Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recipe for Success in this New Era

I am embarking on a new project – and I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to begin. I know where I want to go and have a general roadmap for the journey, but I haven’t been able to take the first steps.

There are three easy answers for this problem: I don’t really want to do this project; I don’t think I will succeed at it; or I’m comfortable enough in my current situation that I don’t want to spend the time necessary to make it fly.

While there may be a little truth in each of those scenarios, I’m almost certain that it is something greater – something intrinsically linked to our new “American” reality - that is keeping me from moving…

Obviously there has been a huge shift in the past few months regarding business and future prospects in general. Credit is tight (or unavailable), businesses are cutting costs (mine included), and there is a general feeling of economic uncertainty for the near future.

As a member of Gen Y, I essentially grew up in the “Age of Excess” – blissfully cruising along, solidly set in the reality of what Kurt Andersen, in his brilliant Time essay The End of Excess: Is this Crisis Good for America?, calls “magical thinking.” I was raised not only to expect Victoria’s Secret underwear and Starbucks coffee, but also taught that I could achieve anything I put my mind to – and the resources I would need to make that happen would somehow be available.

I launched two businesses during this “magical time” – and although both took great amounts of time, skill and entrepreneurial zest, I was lucky to be blessed with access to easy credit, companies willing to spend on services like event planning and personal concierge services, and Web 2.0, which allowed instant credibility by having a pretty website and an online presence.

Now things have shifted, and the environment has changed to an unfamiliar landscape – one that I haven’t encountered in all of my 20-something years. I think what I’ve inherently been aware of is that launching a new venture in this more practical world will take a little more persistence, loads of creativity, and a lot more effort… and I think that is where my inertia truly lies.

Smarter planning, saving rather than spending, old-fashioned hard work: Boo. But I have a sense that success achieved in this new era may be sweeter than in times past. And so I will take the first step.

And I will be taking it knowing that this time around will be a little bit different – moving into more of an “artisan-enterpriser and less prospector-speculator,” as Andersen advises. However, I still intend to imbibe on small doses of that “magical thinking” I grew up on. I agree it’s a belief system that got most of us into this mess, but as a bit of a dreamer myself, I also know that I need a little of it to carry on with a positive outlook. And this time around I will be sure to pepper in heavy doses of pragmatism and calculated risk.

Maybe this is the updated recipe for success in this new era.


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