One of the issues we face when we choose, or by no choice at all, are thrust from the comfort of our dead-end jobs, is fear. This is especially true now, since the fear du jour that the media has lactched onto is the ECONOMY … the big, bad, scary and broken ECONOMY…
There is no question that there is a lot of pain out there, and I suppose we should be afraid, very afraid — after all, just this morning I saw an article about the Sacramento Tent City just up the road a few hundred miles as evidence that we are all in deep trouble. And we are, I’m sure, but at any given moment we have a choice of what to think about, how to feel, and what filter we will put on to view the world around us, and it doesn’t help to have a constant stream of bad news about the economy to supplement our own internal dialog, which is likely distracting enough.
For me, because I am paid when I deliver technical services, and because I charge for my time on an hourly basis, I rely on an ongoing need that is expressed by my clients. Naturally, that need comes and goes in an ebb and flow, which translates to lots of work, followed by less work, and this goes on and on this way, but I am sometimes stuck in one of two mental modes that form the outlook for my personal finances :
1. If I am flush with work, then I have little to worry about financially, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed and trapped by the work itself. It helps slightly to remind myself of the Sacramento Tent City and other evidence of pain around me that I am not feeling, and it’s quite true that there are people that have much worse problems than “too much work”, but that doesn’t change my mindset, and it doesn’t help me to behave any differently.
2. If the work drops off, I feel an initial sense of freedom, but that is short-lived, because little time goes by before I start projecting finances outward a few weeks or month, and wonder if the flow of work and money will suddenly stop. Thus, the fear.
I don’t allow comments in this Blog, becuase I view it more as a journal, but I can hear you saying “What an idiot!” and you are quite right. But how to change that thought pattern? How do we drive back the fear, and spend our mental energy doing creative and healthy things instead of projecting outward events that do not and cannot yet exist?
Maybe it starts with refusing to listen to the endless stream of media that assaults us about the ECONOMY, and other BIG FEARS. That’s a start, I suppose. But what about analysis — those of us that are inclined toward studying a problem might choose to spend some hours focused on previous patterns of ebb and flow. Is the work cyclical?
I had a good breakfast today with a data center manager from a few years back who must be described as brilliant on a lot of levels, and this came up because it has been a topic of conversation with me lately, and he pointed out that much can be learned by assiduous tracking. Find out, for instance, how much money you need each month or so, and enter other criteria, such as future jobs that are scheduled, etc. and simply look at where you are each week against that need.
This strikes me as a good idea — and I do use a very good time keeping service, but I realize that I am only realizing half the benefit if I don’t run a report once in a while to see how things are actually going.
We spend so much time heads-down, pressing onward, that we lose the view that we need to keep ourselves healthy — the large view. Salespeople seem to have that down, with their “Pipelines” , outlooks and plans. Engineers generally don’t care about such things, but when you own a consulting company, alas, you are no longer just an engineer.