Point of Beginning

Sight Lines: Giving Thanks

November 14, 2008
I’m working on an “industry outlook” article for POB’s January issue, and boy, is it tough. No one can predict the future, of course, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that 2009 will present more than a few challenges. How can we possibly find a reason to feel upbeat, much less thankful, as we head into the holiday season and the New Year?

I’m working on an “industry outlook” article for POB’s January issue, and boy, is it tough. No one can predict the future, of course, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that 2009 will present more than a few challenges. I’ve covered recessions before, but this one feels different. There just doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to all of the bad news. It doesn’t help that I’m based in Michigan-everyone here is feeling the effects from the auto industry crisis on top of the general financial and economic crises. With so many calamities facing us, how can anyone possibly find a reason to feel upbeat, much less thankful, as we head into the holiday season and the New Year?

There’s always more than one side to a situation, though, and this fact was driven home to me-quite literally-one evening last week. My husband’s SUV, still under warranty, had been giving him some minor trouble, so we decided to drop it off at the dealership. We’d just done some maintenance on my reliable old 2000 Taurus, including replacing the battery, so we figured it was good to go while the SUV was being repaired. Returning from the dealership, we hit an unexpected detour-the road ahead was blocked with police cars, ambulances and other rescue vehicles with flashing lights. We had our antsy 3-year-old in the car, and our first reaction was impatience. But my mind immediately flashed to the families of those involved in what was apparently a serious accident. Our small delay clearly paled in comparison to what they were facing. I was instantly grateful for our safety while sending out a prayer for those involved in the accident.

We turned around and started down a different route, but within a few miles it was clear that there was something wrong with my car. The interior lights began to dim, some of the idiot lights randomly came on, and when we stopped at an intersection the engine began to hesitate. We were just a couple miles from home at that point, but it was cold outside and walking would be a challenge. Fortunately, my car made it into our subdivision and coasted into the driveway right before the engine stalled completely. The battery was completely dead (thanks to a faulty alternator). With both my husband and I working, we’ve always had two vehicles; now we were completely without transportation. It was a weird feeling, to say the least. Of course, it was only temporary-by the next day, we had both vehicles back in operation. But the entire incident made me think about the many people who struggle with transportation on a regular basis. How fortunate we are to have one vehicle, much less two!

It shouldn’t take an incident or a holiday to remind us to be thankful. But I, for one, have to admit that I’m a bit spoiled. I’ve become so used to thinking about the way things “ought to be” or the way I want them to be that I often forget simply to be grateful for the way things are.

So what’s the upside to the difficult business environment many firms face in the year ahead? Maybe the downtime will give some companies a chance to invest in new training and technologies that will position them for greater success later on. Perhaps some individuals will be able to rethink the value they provide to their clients and come up with new strategies to enhance their services. Or maybe now is the time to change course and try to enter a new field.

Ultimately, all of us must decide for ourselves how we will view these challenges and what will be our “take-away.” But however bleak a situation appears, there’s always a brighter perspective if we’re willing to look for it. We have much to be grateful for.

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What do you think is the key to making it through tough times? Please share your thoughts below or e-mail me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com. We’ll share some responses with our readers in an upcoming issue of POB.