I don’t think it has made it into the DSM-IV yet (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Give it some time and the American Psychiatric Association might include it in the next edition (together with Orthorexia nervosa, a harmful obsession with health foods).
If your plate or glass always appears to be half empty, it’s tempting to feel hopeless and helpless about the current state of the nation. Of course your freelance career is down in the dumps. It’s the economy, stupid! It has nothing to do with you.
Here’s the thing:
If it has nothing to do with you, it means that you can’t turn it around.
You’re a victim of circumstance. Now go to your doctor and ask for a happy-pill. You might be depressed, but the least you can do is feel good about it.
Remember that no matter where you look, you’ll always find a way to filter your perception of reality to justify your outlook on the world. If you feel that this time of economic crisis is limiting your chances of landing freelance jobs, you’re right. If you feel that the current recession is creating brand new freelance opportunities, you’re right!
What you focus on most, is most likely to materialize. That’s the idea behind the self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a blogging freelancer, I get a lot of emails from colleagues who want to pick my brain. Here’s the number one question people ask me:
How do you beat the recession?
My first inclination is to ask them “What recession?” but that would be insensitive. Of course I know that millions of people are scrambling to get by. I used to be one of them. But feeling overpowered and helpless about it is not going to pull you out of your slump. If you’re giving in and giving up, it’s game over. But that would be too easy. I think you deserve better.
At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, I do believe that one way to beat this recession is by working from the inside out. Before you do anything, I recommend you look at the way you are perceiving yourself right now.
In Holland we have a saying:
“Als je voor een dubbeltje geboren bent, word je nooit een kwartje.”
Or in plain English:
“If you were born a dime, you’ll never become a quarter.”
It’s another way of saying: You need to know your place and stay there. Well, if that’s really how you feel, what impact could this have on the choices you make?
If you’re applying for a job, and deep-down inside you’re telling yourself “I don’t deserve this” or “I’ll never make it,” aren’t you setting yourself up for failure?
Other people grow up believing: “I can do anything I set my mind to” or “No matter what happens, I’ll always find a solution.” How do you think this impacts the way they lead their lives?
Here’s the remarkable thing about beliefs: it doesn’t matter whether they’re true or not. Yet, beliefs are a powerful driving force behind behavior. Beliefs can give us hope, strength and courage, or they can fence us in and bring us down.
A belief is not some innocent abstract concept without consequences. Some people are prepared to kill and die in the name of whatever they believe in. Americans wouldn’t be celebrating the Fourth of July, if it weren’t for a set of certain powerful beliefs!
Proponents of mind-body medicine like Bernie Siegel, M.D., are convinced that our beliefs can heal or harm our body, and that our state of mind has a measurable impact on our immune system.
If you think that all of this is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, realize that this too, is a belief. Beliefs don’t have to make any sense. Beliefs don’t need to be scientifically sound. Beliefs give people a feeling of certainty. All that matters is that a belief is plausible. The powerful placebo effect is entirely based on this assumption.
Nevertheless, a group of medical students who firmly believed in a logical, analytical approach to medicine, wouldn’t have any of it. How could ordinary thoughts possibly influence biological functions and seemingly autonomous chemical-electrical responses? That’s just a bunch of New Age baloney!
One day, their professor walked in and said: “By a show of hands, how many of you believe that the mind is capable of influencing the body?” Not one single hand went up in the air. Mind over matter wasn’t science. It was science-fiction.
Then the professor started reading one of the more notorious passages from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence. Soon his audience started to blush. At the end of a few quite explicit paragraphs, he looked up at his students and asked the same question again. “How many of you believe that the mind is capable of influencing the body?” This time, they all raised their hands.
So, let me share one of my empowering beliefs with you. It goes like this:
THERE’S NO ONE LIKE ME
I can already hear some people’s reaction:
“Well, duh… After all that build-up, is that the best you can do? Thank you Captain Obvious, superhero of platitudes! That’s not much of an eye-opener, is it? Of course there’s no one like you (and that’s probably a good thing).”
Well, once you get past the sarcasm and cynicism, consider the following.
Every day, thousands of people are waking up with a dream. Some want to become writers, news anchors or architects. Some want to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis or invent an environmentally friendly way to clean up oil spills.
By the time we enter our teens, most of us have learned that dreams are figments of the imagination and that in order to grow up, we must face “reality.” Isn’t it strange? We start out as this helpless but boundless human being filled with infinite possibilities .
Then the process of social conditioning and conforming sets in. If we wish to please our parents and other role-models, we better be compliant and allow ourselves to be conditioned in order to be worthy of their love, attention and affection. We learn to blend in and not to raise our voice. If we do well, we are rewarded. If we don’t fit the mould, we have to face the consequences. Heaven forbid that we should stand out from the crowd…
When my 8-year old daughter wanted to go to school in a Yankees-shirt while 98% of the kids were wearing Phillies-Jerseys, some parents thought I was nuts. Why would I expose my daughter to ridicule and make her stick out like a sore thumb? What kind of a parent does that?
Here’s the thing: my daughter didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy about the Phillies. She happened to root, root, root for the Yankees. And when she went to school, she soon found out that a few other kids were Yankees fans too. Yes, some classmates made fun of her and others ignored her. But she held her head up high and felt even stronger because she stood up for something she believed in. Months later, the Bronx Bombers defeated the Phillies to win the World Series.
What does that have to do with beating the recession? I’ll tell you!
If you want to be self-employed but you don’t believe in yourself, you are sabotaging your success even before you’re out of the gate. You have to be comfortable with who you are and with what you have to offer (comfortable, not cocky).
If you’re in the service industry, you are your product. If you’re producing a product, you will be identified with it. Whether you like it or not, you are your brand and you better embrace it.
RIDICULE AND MOCKERY
When I set out to become a full-time voice-over professional, I knew the odds were heavily against me. Some people said:
“Do you honestly believe that you’ll make it as an actor? Dream on! The restaurants of New York and LA are filled with thousands of hopeful waiters. All they do is wait and wait for an opportunity that never comes. These days, anyone with a mic and a laptop can claim to be the next Don LaFontaine. The market is saturated. The economy is bad. Why don’t you get a real job, my friend?”
Here’s why I didn’t: because I knew that there’s no one like me. Yes, there are tons of people who do what I do, but they don’t do it the way I do it. It’s just a matter of letting the rest of the world know what I have to offer.
Believe it or not, when I wrote this article, my business was less than twelve months ago. A year before that, I had no ‘corporate identity’ and there was no company website or a blog. I didn’t own expensive equipment and I had no big shot agents ready to represent me. All I had, was a bunch of excited neurons bouncing around in my brain forming thoughts about starting my own business.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I had a number of people who believed in me, and who were willing to lend me a very generous helping hand. But before they could believe in me, I had to believe in myself.
After less than a year I achieved a lot.
My writings are read and reposted by more people than I ever hoped for. I have built a terrific studio and have invested in top-of-the-line equipment. I am recording voice-overs in four languages for clients on all continents.
Now, this list of personal achievements is not some vain attempt to show off. Rather, it’s my way of telling you what could happen if you refuse to give in to recession depression.
The skeptics will tell you “I will believe it when I see it”. I am telling you that you have to believe it before you will see it.
When Disney World opened its doors, Walt Disney was no longer alive. Before the opening ceremony, a reporter asked Walt’s brother Roy:
“Don’t you think it’s a shame that Walt Disney isn’t here to see it all?”
“That’s not entirely true.
Because Walt saw it, we are seeing it today!”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS My next article is about freelance dilemmas. Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist?
Wonderful article. Thanks for the inspiration!
Good message, well-written – thanks!
Paul, Thanks for putting these thoughts to words. As a long time voice actor I have fallen into a lot of what you’re saying. I stopped believing in myself and what I bring to the studio that no one else can.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
Jane Ingalls says
What a great article, Paul! It brought me up short in just the right way. Thanks so much!
Kitzie Stern says
Paul, I’m having the same experience you are. I’ve set a positive intention for my business and all kinds of wonderful things are showing up.
Be. Do. Have.
Keep walking the walk. Namaste.
Ted Morgan says
Awesome article!! Thanks Paul for the inspiration.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thanks for the kind comments, guys! In response to remarks on other sites about this article, I wanted to make a few distinctions. First off, it takes more than confidence or positive intentions to survive this recession. Nothing will change for the better without you taking massive action.
In my opinion there are three other ingredients that will help you weather this economic storm: competence and confidence (I’ll get to number three in a minute). The article above is entirely devoted to self-confidence, because I noticed that this crisis has left too many competent people without a lot of faith in their own abilities.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I devoted past articles to freelancers who appear to be confident, but who haven’t reached a certain level of competence yet. My advice: if business is slow, use the extra time to learn as much as you can about your craft and hone your skills. That way you’ll be ready as soon as the economy picks up again. Believe me: it will!
You will agree with me that one cannot build a solid career simply based on one’s uniqueness. But in order to stand a better chance , I encourage people to explore what sets them apart from the rest of the pack, and use that to their advantage. This is by no means a revolutionary concept, but it bears repeating because I see so many people who are merely copying well-known names. If only they were confident enough to realize that they could be themselves and be successful… Talent shows on TV aren’t looking for more of the same, are they?
Lastly (and here’s the third ingredient), I have seen quite a few competent and confident folks fail because they didn’t know the first thing about running a business. It’s the tragedy of starving talent. Doing what you love and loving what you do doesn’t cut it anymore these days. You have to know how to market yourself and be on top of your finances (among other things). Of course having a positive outlook on life doesn’t hurt either!
One of my ‘heroes’ is Dr. Martin Seligman. He is the director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx) He has studied the ‘glass half full and half empty’ mindset extensively.
He writes in his landmark book “Learned Optimism”:
Here’s my challenge to you: Find your voice and share your songs with the world! Whether we realize it or not, all of us have music inside, just waiting to come out. Remember Beethoven? Even though he was profoundly deaf, he kept on writing and writing!
Deborah Stanek Reast says
Thanks for the terrific article. It is very easy to get caught up with all of the naysayers out there who are touting the down economy, the possibility of civil war, people who have nothing preying on people who have everything and so on it goes. If we believe in, and listen to all of the negative we hear, it is obvious we will become frustrated, depressed and more importantly, inactive. Belief is the seed and action is the nourishment we need to grow. It’s important that we hear words like yours often so that our belief in ourselves and in a fortunate future for all of us continues to thrive and grow.
Paul Strikwerda says
That’s music to my ears, Deborah! As a former newscaster, I can tell you that the principle of “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead” is still very much alive. Remember that the News narrowly focuses on the extraordinary; it concentrates on the exception rather than on the rule. That’s both comforting as well as disturbing.
It’s comforting because it means that most of what’s going on in today’s world is still fairly positive. It’s disturbing because the sensationalist news media make it look like we should be terrified all the time. Fear is a powerful motivator!
Kevin Powe says
Great post, Paul! Inspiring, given that I’m in the process of laying a lot of tracks myself.
A great mix of theory, and bringing that theory home to a solid grounding, which is a tough balance for talking about this topic.
I’m going to sound like a jackass here, but I’ve found Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html) to be a great book around this. He really brings home the idea of focusing on what you can effect, and putting the rest out of mind.
Paul Strikwerda says
Marcus Aurelius said:
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth”
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
It truly is a marathon not a sprint.As a recently relocated artist your article is particularly timely. So much good has come of challenge and I know it will continue to as long as I continue.
Blessings on your success.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you Cassandra! Your reference to a marathon takes us from Ancient Rome to Greece. I was reminded of the movie “Fat Boy Run,” directed by David Schwimmer. In it, the Hank Azaria character mentions that during the marathon, every runner “hits the wall” at some point, and simply wants to give up.
Sometimes we really find out what we’re made of in times of adversity, and hopefully, we’ll come out a much stronger person. But we cannot make it, unless we climb that wall and keep on believing in ourselves!
Balthazar Maisch says
Thank you Paul.
All I have began to read here in your blog is very innovative and interesting.
thanks for sharing this
unless wealth is not spread in to society recession will not over, the main driving force in economy is middle class if they live hand to mouth the recession will be there, If middle class have excess money to spend and plan recession will over. So circulate money instead of keeping it in Lockers, as paper or gold.
Woderful article! Thak you!
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re very welcome, Marleen! Thank you for taking the time to read it.