This is my second recession; the first one hit me hard when I had to choose between letting my two properties be repossessed –v- cashflowing my accountancy business in 1992. The ongoing repercussions of that were, to a greater extent, still with me more than a decade later. And to a lesser extent they still are since I still carry some old bad debt.
So I am somewhat seasoned in the bottom of cycles, as well as the rise and fall and the top. Does this make me more resilient than some? Perhaps. Or maybe it just makes me older! I’ve been round this particular block at least once before and I expect to go round it at least once or twice more too.
Last time I failed because interest rates were so high. One of the things which is saving us all this time is because interest rates are so low.
What have I learned from that? That you cannot predict what shape a recession will take until it arrives, which means you cannot prepare for it necessarily. Although bucket loads of cash is useful. And I still don’t have bucketloads of cash. Hot damn! Sixteen years to prepare and still found wanting…
What else have I learned and observed this time around? That people, economic experts and those who are supposed to know, those much cleverer than I, those who are connected to the top echelons of the financial services industry, they have also been caught out as the good ones are first to admit.
And secondly I have learned it’s relatively easy to make money when the going is good. But when the going gets tough, that’s what I want to master next time around. That’s the opportunity here. To learn how to play in the rough, a golfing analogy my youngest nephew Jeremy, 18 tomorrow, might appreciate.
As the Credit Crunch grinds on, many of us found ourselves at the end of 2009 licking our wounds. How will we earn a living in 2010? Will we ever get a mortgage or re-mortgage ever again? How will we make up for the losses in our investment portfolios and pensions? Will we survive? When, how and how soon will we recover?
In my life I have been fortunate to be able to afford a couple of bouts of personal therapy and my second therapist, the better of the two, taught me this about myself: that I am too quick to move from negative to positive without dwelling sufficiently in the “bad place”.
And having a month off in the Caribbean has allowed me to do just that. Unfortunately! I was forced to enjoy the luxury of far too much time to think without being able to DO. And I found myself with plenty of time on my hands to sit in the “bad place” when I would rather be doing something – anything – about my financial situation. And about yours too, or to help you do something about it, as is my wont.
I would rather be moving from negative to positive but as I sat there in the middle, thinking and feeling everything through, I was sent a strong message (twice) in two holiday books I read, back to back.
I took the point in the first book, I don’t know whether it was something I knew or something I was learning for the first time but it sounded familiar.
In a novel called A Scandalous Man by Gavin Esler he talks about Margaret Thatcher, calling her The Lady, and some political crisis she was undergoing at the time, the Falklands War I think it was. The narrator mentions that Mrs T knew that the two Chinese characters in their translation of the word “crisis” included both danger and opportunity*.
Which set me thinking, of course, as it would any entrepreneur.
But then it came again in my very next read, Chris Evans’ autobiography “It’s Not What You Think” which is a rattling good read by the way, but then I would say that, I am an Evans fan. He’s bright, intelligent, an entrepreneur, savvy and yet woo woo, funny, self-deprecating and an enviably good writer. And he has had more highs and lows than most.
And he mentions it too, the concept that there is opportunity as well as danger in a crisis*.
And we are definitely in a crisis which is dragging on, interminably it feels sometimes, especially if one doesn’t like to sit in that middle “bad place” as my former therapist pointed out. And to me, right now, uncharacteristically, it feels like its deepening. What do you think? Maybe its the snow which has delayed an already very long break all the way up to 11th January at least.
But I, for one, have had enough now. I’ve licked my wounds, I’ve considered what I’ve done wrong this time around, what I will do differently next time and what I want to do about it and its this:
I want to look for my opportunities which this recession presents, opportunities for me and for you. And I want to DO something about identifying and following up on those opportunities. I want to experiment and learn about making money during the bad times, long before the good times return.
I can’t wait. I won’t wait. I’m going to start tomorrow morning, Monday.
So here’s my question. What’s the opportunity in this Credit Crunch for you? And what are you going to do about it in January 2010 to hit the ground running and take advantage of it? And how will we get into action to change our “luck”.
I am taking a leaf out of Evans’ book. A low place just clears the way for something better to come along as my woo woo chums would be first to remind me. He’s made a real bog of his life at many times as he would be the first to admit. But something better always came along whether it was a new broadcasting opportunity, a new girlfriend or wife, a new car or a new business venture.
Of course, he was only able to see these in hindsight, to take that perspective I mean.
And his life’s been one almighty rollercoaster so far, as was Mrs Thatcher’s, so I reckon they are as good as any to take as role models right now, at least for the purposes of this discussion although obviously I am not recommending that you go out and invade the Falklands like Maggie or burn multi-millions of pounds as Chris did.
To me, Evans seems to have learned so much more in his down times. He’s become philosophical and happier and more successful than ever as a result of those learning opportunities. And something always came along, into the void, like magic.
So, is it time to look for the silver lining in the cloud? The gift in the snow?
I know it is for me personally and I would love to take as many readers with me as are ready to take on the New Year with that more positive energy.
I often think about the message contained in Lynne Twist’s little video, namely that we are enough, we have always had enough, there will always be enough. I find this strangely calming in times of crisis. And if you are feeling financially low this New Year, here’s a link to that video. Lynne takes about 11.5 minutes to make her point but stick with it to the end, the closing minute is very powerful.
And guess what? As I unwrapped a Dove chocolate in my Christmas stocking, guess what little fortune cookie-esque homily was printed on the foil? In chaos there lies opportunity. Yes, I know – that’s the third time of telling. Enough already!
What’s your opportunity in this crisis? Let me know if you would like some help identifying that.
*Here’s an article which explains the Chinese characters thesis – true/false/urban myth? Love his closing point “if I were Chinese and a bunch of foreigners wanted to impute timeless insight to my ancestors, I don’t know that I could find it in my heart to object”. Hear, hear!