somebody to stand by you”

  1. One of the driving factors in the cycle of creative destruction is anchored in technological innovation. Counter to popular opinion, I believe that all technology is disruptive. As new tech emerges it causes shifts that lead to instabilities. As the pace of technological innovation speeds up we will see faster and faster cycles of disruptions leading to destruction.

    There is a silver lining though to the doom and gloom. By striking out as an entrepreneur you don’t detach yourself from the cycles but you put yourself in a position to respond directly to them. As an employee in a company you are reliant on the foresight of your superiors. But if they are idiots, you suffer. By escaping from the corporate cubicle you put yourself in the driver’s seat.

    And that’s the only place I want to be.

    Great article! Thanks for your wisdom.

  2. Very inspiring post! The part of the article about Rafe Eric Briggs really struck a cord with me. It reminded me how I need to remember to enjoy the journey as we can not take anything for granted.

    Great post!

  3. Pam, an absolutely inspiring post. Thank you very much for such an uplifting article (and music).


  4. TSC says:

    A very nice post – the worse things get, the more we should be supporting each other. Love the site too!

  5. Wonderful post. As a Career Coach I speak with people every day who have lost their jobs in this down economy and it is heart-wrenching; the stress of finding income to feed the family, pay debt and keep a roof over one’s head.

    The list you provide is a reminder about how much we can do for one another and that it’s ok to ask for help, seek help and “be help”, as you pointed out.

    Thank you…
    Robin Ogden

  6. Sean says:

    Fantastic post and video. That video is what success in life is all about – collaboration and fun.

    Thanks for always making us think.

  7. Your post is a timely reminder of the very things we need to keep in mind in any economic situation. In the pace of daily activities, it’s easy to get caught up in the media’s incessant doom and gloom reports — and think we are powerless. When actually we are not. There’s so much that is positive that we can do. Congratulations on your new book, Pam! Can’t wait to read it.

  8. Kare says:

    yes you are prescient…. non-corp work is growing….

    Relatedly Pam, I’ve been listening to Tina Brown (The Beast) talk on an NPR interview about the burgeoning gig nation (she wrote an article on the topic)… as i am, well, working on my current gig.

    Reminds me of Marci Alboher’s book Slash Life. As a speaker/author/coach/start-up partner the patchwork life is working for me right now yet i identify with the big choices one sometimes has to make as Jon is….

    When you next visit the Bay Area, love to see you somewhere near here in Sausalito + eager to read your new book

  9. Emily says:

    I’ve pondered the whole “horrible” economy thing for a while now. And, then I did what 95% of the people in my life think I’m insane for – while most are trying to hang onto jobs, I quit mine. My job was stable and secure (mental health therapist) – but I am only in my twenties and I was already so burnt out and exhausted that I, as a person, wasn’t feeling very secure or stable. 95% of the people I know have told me I’m crazy and stupid and irresponsible.

    Fortunately, it’s the other 5% that matter – the ones who know I am creative and intelligent and powerful. I think we forget sometimes that security and stability are an illusion – we decide what makes us secure. I know there have been a number of times I felt very secure only to have my life turned upside down – like when my partner died unexpectedly.

    And whether my life is turned upside down by a death or illness or by quitting a career I worked for for years – those amazing people stand by me and remind me who I am. They are my touchstones – they make life secure no matter what the economy because they remind me that I am not my job or my bank account or my home. I chose my security – my security is ME.

    And I adore that 5% of amazing people who stand by me and remind me of this 🙂

  10. Jorge Diaz Tambley says:

    Great article, right on time for many of us.

    BTW The video was fantastic!

    regards from Chile

  11. Richard says:

    In other words; find a mentor that will listen to you. Your personal board of advisor’s is a good source too.

  12. Hannah says:

    Thank you for a sensitive, accurate and timely blog post.

    Having spent the past 12 months dreaming and planning to bring executive coaching to the teaching profession in a big way, I am all set to launch my fledgling business.

    I was put at risk of redundancy last week and have gone through a wave of mixed emotions since.
    My future with my employer is still uncertain, however I am 100% certain that my future is running a business that enables me to be passionate about what I do EVERY DAY!

    I am so grateful that so many people surrounding me are so very willing to ‘stand by me’ at the very first opportunity. I am truly blessed.

    Like Isabel my challenge is to ensure that I don’t fill up every waking moment with work again and forget about what is REALLY important to me.

    My coach made a really good point to me yesterday.
    The power of a question is multiplied many times when you put in the word “really”.

    So I am asking myself:

    “What is really important to me?”

    “What am I really passionate about?”

    “What do I really want my ideal day to look like tomorrow/next week/year/at retirement?”

    …and then I can go all out to achieve it in the knowledge that I am dong so for the right reasons and with a fabulous end goal in sight.


  13. Pamela Slim says:

    Isabel: I hear you sister, it isn’t easy! And I really commend you for doing it as a single Mom. My Mom was a single Mom from the time I was 5 years old, so I know the struggle! Nevertheless, there is great beauty in doing something yourself. Go get em! And lean on me when you need to. 🙂

    Jonathan: So sorry — Eric just passed the link to this video, he did not produce it.

    Richard: I know. It is kind of amazing how much it feels like our world has flipped the last few months. The good thing is: the grass and trees, sun and moon, wind and water are still here. They must look at us humans and wonder how we get in such conundrums, no? 🙂

    Jeff: Indeed. I know you enough by now to know you appreciate the serendipity of the song and this post. Love it when it works like that!


  14. On my commute home I was listening to a song that went:

    Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
    I get high with a little help from my friends,
    Oh I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

    …and I pondered how much it really is our friends and fellows that carry us through, and we do the same for them.

    Then I see your post this evening when I get home.

    If this day was a fortune cookie, I think I deciphered the message inside. I hope tomorrow is as clear.

  15. Well done post. I am especially moved by the “loss list” at the top. It is the sort of thing I feel like printing on a small scrap of paper, wadding into a tight little ball, and swallowing with a gulp. Then move on.

  16. Jonathan says:

    I’m a little slow today: did Eric produce that video? Or did he just think you would like it?

  17. Isabel Viana says:

    How timely this blog post is. I completely agree. In fact, just today I thanked my business partner for being my buddy.

    I love and believe in the online business we launched two months ago. But, at times, all that is involved in marketing our website and keeping it up to date can be overwhelming. Especially, since the business is not the only commitment I have. I’m also the single mother of a young child. I am also a friend. And I also enjoy having quiet time to continue to strengthen my relationship with my soul.

    If I don’t watch it closely, the details of my business could suck up all of my time, leaving me dry and lacking purpose.

    So, I feel enormous gratitude that I’m not creating this new venture alone.

    Thanks for the chance to comment.