Adversity

As I wrote this chapter, in early 2009, millions of people across America were losing their jobs. We’re weren’t all losing our jobs, but listening to the media sure made you feel like you could be next.

People seem to be intent on blaming someone. President Obama has made it clear that it’s all President Bush’s fault. Rush Limbaugh has been calling it the “Obama Recession” for over a year. But to focus on blame is to miss the point.

I’ve been fired once and laid off twice, so I know that losing your job is uncomfortable, scary and demoralizing. It makes you question yourself and your circumstances. It causes tension in your family and tests your strength.

So, people are losing their jobs. Does this mean they will be hungry and homeless tomorrow? Probably not, in normal circumstances, and if they’ve been responsible with their financial choices. There’s not much, aside from a permanent injury, serious illness or the death of a loved one, that lasts forever.

First, consider the number of those who are laid off who get a severance package of some sort. Generally, when layoffs of any kind happen, your pay is not automatically cut off. More often than not, you will get x number of weeks pay, which means that you have at least a little time to find a job, re-evaluate your expenses, start your own business or consider your next move.

At the same time, you can file for unemployment insurance. So, in the immediate sense, not only do you have a sum of money to cushion the blow, but also a weekly check from the government - not ideal, but it’s there.

There is also whatever support network you have in the way of family, friends or in the community who may be able to assist you - baby sit your child while you look for a job, hire you to do odd jobs, help you network for your next job, etc.

Finding a job takes time, and, depending on what kind of job you are seeking - blue collar, white collar, technical, service industry, manufacturing, etc. - a lot of hard work and patience. It is not normally instant, and can grow to be very frustrating.

When layoffs start hitting the news, you not only hear the number of jobs lost that day, but you also get a human interest story or two of people who are frightened and aren’t sure what’s going to happen next. What you don’t hear is that while companies are laying people off, more often than not that same company is also hiring.

While the media will often lament the layoffs and focus on the cruelty of capitalism, I’ve always seen the lost job as an opportunity. There’s no such thing as a condition in which “there are no jobs.” Someone is always hiring somewhere. But more and more, people are deciding to get away from the unpredictable nature of the company. They’re taking control of their own lives and going into business for themselves.

There’s nothing more motivating than having to support yourself and possibly others. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. I’ve known many people, including myself, who’ve been laid off, and many of their circumstances improved in the next move. Many of my friends have started their own businesses and, to a person, they’re all still making it work. They’re not all making more money, but they’re far happier working for themselves.

Adversity is a good thing. We learn from the bad things that happen to us or around us. It makes us smarter, stronger and better. While the current economic circumstances are scary, they won’t always be. When we come out of it, we’re quite possibly going to be better off for it.