Do Not Waste This Crisis

President-Elect Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recently said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Emanuel–using a phrase of which Tom Friedman (no relation) is also fond (he heard it from economist Paul Romer)–was talking about how governments must take advantage of our current economic crisis. But the same idea applies to each of us, as individuals and as business leaders.

Do not waste this crisis.

What’s the opportunity inherent in the crushing economic news that is pounding us day in, day out? In my travels I’m discovering that more and more people are committed to finding new and meaningful ways to clarify what matters most, respect the ones about whom they care deeply in the different parts of their lives, and experiment with creative ways to enrich lives; to pursue what, in Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, I call four way wins: improved performance at work, at home, in the community and for the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

An economic world turned upside down makes it easier to take a fresh look, and this can open the door to making changes that will benefit you and the most important people in your life, now and in the long run. Here’s what one of my former students, Deika Morrison, said to me yesterday when I asked her about the leadership silver lining in the cloud of our current economic crisis. She said that this is a unique opportunity to see “if you are achieving what you have identified as important. In an environment of record unemployment, people feel like they are not empowered and have no options.” Now, she said, is a chance to discover that “you might have been doing work you really never wanted long-term and therefore you can move on faster, in a more productive manner. It’s about changing mindset from depression, in every sense of the word, to opportunity.”

The crisis, in other words, can make it easier to experiment with new mental models or attitudes about your career and how it fits with your life’s purpose, and it can serve as a catalyst for your own reinvention, as a leader in all parts of your life. This can take the form of a very small step, such as the one I’m taking with my immediate family (that is, my wife and three children-ages 21, 18, and 15) as we, for the first time in a long time, will spend time, just the five of us, alone together.

What opportunities for trying something new occur to you in light of the current economic crisis?

5 Responses to “Do Not Waste This Crisis”

  1. Ramamurthy P says:

    During crisis the real worth of our leadership (Total Leadership) comes out to the forefront. This kind of inflection points helps us to reflect and rediscover our true personality and our approach towards life. While some people prosper and ride during good times, they may not be strong enough to face the crisis like the current one. It is a good opportunity for them to understand and use Total Leadership and get ready to face the life as it is. For those who understand the life better and use Total Leadership this is the time to demonstrate their capabilities to bring stability and come out with innovative ways to improve the situation around us. Total Leadership is a good tool to use and perfect our life as a whole.

  2. Carlos Casanueva says:

    In light of the current economic crisis I have started two work in two opportunities.

    One in my work environment. I have increased my effort in this environment. I am working harder to get additional projects and additional financial stability. This is increasing my satisfaction and enthusiasm with my work. I am more focused and satisfied.

    Second in my home environment, we are rediscovering the enjoyment of simple “all family” excursions. This is helping us to maintain our love links.

    Third, in my community environment, I have decided to keep more alert and more in contact with my friends and my networks. This is keeping me more alife.

  3. Sarah Granby says:

    When I was in high school, my family experienced what I would call a major “financial crisis.” My father had been extremely financially successful, but for various reasons we had to declare bankruptcy. At the same time, my younger sister (11 at the time) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. At an early age, I learned that money came and went and no matter how much of it you had, “cancer” didn’t really listen to money or care how much of it you had. Money talks, but not that loud. So I realized early on that you have to spend your life doing what you love, so that if you lose everything you’ve worked for, it still will have been time well spent.

    So this current “crisis” is a time for me to remember how wealthy I am – I have my friends, family (my sister thankfully survived), health, freedom and so much more! It’s a perfect chance to practice staying peaceful in my core and know like all things in life – good and bad – this too shall pass.

  4. leah kornfeld friedman says:

    during this “crisis” i am more and more convinced that living a life filled with things you love to do, (if you are fortunate to be able to do that) is the answer to all the tension and miserableness you hear all about you. In fact, even if you can’t always follow your creative drives and loves all the time, doing it every day, even for a small amount of time, keeps the juices flowing and makes you feel more human. Make living the creative life a habit. It will do you good. And people will notice you are spreading joy and will be curious enough to follow your path.

  5. ArianaMype says:

    Great point and very interesting food for thought. I’m not sure I have any clients I can replicate this with, but will bear in mind for the future. Regards

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