March 14, 2009
Economic Slump: Time to Tap into Nature's Ancient Wisdom
Ever notice that when you stop writing for awhile, writer's block takes over and cripples you? I've known for awhile that I needed to take a couple months off from blogging and from the web in general, but not because I grew tired of writing or new stuff. Disconnect from the web and new media when its your bread-and-butter? You must be mad I can hear you say.
When I was in Africa late last year through early 2009, I had laptop in hand and blogged but not nearly as much as I expected. Nor was I connected as much as I expected I'd be.
I've lived in Africa three times, so its not as if I didn't know what to expect and yet somehow I figured I'd be so inspired since it had been awhile since my last visit, I wouldn't stop writing. Blog posts would be pouring out of me.
But no. Not even close. Notice the break in between my last South African blog post and the most recent ones. The closer I got to nature -- on a regular basis -- the more disconnected I felt from the blog. It was all about immersion.
Think about it: all of the best coaches in the world pitch immersion and language courses based on immersion or living in the country are the best way to go. That's what off-site business retreats are based on and one of the reasons why the Aspen Institute and Renaissance weekends are so insightful and inspiring.
We're human. We need immersion or as the Aussies put it: walkabout time. Frankly, most of us don't get enough of it. I read a Brad Feld tweet recently that updated us on his run in the mountains behind his house and that because of it, he was "completely and totally broken."
Of course he was. Bravo. Nature does that to people, particularly when you're really present with it. It's our roots - all of us regardless of what continent we were born on or connect to.
There was something about being so close to the African earth, particularly in the parts of the continent where humanity began, that begged me to listen to its silence. Over and over again. Listening to its silence calls for a dismissal of machines, at least it was the case for me. As much as I was inspired to write, I couldn't do so on a "machine." It would have disrupted the silence. And so, I took it all in, digested it and secretly hoped it was getting 'baked' into my DNA so I wouldn't ever lose the feeling.
I felt the same way in the Israeli desert, the Arizona desert and when I drove across country a few years back. I thought I'd blog about the whole trip and instead, took notes along the way and blogged after the fact.
The downside of the latter is that the posts ended up reading like a travel log rather than the richness you get from live-blogging. I'm a fan of the latter but when I'm that close to dirt, flowers and trees, its as if the force of Mother Nature herself pulls me away from anything that has a power cord or battery.
Isn't it a great time to reconnect with nature, in an era where you've either been laid off, your contracts are smaller than they've been in years or you have a full time job but most of your budgets have been slashed by ten?
When I was 21, I traveled around the world with my 32 year old British boyfriend, who was at the time a marketing rockstar in the London scene where we were living at the time. He took nearly two years off if I recall correctly, but not without thought. Would he be able to slot back in after being intimately plugged into every thread and conversation twenty four months later? After all, he was a 32, not 22. Unforgiveable? Perhaps, but certainly not traditional. We returned, he got a job and life carried on.
Years later, I did the same thing. I took off for a few years - Africa, Europe, you name it. I'll never forget an experience I had a month or so after my return.
I used to do PR for Computerworld so there were a ton of old copies of the magazine in my grandparents basement where we stored everything at the time. The industry stories hadn't changed all that much and while there were new versions, new companies and new solutions, I couldn't believe how easy it was to slot back into the industry without being connected with anyone for a few years. It took me three long days of reading to get back up to speed.
Today, the story may be a little different. With countless examples of Kurzweil's Singularity coming into play, everything is moving at a much faster pace and jumping out of the game and back in a couple of years later may be tougher. Perhaps true, perhaps not.
This much I know. Despite all the articles and blog posts I've read that traditional media and PR is dead, Jeff Jarvis' WWGD book tells me that the middle men are dead and that the economic recession means marketers will starve for quite awhile, there are always opportunities.
Remember Helen Keller's famous quote, something I remind myself of often: "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us." Newspapers have been doing this for years, Hollywood too.
Wherever there are threats, there are opportunities; it just may mean taking a step back (for awhile), taking less money (for awhile) and looking at the world a little differently (for awhile). Reinventing oneself or simply a role can be magical and rewarding.
If you're good at what you do and you listen and think strategically, there will be a need for your skills even if they get used in a way you never imagined. And trust me, if you're in marketing or communications, they will.
Ignite the universe, spend a little time with the trees and ask them for ancient wisdom. Ask them what your "real value" is. And then listen. In that silence, you may just learn something very powerful about yourself and about what is happening around us.
Remember that not just the industry is seeing a significant shift, but the world is undergoing a dramatic change as well and if you're not tapping into that energy source too, you're missing the mark (we just elected a black president baby and money is getting pumped into energy at home and countless other things.....)
While it may sound like a flighty "new age" solution to the changes we're undergoing, I'm not suggesting that asking the ancient skies and trees for guidance is all you do. I'm simply suggesting that you do it.
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I love your comments about letting trees and sky giving clues as to what real value is. It also reminds us that nature- all that was here before our human drama, knew nothing of economics nor did it care.
It's a species-specific construct that we are talking about, though I don't pretend it doesn't affect people in very real ways.
In fact, since so many are talking about being more creative during this economic slump, why not think outside the box a bit? Here's what I mean.
It's amazing that there are plenty of skill sets that are for whatever reason not "conventional" enough to be taught in schools, but the mastery of which would lead to more autonomy. (This spoken from a guy who has worked from home for over 13 years).
Most of us are trained to be employees- nothing wrong with that, but thinking that way can be a kind of tunnel vision that keeps many from learning skills that would allow them to carve out their own path to income and contribution.
One of them is as close as the computer in front of you. No really, for the first time in history, we are 3 feet in front of the world, yet few learn how to use it in a way to render 1) value to others and 2)income for themselves.
There ARE ways to learn this stuff, if you can avoid all the junk and find good and reputable sources. The great thing about it is the very process of learning how to market or gain customers through online means can help virtually ANY business as well.
Posted by: Tim | Aug 28, 2009 7:00:17 PM