In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted is facing a dilemma: his ex is en route to his wedding — and the bride doesn’t want her there.
When he asks his friend Lily for advice, she says: “You wait for the next crisis, you solve it, you’re a hero. Then you bring up the Robin thing, but this time, she’ll say yes.” When Ted intervenes with, “Yeah, but what if there’s no next crisis?” his friends break out in laughter. “She’s a bride. There will be a next crisis.” Four minutes later, that’s exactly what happens.
That’s the thing about crises: There’s always another one. Usually, right around the time we’ve forgotten the last one ever happened. That’s when it stings the most. We don’t control the nature of the crisis nor how much pain we’ll incur because of it — but we do control how we respond. We can pity ourselves, bury our heads in the sand, or we can do what Ted did: get excited about solving the challenge that lies ahead.
In our last big crisis in 2009, Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, shared a series of “Recession Thoughts” — actionable strategies to dig your heels in, get to work, and save your business or career. It’s a staccato of 46 poignant ideas, and today, I’d like to share them with you.
I’ve grouped Tom’s thoughts into 11 sections and added my own. For a verbatim source of his bullet points as quoted here, see his latest newsletter.
1. You come to work earlier.
2. You leave work later.
3. You work harder.
4. You may well work for less; and, if so, you adapt to the untoward circumstances with a smile — even if it kills you inside.
5. You volunteer to do more.
Working harder can’t solve everything, but as long as it’s an option, it sure should be the first thing you try. Were you really giving 100% before the crisis hit? Did you already do your best? Or were you cruising along, living for the day, resting on your laurels even? There is a time to do those things, but no matter if it was a few weeks ago, now, it has definitely stopped. Get to work.
6. You dig deep, deeper, deepest — and always bring a good attitude to work.
7. You fake it if your good attitude flags.
8. You literally practice your “stage face” in the mirror each morning, and in the loo mid-morning.
9. You give new meaning to the idea and intensive practice of “visible management.”
10. You take better than usual care of yourself and encourage others to do the same — physical well-being significantly impacts mental well-being and response to stress.
Confidence is a two-way street. Real accomplishment drives it, but it’s also an area of life in which “fake it till you make it” works. Don’t let the doom and gloom of the daily news get to you. Jump out of bed. Work out. Shower. Dress the part. Smile. A positive attitude is infectious. It becomes stronger in yourself the more you practice it, and it lifts up everyone around you.
11. You shrug off shit that flows downhill in your direction — buy a shovel or a “pre-worn” raincoat on eBay.
12. You try to forget about the “good old days” — nostalgia is self-destructive. (And boring.)
13. You buck yourself up with the thought that “this too shall pass,” but then remind yourself that it might not pass anytime soon; and so you rededicate yourself to making the absolute best of what you have now — character is determined, virtually in full, by one’s reaction to adverse circumstances.
14. You work the phones and then work the phones some more — and stay in touch with, and on the mind of, positively everyone.
15. You frequently invent breaks from routine, including “weird” ones — “change-ups” prevent wallowing in despair and bring a fresh perspective.
16. You eschew all forms of personal excess.
17. You simplify.
Without thick skin, you’ll blow up at every little thing. You’ll be fast to criticize and harsh in your judgments, while instantly crumbling in the face of critique yourself. It’s a sign you lack self-esteem. This is also what confidence is about: Shaking off what goes wrong with a shrug. It’s a test of your character, not anyone else’s, so strap yourself in and roll up your sleeves.
18. You sweat the details as never before.
19. You sweat the details as never before.
20. You sweat the details as never before.
21. You raise to the sky and maintain — at all costs — the Standards of Excellence by which you unfailingly and unflinchingly evaluate your own performance.
22. You are maniacal when it comes to responding to even the slightest screw-up.
Beating yourself up over spilled milk helps little, but it’s a hell of a strategy while the glass is still toppling. Obsess over what can go wrong before it does, and you’re entitled to hope it never will. Set up fallbacks and draft backup plans for your backup plans. Will Durant said excellence is not an act but a habit, what better time to cultivate it than now?
23. You find ways to be around young people and to keep young people around — they are less likely to be members of the “sky is falling” school. (Naïveté can be a blessing.
24. You learn new tricks of your trade.
25. You pass old tricks of the trade on to others — mentoring matters now more than ever.
26. You invest heavily in your Internet-Twitter-Facebook- “cloud”-computing skills.
Arrogance leads to more bankruptcies than a lack of actual skills. Now isn’t the time to be skeptic, it’s a time to survive. Consider everything you can get, and look at all ideas with an open mind. Adopt a beginner’s mindset, be curious and eager to learn, get off your high horse, and generously share what you know with others. Karma usually returns the favor.
27. You remind yourself, daily, that this is not just something to be “gotten through” — it is the Final Exam of Competence, of Character, and, even if you’re not a boss, of Leadership. (People often make great leaps in a short period during difficult times.)
28. You network like a demon.
29. You network like a demon inside the company — get to know more of the folks who “do the real work,” and who can be your most dependable allies when it comes to getting things done seamlessly and fast.
30. You network like a demon outside the company — get to know more of the folks “down the line,” who “do the real work” in vendor-customer outfits. (They can become, and will become, your most avid allies and champions.)
Every person in your life has appeared for a reason, and there’s something you can do for them, a role you’re supposed to fulfill. It may be an act of service, a lifelong friendship, or simply a kind nod in the hallway. Whatever it is, it is your responsibility to accept that role and take the lead.
31. You offer thanks to others by the truckload if good things happen — and take the heat if bad things happen.
32. You behave kindly, but you don’t sugarcoat or hide the truth — humans are startlingly resilient, and rumors are the real spirit-killers.
33. You treat small successes as if they were World Cup victories — and celebrate and commend people accordingly.
34. You shrug off the losses (ignoring what’s going on in your tummy), and get back on the horse and immediately try again.
35. You avoid negative people to the extent you can — pollution kills.
36. You read the riot act to the gloom-sprayers, once avoiding them becomes impossible. (Gloom is the ultimate “weapon of mass destruction” in tough times.)
The word ‘management’ sounds like it describes a sterile, lifeless task, but it’s about directing some of life’s toughest and most fascinating concepts: human emotions, expectations, and beliefs. Regardless of where you sit in the hierarchy, you can regulate these in yourself and others, and you can manage them “up” or “down.” Reinforce the positive, mitigate the negative, and, together, we’ll all get through this with our heads screwed on the right way.
37. You give new meaning to the word “thoughtful.”
38. You don’t put limits on the budget for flowers — “bright and colorful” works marvels.
39. You redouble and re-triple your efforts to “walk in your customer’s shoes.” (Especially if the shoes smell.)
Sometimes, only your world feels like it’s ending. Sometimes, it’s everyone’s. Neither is reason to neglect the little things. If you look hard enough, you can find something good in each day. Better yet, you can provide that thing for others and ensure you get your own dose of goodness for the day.
40. You mind your manners — and accept others’ lack of manners in the face of their strains.
41. You are kind to all mankind.
42. You keep your shoes shined.
To paraphrase Ian MacLaren: Be kind to whoever you meet, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. This won’t make your life any easier, but it makes ours a little easier to bear. Not that we should need a reason to be kind, nor that there aren’t many, but if so, this is it. Be kind.
43. You leave the blame game at the office door.
44. You call out, in no uncertain terms, those who continue to play the “office politics” game.
45. You become a paragon of personal accountability.
You can scream, you can fight, you can cry, at the end of the day, life will knock you down like a bully drags another kid through the mud on the playground. The only thing you really control is to accept the situation in all its unpleasantness, take responsibility for it, and start where you’re at.
46. And then you pray.
The night before the invasion of Normandy, US president Eisenhower wrote to his wife: “Everything we could think of has been done. The answer is in the lap of the gods.” After you’ve done absolutely everything you can do, then — and only then — do you surrender.
And then you pray.
Previously Published on Medium