David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing
Everywhere I go, everyone I talk to, almost universally, people are stressed out. Many of you are terrified you're going to lose your jobs, many of you have lost some savings, a shocking number of Americans have lost their homes. The news is unfailingly bad and the outrages seem to keep piling up.
While the world seems to be spinning out of control, there is one area of your life you can take absolute control over: your state of mind. Stay calm. Make it a priority.
Stay calm and get resourceful.
Most of us can survive almost anything if we don't freak out. Stay calm. Freaking out hurts, physically. It also hurts the people around you and it interferes with your ability to think. Ever watch a James Bond movie (or MacGyver)? When faced with challenge, our favorite heroes stay calm and get resourceful, not crazy.
There's a point in your mood where you have the choice of going full-goose bozo or simply letting it wash over you. There's a point between stimulus and response where you actually make an internal decision to freak out, to ride the emotion. Make the choice to stay off the ride.
You may have every right to be upset, enraged, or scared. But having the right to freak out doesn't mean it's going to help you. Staying calm always helps. I've never known freaking out to make any situation better.
When people freak out, they make stupid decisions.
It took me until sometime in my 40s to learn a very important survival skill: don't make any decisions when you're nuts. When we're freaked out, losing it, ridin' the wacko wave, going off our meds, whatever you want to call it, we're not thinking straight and we do dumb things.
Virtually any decision you need to make can wait a week. If you're going to burn a bridge, wait a week and think about it when you're not in a rage. If you're going to do something potentially dangerous, wait a week and think about it at a time when you're not desperate. Even if you feel out of control most of the time, there are almost always moments of rational thought. Use those times to think through anything that could change your life for the worse.
Another good trick is to not force failure. I know some of you are having problems balancing work and home and might not be doing either all that well. If someone's judging you (say a boss or a teacher) and you're afraid you might get fired or kicked out, don't stand up and say "shoot me". Let them do the hard work. You'd be surprised by how many people are uncomfortable about delivering bad news and will tolerate mediocrity instead of having to have an uncomfortable conversation.
Let them fire you. Don't do it for them. Even if this tactic only lets you keep your job for another few weeks, you've got an income for that many more weeks.
If you've been canned, be responsible.
Yes, you can sleep in and eat ice cream for a week. You have my permission. But after that, make sure you do what you need to do to get paid and look for a job.
I mentioned last week that people were getting hurt financially because they didn't read their unemployment insurance documents. Do your homework. There's a lot of paperwork that could trip you up. Read all of it. If you don't understand it, get a friend to look over it with you. Read the comments for that article and you'll see some really sad stories from people who didn't do all the necessary homework.
Shower and take care of yourself. Nothing says "loser" more than the guy or girl with greasy hair who obviously hasn't showered for a week. You never know who you're going to meet and it's always good to make a pleasant impression. Plus, a shower may help you feel better about facing the world.
If you're unemployed, tell everyone you meet you're looking for a job. Even in this economy, there are still companies desperate to hire just the right employee. There's a chance you might meet someone whose brother-in-law is hiring. I found some of my very best employees by doing the opposite - telling everyone I met that I was hiring. People know people. Use that fact.
If you're between jobs or things have slowed down too much, focus on building skills. If the stimulus programs come through, there might be some better education opportunities available. But even without government billions, there is a lot of free information available on the Web, including full academic programs, there's no excuse for you to not keep learning during slow times.
Let your attitude show some gratitude.
No matter what your mood, there's no excuse to be rude. If you want to be valued, be shrewd, don't come unglued.
Bad rhymes aside, if you're an employee and you encounter customers, you must display a good, helpful, and cooperative attitude. It's harder and harder to get and keep customers and even if you're just the person taking the burger order, your boss won't be able to employ you if you keep scaring the paying customers away. You know who you are.
Finally, be nice. You're not a chump if you're polite. You're just less stressful. Everyone, everyone is stressed and kindness is always appreciated. Be friendly and warm. It may be hard, it even may be faked, but a cranky person going out of his way to be nice is still a lot more pleasant than a cranky person going out if his way to share the cranky.
If you take away any one thing from this article, it should be this: Stay calm. Make it a priority. Chocolate also helps.
Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
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