Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thinking in metaphors

Yesterday, as I was waiting for a traffic light to change near a freeway intersection, a huge truck slowly came down an exit ramp with a trailer full of flattened and crushed automobiles.

The thought occurred to me: there goes the U.S. automobile industry, maybe the whole world’s automobile industry. Smashed flat by a perfect storm of devastating forces – bloated gasoline prices, poor design choices, frozen credit, unmanaged labor and other costs, changing consumer tastes and a global economy in the tank

I was thinking in metaphors. My mind was ready for any symbol, any sign, any clue that would help me understand the fix we are all in. I saw a load of junk and it became in my mind the industry that had created it.

It was a bummer of a thought, and it stuck with me for a while. Then a ray of optimism crept in.

Those flattened cars were going to a processing plant somewhere to be further broken down into reusable basic materials, then recycled and made into something new. What had been at first a depressing thought became a positive one. It was EOL (end of life) for cars, and BONL (beginning of new life) for the materials in them.

Then another figure of speech came to mind, a simile: those cars are like all of us – people in my town and my state and my country who have been flattened and crushed by the global economic storm, but who are reinventing and rebooting themselves into something new.

President Obama said it in his inaugural address: It’s time for us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get moving again. We are not worthless junk to be thrown away. We are valuable raw material with new possibilities and new purposes.

It’s time to reinvent.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there is some good news

The whole concept of RebootYou.com has been shaken badly by the economic downturn.

My original idea was that there were a lot of reasons to continue working beyond normal “retirement age” – the value of one’s contribution, the personal renewal factor, the waste of talent from a sedentary retirement.

The need to keep earning money was there, too, but it was a very minor reason.

Things have changed. A lot.

Millions have seen a huge chunk of their retirement savings vaporize. Millions have lost their jobs – well before “retirement.” Millions have lost their homes.

The number of available jobs for anyone – retirees or anyone else – has shrunk drastically. Far more people are competing for far fewer jobs.

Is there any good news anywhere?

The answer is “Yes.” These dire forces are stoking entrepreneurial ideas and energies.

The New York Times reports that “(many) laid-off workers across the country, burned out by a merciless job market, are building business plans instead of sending out résumés. For these people, recession has become the mother of invention.

“Economists say that when the economy takes a dive, it is common for people to turn to their inner entrepreneur to try to make their own work. But they say that it takes months for that mentality to sink in, and that this is about the time in the economic cycle when it really starts to happen — when the formerly employed realize that traditional job searches are not working, and that they are running out of time and money.”

This wave of downturn start-ups is different from those in the past, said the Times. The biggest difference is that “the Internet has given people an extraordinary tool not just to market their ideas but also to find business partners and suppliers, and to do all kinds of functions on the cheap: keeping the books, interacting with customers, even turning a small idea into a big idea.”

I’m betting that you can turn your small idea into a big one. Give it a try!