06 Jul Walking the Middle Path in the Downturn
How can we keep a positive attitude and an expectation of good news in the midst of an economic downturn? Where’s the balance between Pollyanna Sunshine versus Chicken Little?
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Transcription by Otter.ai. Please forgive any typos!
Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online anytime at CauseyConsultingLLC.com. And now, here’s your host, Sara Causey.
Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. In today’s episode, I wanted to sit down and think out loud about ways to possibly, maybe, hopefully, keep a positive attitude and a positive sense of expectation, even in a downturn. Full disclaimer here. I don’t give you advice, and I don’t tell you what to do or what not to do. You have to make those decisions for yourself. I opine for your entertainment only. And that’s it. To be clear, what I don’t want to get into in this episode are things like toxic optimism, toxic positivity, and toxic gratitude. feeling like you have to be thankful for every awful thing that ever happens in your life, or you have to try to put a positive spin on it immediately. You can’t feel emotions like sadness, anger or grief, you have to just toughen up all of a sudden, rather than grieving a loss or dealing with those feelings of anger and sadness. You have to just sweep them under the rug, ignore them in the name of toxic positivity, toxic optimism or toxic gratitude. No, I have no interest in that. And I don’t find it helpful. I was recently thinking back to an episode I recorded a long time ago feels like it’s been many moons with Michael free choose about this idea that if you go into your business every morning, and you feel exasperated, as soon as you open the door, or you go into your home office, and you immediately think alright, what fresh hell awaits me today? What problems what issues what dumb BS am I going to have to deal with today? I feel that if you go into the situation with that attitude, that’s pretty much what you’re gonna get. Nevertheless, it can be hard in the midst of a downturn in the midst of markets being in flux, to get your footing, and to go in with a true sense of positive expectation. Or at least maybe a sense of neutrality. Perhaps I’m not walking into the office thinking Oh, god. What now? What lunacy? What moronic nonsense awaits me today. I don’t suffer fools lightly. And yet, here I am. Versus it’s gonna be wonderful and Pollyanna sunshine, and everything’s gonna be great all day long. Like, where’s the middle path? I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about Eastern philosophy, whether we’re talking about Buddhism and the middle path, Xin and meditation or Taoism, this idea of life is not always going to be sunshine and roses, but it’s not going to always be sturm und drang either. I think back to Wayne Dyer talking about, there’s a time to be comfortable and a time to be uncomfortable. And he would tell the story of going to hot yoga. And when he was in there, sweating and twisting his body into different positions, he would just remind himself, you signed up for this, this is the time to be uncomfortable. And then when you go home and you take a shower and you’re in comfortable clothes, well, then that’s the time to relax and be comfortable. For those of us who participate in agriculture, I think that we’re more closely aligned to the seasons, and the land and the Wheel of the Year, the cycles, you just see them more clearly, I think when you’re really involved in agriculture, and you’re out in nature, as opposed to somebody that is inside all the time, maybe they’re cooped up in an apartment, or they’re cooped up in an office, and they just don’t ever really get out and experience nature in a true sense. Maybe they do on vacation once a year, but they’re not as tied to the land as somebody who’s working the land every single day. Even though it’s summer, and it’s hot. We’re already having to make the decisions and the provisions for winter. Because we know we’ve already gone into the dark half of the year. And even though it doesn’t seem like we even want to contemplate cold weather and snow and all of that right now and it feels like it’s 1000 degrees and it’s as muggy as a swamp. The reality is we’re in the dark half of the year and it’s not going to be July forever. The day will come where it’s December, January, February, and those can be tough months. I think that it helps you to keep that sense of perspective. Yes, it’s hot now, but it won’t be. And likewise, in the midst of winter, if you’re having to go out and hay the cattle in a driving snowstorm, you’re gonna remember, it’s not going to be like this forever, either. The day will come where we’re all outside futzing, and sweating and missing this snow, I think you just are able to see that better when you have that connection to the land. And you’re keenly aware of the seasons and the weather and the passing of time. How do we apply that though, in our business? Because there are times when it’s like, okay, all right, this too shall pass. I know, this is not going to last forever. This is a rough patch. But even the roughest of rough patches doesn’t last forever. Ooh, it can feel difficult. In the midst of that rough patch. I said this was going to be a year of raw honesty, raw authenticity, and I’m going to give that to you. I’ve had some days lately, where, wow, I was really, truly not feeling it. And I’m talking about being burned out and fed up and aggravated to the point where I was contemplating rolling up the sidewalks and shutting the door. I never thought that I would feel that way, especially after having a first iteration of self employment that failed. And that drove me into a dark night of the soul. Now having a business that is not failing, and is not driving me into a dark night of the soul, I never would have imagined ever, that I would feel that way. And it triggered a memory for me. A long time ago, I was trying to do like a produce delivery, Community Supported Agriculture type business. And it was just purely a side hustle. I was hoping that I could no pun intended, grow it into something full time, however, I was hoping that maybe just maybe I could get it to a point where I could get out of corporate America. And I could just do that full time, I knew that I would have to figure out other ways to sustain the business during the winter months, but I was willing to try. And I had an advisor through the SBA. And he told me over the course of time, businesses grow, they change, they evolve, your direction now might not be the same direction in five years, you may grow this into a significant business and sell it, you might close the doors, you might decide it’s not what you want to do anymore. And as he was telling me that I sat there in the chair and thought, are you nuts. If I grow this into a profitable business, there’s no way in hell, I would shut the doors. This is my to get out of corporate America just know there’s no way I would ever quit on it. If it’s a successful business. And I can pay my bills and keep the lights turned on. I’ll do it forever, like I’m talking about. So I thought about that when I was in this moment of just Calgon take me away. The burnout, the frustration is real. Ah, I remember that conversation. So one thing I want to say here is it’s normal. And it happens to the best of us, you may have those times where even if you have grown a freelancing desk or a business or a boutique shop, whatever it is you’re doing, you may have grown that into something where the lights are on. The kids are fed and everybody’s doing okay. Not saying that anybody is a millionaire by any means, but you’re doing well enough that the bills are paid and the walls are not at the door.
You may still have fleeting feelings or long term feelings either one of Oh my god. Schilling, Gordon Ramsay shut it down. Why am I doing this? What the hell, I feel trapped. Maybe I need to just roll it up, call it a day and do something else. So I took some time to just get quiet, get still go into a meditative space where I could have a good think sometimes that is all that we really need. We’re so connected to devices and driven to distraction that it can be difficult to carve out that time or we think it can be difficult to carve out that time. Even if it’s only 15 to 20 minutes to just be alone with yourself. And it’s almost like you’re interviewing yourself what’s going on here. What are you really feeling what’s upsetting you? What’s what’s driving this? What do you feel like is triggering these emotions? And there’s a game that I learned Long time ago, where you just keep asking why you just keep asking yourself these good probative questions, including just simply why. Until you get to the root. Yeah, it can be annoying, and you can feel like you are your own three year old kid. Why? But why? Why? For me, however, it does help. I’m feeling burned out and frustrated. I’m on it. Why, why, why. And when I discovered when I sat still got quiet, and I had that time by myself. I realized that for me, a lot of it boils down to market frustrations. Okay, well, why are you frustrated with the market because of how I’m being treated? The way that some of these employers are treating employees, job seekers and freelancers absolutely sucks. It sucks, it bites the big one. On Sunday, I published a blog post titled death by interviews, because I had read an article on CNBC, about a person who had gone through nine interviews, and they still didn’t get the job. But then later on, this person found out that it was sort of a blessing in disguise, that she didn’t get the job because the role was made redundant, like after the person had only been on the job for three months. So she felt like, it was actually good that she didn’t leave her current job for this role, even though she had invested nine interviews. And one of the points that I make in that blog post is, if the market really was robust, if people were just churning and burning, and the great resignation was still going strong, you could hippity hop across the market and get more money and get better terms 3.7% unemployment rate to open jobs for every one unemployed person, blah, blah, blah. If that were true, then employers would not feel emboldened to behave in that way. Employers who tried to behave that way, when the great resignation actually was going on, they would get totally freaking steamrolled. And on top of that, they would have been dragged, absolutely dragged on social media and on review sites. Another point that’s made in the CNBC article is that it’s not an isolated incident. It’s not like this one person had this one bad experience. But we can’t really point to anything else like that happening in the market. This is a situation where I have to give a tip of the hat and say, This matches what I’m seeing in real time out in the job market. I can’t sit here in good conscience, like the hot air and hopium crowd and be like, everybody’s doing great. Nothing to say your people we belong, we belong. I can’t do that. For me, a big component of my burnout and my frustration was crappy treatment. Not being treated with basic human dignity. And I was seeing a real like here today gone tomorrow, type of situation. And I talked about that in the blog post. And I’ll just read an excerpt for you here. Back when I was in grad school, I remember having a Shakespeare class that was only offered during odd falls, the professor quipped, and I have the feeling this is going to be an odd fall. I have the feeling this is going to be an odd year. Over the course of 2023 I have experienced some pretty unprofessional situations in the freelancing market projects getting canceled before they started PMS hiring subs and then getting fired, laid off resigned and all the subs can too. Hmm. Been there done that more than once. Managers backstabbing the contract labor and blaming all problems on them. Hmm, then there had done that more than once to there’s been a real here today gone tomorrow vibe that I’ve seen as and as I’ve been freelancing, and as I said, if the market was really hot, and still candidate driven, these layoffs would not be happening. Bada boom, there you go. This kind of shady, crappy treatment would not be happening as much either. For my experience, freelancing is like the Wild West. And then if you use freelancing platforms, I’m not going to call out any names here. But if you use freelancing platforms that can be like the Wild Wild West, there are people that automatically assume freelance labor is disposable. And so who really cares anyway? And I think sometimes on those freelancing platforms, it’s even worse. It’s even more transactional because there hasn’t been the typical warmup period. They haven’t come into your sales funnel. They haven’t read your branding and your messaging, they’re not seeing as much content from you that really resonates for Have them. So there’s not as high of a know like and trust factor. There’s just you submitting a proposal where there’s them pinging you saying, Hey, I saw your profile, or I saw your posting or your ad on this freelancing platform. And now I want to know, if we can do business, there’s not as much of that warming up courtship type period, that you would get off of the freelancing platforms, generally speaking. So I think, in my opinion, and in my experience that can make a bad situation worse, it’s almost like throwing gasoline on the fire of mistreatment. I know you can find great people anywhere, and you can find your quads anywhere. For me, which is all I can speak to, as I said, at the beginning, it’s just my opinion, I could be wrong, your results may be different. It seems to me that there’s a higher jerkwad concentration going on in the market right now. It seems to me that there’s a higher level of people saying, Oh, well screw it. We’ll treat people however we want to whether that’s full time w two employees of their company, or whether that’s freelance or contract labor, someone that’s temping through a staffing agency. I mean, I have to be necessarily vague here. But I’ve seen some situations where I mean it really and truly, it was Here today, gone tomorrow, you would be having a conversation with a manager and the next day, you’d find out they have been rift. And it’s like, Oh, hey, I was just talking to Mall. Where did he go? Oh, yeah, he got laid off last night at 4:45pm. He goes, it’s like, Oh, okay. Well, all right. Where do we go from here. And then if the wheels fall off of the project, because there was nobody else to liaison with at the company, guess who gets the blame? The freelancer, the contractor, the temp? That’s not anything new. My point here is that I feel that it’s increasing. That would not be happening. In my opinion, that would not be happening if we really did have a robust labor market. If corporate America knew that the market actually was churning and burning, and people were doing great, I just don’t think they would feel emboldened to treat people like straight up dirt. I’ve linked to that article from the intercept. I don’t even know how many times and I will do so again for this episode. If you haven’t read it, go go and do so. But they leaked a Bank of America memo last summer, saying Bank of America memo revealed we hope conditions for American workers will get worse. Well, mission accomplished. Was the W that stood in front of a banner like that mission accomplished doing the good old job brownie got, oh, I don’t want to get off on politics. But yeah, okay, mission accomplished. I think I think they’re making conditions worse for the workers. So I think corporate America and Wall Street have responded to the call of duty there. I think it’s getting worse. Even though we’re expected to believe inflation was transitory it’s starting to abate things are doing good. Gosh, darn it, the economy is so resilient. Gosh, darn it, that labor market is still so robust, that we just we just have to keep going. The Fed has to keep doing their rate hikes, and we all have to just suck it up and accept unemployment.
One of my fears is if it’s this bad now, how bad could it get down the road? But then I pull myself back from that I’m like, Okay, wait a minute. You don’t want to come into work every day with that kind of mentality. If you sit down at your desk, then it’s the same thing as what fresh hell awaits me today. What kind of bullshit do I have to deal with now? Well, you’re gonna get bullshit. If that’s the way that you sit down at your desk. It’s like you’re, you’re sending that vibe out into the universe. Send me bullshit, send me clients that treat me like dirt. So I come back to the question, how do we do it? How do we get on a middle path so that we’re not toxic gratitude and falling into sunshine but we’re also not EA or we’re not Mad Max and the Thunderdome and zombies are going to eat your brains and everything’s gone to hell why even hope anymore? How do we maneuver ourselves back? How do we get to a middle path? It for me it’s a work in progress. I wish that I could give you some neatly packaged answer. One thing that has helped me tremendously is being able to have that quiet time to meditate and to think in an in a non judgmental way. Like whatever comes up just comes up if I feel frustrated if I need to have the adult equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum okay get get that out of your system let it happen. The more that you try to resist it, the more it’s going to fester and grow so just get it out. Let let it happen. Say what you need to say. Eight express what you need to express go go to the gym and hit a punching bag, and then go on with your life. I was also thinking about Wayne Dyer’s book your erroneous zones. And he talks about emotions like guilt and worry, and how useless they are. Because guilt is about getting hung up on the past which you cannot change. And worry is about getting hung up on the future. And you may start to imagine catastrophic scenarios, maybe even things that are so catastrophic and intense, they’re not even rational anymore, you’ve gone way off the deep end into worry. One of the things that does is it robs you of the present moment, but it also helps you to stay stuck. And there’s the rope. If you’re too busy lashing yourself over something that you did in the past, well, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I should have handled it a different way. Maybe if I had done X, Y and Z, then that guy wouldn’t have gotten laid off. And I’d still be on the project and maybe maybe, maybe maybe Yeah, we could we could sit and do that all day. And then on the other side with worry, it’s oh god, what’s going to happen it how’s this gonna play out? I don’t know what to do about the economy. I don’t know what to do about the market. I hate being treated like dirt. I hate it. These clients think they have the right to treat me that way. What’s tomorrow gonna bring? How bad is it going to be? It takes us out of the present moment. I can’t control the economy. I don’t control these fat cats and power brokers and hyper elites. They don’t come to me and ask for advice. I can’t control what they do. I can’t control the state. They also do not come to be an ask for advice. I can’t control the weather. We may have a summer that’s full of thunderstorms and power outages. I hope not. But we have to be prepared for that contingency because it’s already happened. And then I don’t know what winter is going to bring. Supposedly, we’re in an El Nino cycle. And I guess if it’s a strong El Nino, then we have a warmer winter, but it’ll be rainy and we might have thunderstorms over the winter. But then I guess if it’s a milder El Nino, we can have a lot of cold snow, I don’t have any control over that zippity doo da. All that we can try to do is make sure that we have adequate provisions as best as we can adequate provisions for the animals, and just hunker down and be ready for come what may. And really in. When you think about it in the present moment. That’s all you can do anyway. There’s an old cliche that a friend of mine used to use, I’ve never seen it tomorrow I’ve only ever seen today. That’s true. Even as I am recording this episode, when you think about changes in your body and digestion and your hydration levels and skin cells that shed, my body is not even the same as it was when I sat down and I hit the record button and started recording this episode. All we have is that present moment. I myself don’t believe that’s a good excuse to act like the grasshopper that saying all summer. Right? I know that if I’m alive and well, and my animals are alive and well. We’re going to have to be prepped for the winter. If I wait till November, and then I decide oh, oh, yeah, I guess it’s starting to get cooler outside, I’m probably need to think about getting some hay in the present moment. And wrong answer you’ve waited too late. You have to get hay when it’s being cut and bailed. And someone can show up and sell it to you and loaded in the barn. If you wait till November or December to do that, holy schnikeys You’re going to be in a mess. Whatever you find is probably not going to be great quality. And it’s going to be super expensive. Again, I feel like the middle path is very useful here. I can’t stress out about whether we’ll have snow and blizzards, whether we might have a snow NATO. But what I can do is assume that I’m going to be alive and well and that my animals will be alive and well. We’re going to need hey, I can start making those provisions. I can’t control what the weather is going to do all summer, but I can try to make provision so that if we have another bad thunderstorm, or worse yet tornado followed by long term power outage, how am I prepared to survive that because that could happen again. Those are things that are my provisions and my preparations are things that I can control. The weather, the economy, the state, the politicians, corporate America randos that come out of the woodwork, people on freelancing websites. I can’t control them. I cannot control any of that, and wouldn’t presume to. Can you imagine how much time and effort it would take, even if you attempted to do that. And I think that’s part of how we make ourselves miserable. Again, I’m thinking about Wayne Dyer talking about guilt and worry, because we can twist our guts into a knot. And I think it’s a cute when you own and operate your own business or you have your own freelancing desk because your name is on the door, you’re representing yourself. And even though it’s a corporate persona, it’s not, it’s not the complete sum total of who you are as a human on planet Earth. It doesn’t encompass who you are as a parent, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a brother, a sister, niece, nephew, neighbor, churchgoer, et cetera. It’s just a sliver of who you are, it still feels more personal. And you have the tendency to think what did I do wrong here? This project got cancelled before it ever even started? Is it my fault? The guy that hired me to do this just got fired? I mean, is there anything I could have done differently? And intellectually, you know that the answer to that is no, if somebody gets laid off, somebody gets fired with cause you didn’t have anything to do with it. That’s all on them. But the the guilt and the worry can take you to those places, it doesn’t actually help anything. For me, one of the things that I learned through meditation and using some therapeutic tools was for me, it gives me that illusion of control. Because if I think maybe I screwed this up, maybe it was my fault. Maybe I can assign blame to myself that I think, well, if I handle it differently next time, then I’m sure to get a different outcome. If I take on the weight of the world and try to act like I somehow control all of these things that I don’t control at all, maybe next time, things will be different. Maybe next time, things will be better. And I’m having to cope with the reality that we’re going into a downturn. In my opinion, we’re in a recession now, as we have been for quite some time. By the time that some official trots out and says the the recession has officially begun.
I don’t know how bad it will actually be at that point. I can’t control that. I cannot control that. The things that I can control that are within my purview, how I act, how I react, the Craig Ferguson role comes in so handy. It comes in handy at any point in time. But I’ve got the feeling y’all, that during this economic downturn, you know, we’re going to encounter people in corporate America that are just fire happy and layoff happy. If you sneeze in the wrong direction. They’re going to want to boot you out the door. I think the Craig Ferguson rule is going to come in in superduper handy as we go further into this, which is does this need to be set? Does this need to be said right now? Does this need to be said right now by me specifically? And if you can’t answer yes to those success of questions Shut up. That has saved my neck many times. With that said, there’s going to be times where you do have to speak up what your answer to those questions will be yes, I do have to speak up. I don’t have time to do this right now. Or this is not in the scope of work. They’re trying to get something for nothing here. They’re asking me Mission Impossible. I’m, I’m gonna have to decline this. There’s many times where if you’re dealing with somebody that’s fire happy. They’re just looking for any reason they want to bootlicker they want somebody that’s going to come in and grovel, oh, yes, Mr. Client, please. I’ll do anything for this job. Please, Mr. Client, please put some more grueling me bowl and also was sold to you. That’s what they want. My feeling is with people like that. And again, just my opinion, I’m not giving you advice. I’m not telling you what to do. I’m talking about me. My feeling about those people is good riddance to bad rubbish. If you want to bootlicker if you want somebody that’s going to debase themselves, and work 20 hours a day to please you, and it’s still not good enough eff off. I don’t need that kind of business. Not all money is good money. And if somebody is going to treat you that poorly, screw them. There’s the door. There’s the door. It’s a shame that these companies are feeling more emboldened to behave in bad ways, but it’s not unexpected. I have been on my Saturday broadcast for over a year now warning you about the economy and the job market, shenanigans and chicanery that I’m seeing things that don’t bode well. I feel like I’ve done what I can do. Again, No, no have some big tidy, like a bullet point answer. Oh, here’s the magic formula. Here’s the magic potion. What I personally am doing is just trying to get on the middle path. No Pollyanna sunshine, toxic optimism, toxic gratitude, but not E or either keeping things in perspective if a client goes away because they wanted to bootlicker goodbye, see, see and never if a client goes away, because they legitimately don’t have funds anymore, well, I hate that that happened. But I can’t do anything about that. The only thing I can do is roll on down the road and go to the next prospect. We have to remember that, yes, even in a downturn, you will have people that are successful, you will have people that are making money. And I feel that mindset is an important component of that. Just like if you sit down at your desk and go, what fresh hell? What kind of nonsense, what kind of BS, you’re sending that signal out. I think if you can get into that space of, I’ll handle it. In this situation. I’m thinking about Susan Jeffers. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Okay, it’s a downturn. Okay. These clients and hiring companies are feeling emboldened to act like jerks. Not all of them to be clear, but some of them are definitely feeling emboldened to act like jerks. I’ll handle it. I can feel the fear and do it anyway. And then when it’s time to shut the office down for the day, I can walk away from that, and truly decompress. I also feel like decompression time, quiet time, solitude, whatever it is that you like spending time with your family, playing ball with the kids out in the yard, reading a book, whatever it is that you like to do. I also think that having those pockets of time, during this downturn, the sanity breaks the opportunity to get away from news about the economy, news about politics, news about the job market. I think that’s going to serve you very well. We need that decompression time. I mean, even animals play. If you’ve ever raised farm animals, you’ve seen it. If you’ve ever had dogs or cats, you’ve seen them play. Well. It’s not any different for humans, we need that outlet as well, to do something fun and enjoyable. That’s not a license, in my opinion, to go spend crap loads of money on expensive vacations and toys and doodads. It is an opportunity, however, for you to blow off some steam to get away from the screens and to just have that time to be human, to not be worried about the capitalist machine. Or, more specifically, in my opinion, the crony capitalist machine trying to drive us all the hill, you got to have the opportunity to get away from that. That’s my strategy. Getting back to the middle path. And and keeping it all in perspective, we’re on a rock hurtling through space. The things that we are worried about now, will they matter to anybody in 100 years? 200 years, 500 years? Probably not. I’m not saying that to be bleak or nihilistic. I’m actually saying that in a positive way. Whatever it is, some some client acted like a jerk wad somebody pulled the rug out from underneath you on a contract and it really pissed you off. Are you gonna remember those people next year? Probably not. Probably not. I’m just I’m rolling my car down the middle path. Stay safe, stay sane. And I will see you in the next episode.
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