2010: Turning Over a New Leaf
What is the point of all your great efforts these past few years you may be asking? In 2009, it was enough to just hold on, keep your business or income afloat, and try to make it through each month. There wasn’t a whole lot of growing to do unless you were one of the firms that grabbed onto the government’s life line to be pulled out of the hole you put yourself in. For the rest of us, we are left to our own devices to pull ourselves out of the hole others left behind.
All the progress made in 2008 by motivated entrepreneurs and optimistic working folk was flushed down the old porcelain convenience post Lehman Brothers’ collapse. 2009 was the year to hang on for dear life and hope you made it through. It was like standing on the Titanic watching all the Big Banks jump into the lifeboats leaving you two choices: sink or swim. If you managed to swim in 2009 and not get pulled down with the ship, you might be asking, what do I do now?
The New Year 2010 has begun and with it green shoots of Hope have sprung in the hearts of the resilient. Larry Summers, President O’s Chief Economic Advisor, swears that “everyone agrees that the recession is over.” Those words ring false for the millions upon millions whose incomes have been cut in half or completely wiped out, for the tens of millions more whose net worth is a fraction of 2007 values. And for the millions of jobless or financially devastated who feel abandoned or forgotten, these words inspire rage and despair. Those left to their own resources without lifeboats for the past 16 months do not agree, Mr. Summers - the recession is not over, not for ordinary folks, not by a long shot.
So what is it all about, Alfie? What was the point of all that? Where do we go from here?
We muddle through the day to day financial stress trying to make sense of the senseless and nothing rings true. The need for financial regulation, the methods for resurrecting incomes, the possibilities of official support - all of it really means nothing in the face of the bigger truths. For all the menial, trivial, and hard reality of paying the bills, and generating income to stay alive, it all comes back to one thing: what is the deeper meaning of all of this financial upheaval in your life?
Why are you or any of us here on this earth at this moment in time? Is it Chance or Coincidence to our current economic stress? Or is there a greater plan behind it all? These are the questions for millennia; these are the questions for the moment at hand.
I don’t know a deeper meaning to life if it is not to help others as we try to help ourselves - to serve a higher purpose by making the world a better place. While that may be an ultimate truth, it will not necessarily pay the bills.
The question for 2010 then is how to do we make the world a better place, a world where human beings care for each other more than their wallets, where common folk are not left on the curb as “fat cats” step over their writhing bodies, where ordinary heroes rise up to take back the world they create every day in every way. When will the values of ordinary people who do the “right” thing consistently without prompting reap earthly rewards for their humanity? Must we always be trumped by the overwhelming self-serving indifferent powers that be? How can we take the reins and gallop our own way to freedom?
I ask all these questions of you, because I have been asking these myself.
It can get pretty hopeless out here in the wasteland of the devastated American economy. I look around and see misery and suffering, some of which the rest of the world has always known, but for my generation is new. What do I tell them, how do I bring them hope for a better future?
First of all, I remind everyone, even those facing homelessness and bankruptcy, it is never just about money. There is always a bigger picture.
Money makes the world go around only to a degree. It buys us food, shelter, clothing, perhaps medical care and education. Things we need to survive and thrive. But we already know it does not buy us love, nor does it buy us compassion, or sensitivity to the pain of others, nor relief from apathy. That comes from the heart. That comes from a greater place than cannot be explained easily in words.
So while you are going through your great financial challenges and hoping to pull yourself up from the boot straps for 2010, remember one thing: there is always a greater plan. This too shall pass and you will be once again back on your feet having learned important lessons along the way.
Remember too: it’s only money. Money dictates your lifestyle, keeps you in your home and in the mainstream of the living. But it does not say who you are, no matter how much you have or don’t. More importantly it does not reveal how you are inside, your heart, your mind, your soul. No matter what, you always have that.
Sometimes we think, why is this happening to me? Haven’t I done so much for so many, shouldn’t I be rewarded for that? Yes, absolutely. And so we are rewarded every day for our good deeds in the warmth and support we give and receive from others. Not necessarily in monetary terms.
What does all of this have to do with Good Business and earning a living? Everything. That is what we cannot forget. We are not our bank books, portfolios, or careers. We are living breathing souls with Goodness on our side and a greater plan guiding us through it all. We can’t forget that. The good don’t always die young; sometimes they live to be very old like Desmond Tutu or Mother Teresa. Financial reward is not necessarily in the picture.
So make your money and make your living, but don’t let it define you. Don’t let it determine your mood or self esteem. Don’t fall into the trap that got our society into the current bind of blind materialism it finds itself in, the trap that says money determines any part of your value other than numbers on a computer screen. Our deepest most valuable assets are our hearts and minds. We have those no matter what. These are the assets we are remembered for; these will be the things that we remember ourselves for. How do we treat others in our climb to the top or in our quest for more? How do create our living in relationship to others? How do we view ourselves - as numbers or as souls?
Don’t forget to ask what your greater purpose in life might be. It isn’t money. It is never money. In the end, it is always how you make your money that counts the most, not whether you do. That is what we are really remembered by.
As you navigate through the maze of making ends meet this year and working towards growing your business or income back to prosperous levels, you may have to lay people off; you may have to look for a job, you may not be able to pay all your bills.
Put these circumstances in perspective by remembering that these are inevitable realities of the human condition. There is no need to confuse them with greater meaning in your life or to let economic difficulties obscure the core of who you are.
Wishing you the best in the New Year.
Monika Mitchell is the Executive Director and Editor-in-chief of Good Business International, Inc. (GoodB). She writes regularly for the Good-B Blog.