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How Are You Responding to the Financial Train Wreck?

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How did you do with last week's challenge? Did you stick with fear and upset or did you find little things to focus on that made a difference? Even a small difference?

As fear and panic about the most recent financial perturbations seem to be spreading across the globe, have you found yourself caught up in the fear and panic as well? I know I have and it certainly can be scary. More accurately stated, I have focused on the negative goings on and have scared myself, and with apparent good reason. I know I have personally lost a large chunk of my savings over the past couple of years and my client work has dwindled as well, all of which makes it pretty easy to be scared.

However, I am "fortunate" enough to have been through several instances of "misfortune" in my life, starting as a kid, and extending through my adult years. One thing I have learned over and over again, is that "stuff" happens and the real key to handling the stuff isn't the stuff itself, but how I choose to respond.

So, once again, please forgive the blunt approach here -- it doesn't matter what happens to you, as much as it matters how you respond.

I know of which I speak, so allow me a bit of a shaggy dog story to provide some context.

By the time I was 18, my family had gone through bankruptcy twice -- not that we had all that much to start with -- just a 1200 square foot house and a few modest furnishings. Ozzie and Harriet were definitely uptown from us. That disappeared as my Dad tried to transition from employee to small business owner. Great craftsman, lousy businessman.

I wound up working 40 hours a week through most of my high school years, first mowing lawns after school and on weekends, progressing through a stint flipping burgers at the local A&W Root Beer and finally landing at Peninsula Music Center, selling records, guitars and sheet music. All that I earned went to supporting the family.

Perhaps surprisingly, I had a blast during this time. Sure, there was a lot of work and we had to find creative ways to feed the family on a few bucks a day. But heck, I didn't spend much time comparing our lot to the more fortunate families we knew. I just enjoyed busting my tail on those lawns and it was sheer heaven to wind up working for Chet and Betty Lane at the Music Center.

I wound up going to University of California at Davis, with a promise from my Dad that he would find the money to get me through. Well, that fell apart when he collapsed the first day of classes, wound up with leukemia and died within six months of being diagnosed. Enter bankruptcy number three thanks to one of those big insurance companies which denied both health and death benefits claiming his leukemia was a "pre-existing condition" withheld at the time he applied for the policies. Never mind that he took out the policies 19 years earlier. (Does this kind of financial abuse sound familiar?)

Back to working full time, this time in the school cafeterias washing pots and dishes. By the time I was a junior, things got a bit more complicated when I couldn't find housing I could afford, and wound up living in my car for a while. I literally lived on $1 a day.

The point of this little tale, is that I know a bit about getting through what some would call difficult times, and I would like to share some of these lessons with you over the next few weeks.

Let's start with this little teaser about fear.

Recently, I was teaching a class and after about 90 minutes, I asked everyone how they were feeling. The participants responded that things were good and that they were enjoying the class. I then asked them if they were aware of financial situation spreading across the globe. Of course everyone was. I then asked who had been impacted negatively, and just about every hand went up. From there, it was pretty easy to point out that despite what the press is calling global panic, everyone here had been doing just fine -- at least they were doing fine until they were reminded about the "crisis."

So, how do you go from "just fine" to "panic and crisis?" Well, that's the whole point. What if the only difference between "just fine" and "panic and crisis" is a question of focus and what you tell yourself? That's not to say that you may not be in the midst of financial hardship right now; it is to say that, in the paraphrased words of Viktor Frankl, "Freedom is that point in time just after they do something to you, and just before you choose your response."

What are you choosing these days? What focus do you have to help you through? What difference can you make in your own life?

I'd love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your own life, how you can take a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your own life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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