A Look Ahead at 2009

by Dan Blank on January 9, 2009

It seems that every business, every industry, every individual is predicted to have a hard time in 2009. Analysts and media are one-upping each other with more dire predictions, as "soberness" is the must-have attitude.

I can’t make any predictions for 2009, perhaps because I am not smart enough, or perhaps because I am smart enough to know better. I have been thinking about the following ideas for not just surviving in 2009, but thriving. I hope it doesn’t come off as preachy; I was exploring these concepts as much for myself as anything else:

  • Make Choices.
    Don’t stand in the middle – don’t be the silent one at the table – don’t wait for others to stand up so they can take the blame and risk. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. There will no doubt be "casualties" of the economy, of shifting markets, of businesses struggling to survive. Now is the time to contribute, to have an opinion, to take a chance. It’s a choice. Either you make the choice, or someone will make it for you.

  • Say no, more often.
    This is not to prevent new ideas from taking shape, but to ensure that they are challenged and have legs to stand on. Too many "nice" ideas are just that: nice, but not essential. Saying no is not to diminish the value of teamwork, but to ensure that you stay focused on only the most critical or inspired tasks. There is so much minutia in our lives that we are convinced is essential – and yet, they are not. If they didn’t get done, the world would still turn.

  • Say yes, more often.
    There is something humbling and sweet about hard times, something that is welcome. As we all try to focus on what matters most – we have a shared empathy, and willingness to look beyond our own personal struggles and goals. Say yes to helping someone, to going out to lunch, to making a connection, to giving someone a chance, to trying something new, to putting a smile on someone’s face.

  • Be bold.
    Keeping your head down might be a way for getting out of the line of fire, but you can’t sit in the trenches forever. Be bold, but not stupid. Pursue some of those crazy ideas, but ensure that they serve your core goals and don’t take you off track. Likewise, ensure that these bold ideas do no harm to those around you.

  • Be prudent.
    Some crazy ideas are worth pursuing, while many are not. Get rid of the clutter – identify the few goals that matter most to your industry, to your business, and cut away anything that is excess. Your resources are limited, and your time finite. Don’t settle for just "an idea," ensure that you are pursuing a great idea.

  • Think.
    I don’t care if you think "the same" or think "different," but please think. Question labels and processes that seem to be standardized, but may be part of the problem. Question the value of new ideas that are exciting only because they are new. Follow the herd, but help steer it when they don’t see the cliff.

  • Don’t Overthink.
    Sometimes, you just have to throw caution to the wind, and go with your gut. Relish those moments.

  • Come Together.
    Times of transition and a tough economy can cause fear and splintering. Now is the time to come together as a team; to understand each other’s needs and goals better; to go out of our way to support one another; to be a part of something greater than yourself.

  • Be Thankful.
    I see the seriousness on people’s faces, as many realize all they have to lose in this economy and these changing market conditions. This opportunity we have – these passions we follow – these people we work with – this is all a gift to be appreciated.

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