Time to Invest... In You

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.”

- Stephen R Covey

In this week’s article Bill advocates taking an enlightened and unconventional approach to the current economic downturn

Steven Covey, famous author of many self-help books, first published his classic "The seven habits of highly effective people" back in 1989. My, how time flies!

When the book first hit the bookshelves, I eagerly devoured it, hungry as I was, then, for any sage advice on how to shortcut the long and painful climb up the corporate ladder.

Sharpen the Saw

To this day, the one habit that has stayed firmly implanted in my memory, is the seventh - "Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal".

I remember it well because it spoke to me about the importance of continually renewing and refreshing one's own 'production capability'; in other words, taking time to step back from the frantic business world - of do, do more and do even more. Taking time out for personal renewal through recreational pursuits and learning and development aimed at honing one's skills and competitive strengths.

If you're a lumber jack and you get paid for productivity, i.e. the number of trees you cut down each week, then you're sure as hell going to pay attention to the regular sharpening of your saw, the tool that's most critical to your success.

Likewise, for most of us engaged in pursuing careers that are more mentally intensive, keeping our minds 'sharp' is vital to succeed and prosper in today's competitive jungle.

'Economy in free fall'

The Cape Times, this morning, sported the scary headline "Economy in free fall". In contrast, inside the Business section, one could find many references to the early signs of increasing consumer confidence and the "green shoots" of economic turnaround in the US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

So, whereas the news for South African consumers and investors (where we typically lag developments in the US) may appear bleak right now, seen at face value, there is no question that more positive times lie ahead - in the not too distant future.

Let me ask you this. What, if anything, have you personally done to prepare for the future?

Retreat into the shell

If you're like most people, it's probable that any preparation for the upturn is the farthest thing from your mind. You will likely have battened down the hatches, retreated into your shell and silently cursed the Americans, the government, the state of the modern world, the lousy hand you've been dealt, or anything else you can think of for the current predicament.

The really astute, however, will see bright silver linings around the dark clouds of recession. They will regard this dip in the economic cycle as the perfect opportunity to engage in an aggressive 'sharpening of their saws'.

When the economy booms, conventional people like to spend freely - on the material goods that they mistakenly feel will demonstrate their importance and self-worth to others. When times are tough, their wallets slam shut and they slink out of view and as the frightening apparition that is their debt burden suddenly raises its grim head.

When the economy splutters, wise people use the slowdown to take stock, re-evaluate their goals and invest selectively in the capabilities, skills and opportunities that will position them favourably for the upturn that they know will come, in what is simply a matter of time.

Could this low point be a gift?

My message this week is that it's not too late to take a completely new and more enlightened approach to this low point in the economic cycle. It's not too late to see it as a gift - as a breathing space, time to slow down, reflect, take stock of one's life and prepare the groundwork for an exciting new future.

Take a walk in the park, climb a mountain, go down to the sea, drive to the bush - whatever it takes to allow you to catch your breath in this hurly burly world. Then think carefully about how you should invest in preparing yourself for the economic 'good' times and doing what it is that really brings you joy and fulfilment.

Variety is the spice of life. Learning to appreciate the value in the variety that life's never ending cycles throw up, is - I believe - one of the secrets to a life of true happiness.

Have a great week!

With warm regards,


Copyright New Insights Africa (with permission from Eddie Smit). All rights reserved

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