Blueprint for Survival, or All Meltdowns are Personal

by francine Hardaway on February 21, 2009

The youngest participant in Blueprint for Survival was four months old

The youngest participant in Blueprint for Survival was four months old

Yesterday I held the first in a new series of workshops, Blueprint for Survival, that I created especially for the current climate. Unlike our usual offerings, which are for people who WANT to be entrepreneurs, this one’s for people who are forced into being entrepreneurs by layoffs and unemployment, or people who are business owners already and see their creations struggling. Kauffman, with whom we work, calls them displaced workers, but I call them inadvertent entrepreneurs.

Blueprint for Survival turned out to be as good for me as it was for the participants. During the three hours, I found that many of my assumptions about the current environment were correct: people feel totally alone facing what might be the crisis of their lives. Every participant admitted to waking up at 3 AM in a panic. Every married participant shared a story of the risk-averse spouse, freaked out by the threat of entrepreneurship or self-employment. Often the laid off are secretly glad to be starting something new, but their spouses are terrified. And just sitting in a room with others in the same situation, tossing around ideas and receiving information about some new resources, is very comforting. As always, the power is in the community.

Six people attended, including one young mother who had been laid off as she came home from the hospital with her new baby, one experienced entrepreneur who tried to expand at precisely the wrong time, one man anticipating a layoff, and one man looking for a new way to reinvent himself in mid life.. These were the most courageous: the people who were at least considering moving forward. Many people are just paralyzed, and can’t even sign up for a workshop. The are numbly searching in the debris for the remnants of their past lives.

That’s okay for a while, but at some point you have to stop doing that. Here’s what I know because of my age: this downturn is different. I’ve been through four of them, and this one is structural. Things will never be the same. Government can’t fix it, although government can make it worse sometimes. (Read Naomi Kleins The Shock Doctrine if you don’t believe me). We have to make out own way into the future.

But there are some wonderful things available to us now that were not available during the first Great Depression: online communities, free software, coworking spaces, virtual assistants.

I knew I had to do these workshops as small group sessions, because the people have to get to know each other.I can’t just fill up a room, so I limit it to 20 participants. I’m going to make a Google group for participants, too, so we can keep in touch and share resources going forward, Everyone requested that. I will add participants in future workshops to the group, and I bet this will be a powerful, if primitive, social network (might move it to another tool in the future).

I held this workshop at Gangplank, a co-working space in Chandler, Arizona. At first I thought that might be a bad location for people used to working in offices, or an out-of=the-way location for people from other parts of metro Phoenix. But the Gangplank vibe is so positive and so futuristic (meaning representative of the future of work) that I’ve decided it’s the perfect venue to illustrate where we are going.

Remember how I told you how this workshop was at least as good for me as it was for the other participants? Well, I realized that something I’ve always hated — my advancing age — turns out to be my real strength. I’ve seen it all. I have experience and wisdom to share. How delightful to find that out.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karoli February 21, 2009 at 10:51 am

I loved this post, and love more that you’re doing this. I see it every day — people discouraged, losing their sense of worth at the same time they lose their net worth. Including me, when I fall back into the “oldthink” pattern.

I’ve been through a few downturns, too, and yes, this one is entirely different. It makes me angry, and then I have to breathe the anger away and try to come back to being focused on the positive rather than the negative. It is often difficult, and in those times the community is what rescues me.

Many hugs for you for what you’re doing. It rocks. :)

koerberwalker February 21, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Francine – Congratulations on a great step forward. I remember the day – over six years ago when you and I first sat down together to discuss what I might expect coming out of a twenty year career to become a fledgling entrepreneur.

You have so much to share and you never stop sharing. I agree with Karoli – You Rock!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: