Anticipate Change and Act

A lifetime is not a long time and although we like to think ourselves as immortal, life has a way of showing us how foolish we are to hold that belief. As I read of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, I was reminded that the same is true with many of the decisions we make professionally and personally.

Using myself as an example, I owned recruiting businesses for many years until I realized that the economic climate in New York and nationally made it advantageous to sell my firm and join another. I could have fought on and tried to persevere in the face of business conditions that were “far beyond my pay grade.” I made a decision and it was a good one.

When I met my wife, we bought our first home together on Long Island, a cape on a 60 x 100 lot, about 1800 square feet. if you stretched your arms, it seemed like we could touch our neighbors’ homes (an exaggeration but you get the idea. We lived very close to our neighbors).

About 6 years after we bought the house it had more than doubled in value. I asked myself, “How much more could this house go up in price?” We sold it at almost the top of the market (we missed it by three weeks) and moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania and 7 years later to North Carolina.

Professionally, I sold my firm to someone I knew but there came a time when I recognized the signal that it was time to leave. It came in the form of a series of episodes following my previous wife’s passing, my recovery from Achilles tendon surgery and my listening to him tell me that he didn’t have money to pay me yet giving cash to a co-worker that was a drinking buddy of his.

I joined another firm and was successful despite the owner being volatile at times and conducting himself in ways that wound up in the news (I won’t go into details; it isn’t necessary).

I left to join my current firm after discovering that this man didn’t tell me that he had collected a fee from a client that had clandestinely hired an applicant from me. The fee was sizable and since I was engaged in an international adoption that he knew about, the money was significant to our family.

There are many other times that I have looked around at things going on in my life and realized that I could ignore the signals or take action.

Detroit didn’t take action even though it knew that the math no longer added up. The auto industry accepted crushing deals with unions until they could no longer afford to pay them. The City of Detroit was unable to negotiate with its unions (and the unions unwilling to negotiate with the City of Detroit) even though the population was one third its previous size and it was obvious that the city could not meet it’s obligations.

We can engage in magical thinking, pretending that “everything will work out” or we can be proactive, anticipating the outcome of events and take action.

You don’t need to do so instantly. Certainly, in the examples I pointed to in my life, I didn’t take instant action. Often it took a week or two to just stay still and think things through before doing so.

Yet I didn’t become an ostrich and stick my head in the ground. I saw a problem and acted on it.

Where can you take action?

What are you ignoring professionally and/or personally that should be attended to?

The things that grows best in an untended garden are weeds. What can you do TODAY? Tomorrow? In the next week?