Following is a guest post by national speaker and humorist Joel Zeff, whom I had the opportunity to meet last year. Visit Joel's Web site or his blog to learn more.

I lost my job during the last major recession in 1991. They called me on Sunday and said the newspaper would close the next day. I had just moved to Dallas a little less than six months prior to the announcement. I was told to come down to the office and clean out my desk. I was in a new job in a new city. I had very few contacts, no prospects, and barely any savings. Hanging up the phone, I took a deep breath and looked around my very sparse one bedroom apartment. I knew what I had to do: I grabbed my harmonica. When I arrived at the newspaper's building, employees were packing up boxes; commiserating, a few were crying, and most were basically trying to figure out what they would do next. I headed to the back loading dock where the local media had encamped. Let me pick up the story with the description I wrote in my book, Make the Right Choice:

For no other reason than to prove that I was back in control of my happiness and attitude, I stood on the back dock of the newspaper in front of the television news cameras and made up a blues song about losing my job. I barely know how to play one note on the harmonica. It didn't matter. I just started making up lyrics about losing my job. The cameras started clicking. The television cameras zoomed in for better focus. I performed for a few minutes until someone pulled me off the dock and said to me, "You will never work in this town again." I swear someone said this to me. I am not making this up.

Yep, I just lost my job. Yep, I had very little money. Yep, I was playing a very poor rendition of the blues on my harmonica. It was one of the best days of my life. We have the choice to wake up in the morning and be bitter, frustrated and stressed. We also have the choice to be happy, energized and passionate. I chose the latter. Every normal, sane person given the choice would choose passion and happiness. Why do we so often choose to be bitter and stressed? Sometimes, we allow something out of our control to decide for us. We allow the economy, the situation, someone's words; or someone's actions to make the choice. If it was truly our choice, we would choose happiness. Anyway, back to the story from my book:

I decided I was going to choose happiness. My blues performance made the front page of the Fort Worth newspaper and two local newscasts. Thinking back on it now, I think my performance made the paper and the news broadcasts because I chose my attitude. When someone loses their job, you don't expect them to stand in front of news cameras and perform an off-key and somewhat comical blues performance. You see, the day was a life-changing experience. I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know where I was going to live or work. I did know that I wanted to have ownership again for my happiness and attitude.

We are all going through a difficult time. We can either let it beat us down and become stressed and frustrated. Or, we can choose to be passionate and energized and find a way to succeed. We need to focus more on our customers and each other. We need to live and work more in the moment. We need to have more fun. What do you plan on doing? I am going to grab my harmonica.

02 May 2009

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