Digging Deep

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2009

It’s late February and the economic news is dismal. You can’t get away from it even if you shut the news media out of your life. Whoever you talk to has a story about layoffs, depleted savings, foreclosures or bankruptcies. Almost every week there’s a surprise about a business going under or someone losing their job. There’s widespread fear, distrust and confusion. We keep hearing that no one really knows what the solutions are or when we’ll come out of this. The stimulus package was signed and there’s some hope, but it’s too early to feel its effect. The last time a crisis so dominated our everyday discourse and psyche was 9/11. And before that it was probably JFK’s assassination, and World War II before that.

So, what to do? The advice of “hang tough” was never as appropriate as it may be today. It’s about digging deep and finding that reserve to push forward despite the occasional temptation to emotionally and physically shut down. About creatively finding ways to navigate through this economic mess. About reinventing, reorganizing and refocusing. About working harder and smarter. About not panicking, remaining strong and helping to spread that strength around our workplaces. It’s not about being a Pollyanna, but being a realist with a positive attitude (after all, this too shall pass). And it’s not about putting unrealistic pressures on our organizations or ourselves. It is about celebrating victories regardless of how small they may be.

Years ago I discovered Rudyard Kipling’s inspirational poem “If.”  Considered a map to life and a resource during tough times, it has meant a lot to me over the years. The poem opens with, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. . .” Other relevant lines: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. . . Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ‘em up. . . If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”

The poem’s conclusion—Kipling’s reward for satisfying his string of if you cans—is “. . . Yours is the earth and everything that's in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”         

Inner strength isn’t necessarily an infinite resource. It’s often replenished by nourishment from loved ones, friends, spirituality, professionals or powerful words. “If” has provided me with sustenance, and I recommend the poem to anyone who could use a confidence and fortitude boost during these challenging times.

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