|Lessons Learned From The Dot Com Crash And The Attack On America
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Many Americans didn't have time to recover from the "Dot Com Crash" before they were hit with the "Attack on America." Forced to take a long, hard look at life, several bitter truths became evident:
What seems highly logical may turn out to be completely ridiculous.
Who you think has all the answers may be totally wrong.
Why you expect to succeed may be the very reason you fail.
What you see today may be gone tomorrow.
Eighty hour workweeks, two hour commutes, and a family who never sees you...these are just some of the hallmarks of the past dot com business craze where high-tech entrepreneurs sacrificed their time, their health, and sometimes their family for their pursuit of "overnight" riches. As these business-minded individuals worked tirelessly to capitalize on the e-business revolution, their dreams often materialized briefly and then quickly turned to dust. For others, all that remains is a thick pile of business plans. Looking back now on this past business craze, and the Attack on America a few months later, we are all reminded of one important lesson: working harder and longer is not the prescription for a fulfilling life.
This is not to say that we should all sit back and live a life of idle laziness. On the contrary, not working at all can be just as bad as working too much. Work, in fact, is one of the blessings of life. If you don't think so, just ask someone who wants to work but can't find it! The prescription for a truly quality life may be a trading your six-figure salary and vacation home with the boat slip for a more modest lifestyle and more meaningful work.
On the day of the Attack on America, I was sitting in a Strategic Coach session with 60 other entrepreneurs. In an effort to create a productive day under such traumatic circumstances, our leader, Dan Sullivan, invited us to do an exercise he calls "The Negativity Transformer." The purpose of the exercise -- to identify what we learn from a negative experience. In other words, knowing what we know now, what would we do differently. Virtually all of the participant responses involved their personal lives. No one said, "I wished I had worked more hours." In a moment of crisis, the balance between our professional and personal lives takes on new significance.
Organization is Critical to Balance
Your ability to accomplish anything in life is tied to your ability to find what you need precisely when you need it. Research shows that the average person spends 150 hours a year - almost six weeks - looking for misplaced information. If your office is buried under a mound of papers and you waste precious time each day looking for what you need, when you could be spending time on more rewarding pursuits - or even sleeping! All your information should be organized in such a way that all people have access to what they need at any time, whether it is located in your office, in a central filing location, on a computer drive, or in an off-site location. When people can find what they're looking for, you reduce their dependence on you and eliminate interrupting you to help them locate something, or waste their own time looking unnecessarily.
Creating an Intentional Environment
When you keep your life free of clutter, your stress level decreases. And the less stressed out you are, the more productive you can be. Did you know that 80% of what we keep we never use? So why spend time, money, and effort to continually move and keep track of things you'll never need or use? For every item in your life, ask "What's the worst thing that could happen if I didn't have this...?" If you can live with the results, toss it and free yourself from clutter and stress - or, even better, give it to someone else who really needs it. One client who complained about lack of space in the office donated six computers from the storage room to a near-by school!
Apply the same intentionality to the people with whom you spend time. The next time someone says, "Let's do lunch!" - think about it before you glibly answer "Sure!" Maybe your life would be richer if you took a walk by yourself or met your teenager for a game of basketball.
Balance is Attainable
No matter how indispensable you think you are to your company's success, no matter how much you want to impress your boss with your amount of overtime, and no matter how fast you want to climb the corporate ladder, or build your own business, sacrificing your personal life for professional success simply does not make sense. While working harder and longer may give you some short-term rewards, they'll mean nothing if you have no one with whom to share them.
As you go through each day, always remember that what you see today may be gone tomorrow; who you think has all the answers may be totally wrong; and why you expect to succeed may be the very reason you fail. Keep your life's activities and priorities in perspective so you can achieve the balance that's necessary for a productive, profitable, and most important, a meaningful life. This brings me to one final glorious conclusion: When it seems that everything is coming to an end, it may be just the beginning!
Barbara Hemphill, President of Hemphill & Associates, Raleigh, N.C., is a professional speaker, consultant and author of Kiplinger’s "Taming the Paper Tiger." Copyright© 2001, Barbara Hemphill. All rights reserved. For information about Barbara’s keynote presentations, please contact the Frog Pond Group at 800-704-FROG (3764) or email firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.frogpondgroup.com.