Doing Within, When You’re Without

By Scott Westerman
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Scott’s Maxim: Life is not about wishing for what you don’t have. Its about making the most of what you do have.

Put yourself back in your high school mind. Try and remember what those years were like for you. Now imagine what it would it be like to come home from summer camp to discover your parents had abandoned you, all your worldly possessions were to be auctioned off and you would be starting your senior year penniless and homeless?

That nightmare came true for Dawn Loggins. It was the culmination of a childhood where she lived in a home without water and electricity, the child of parents who were drug abusers. And yet, this fall, Dawn is joining the elite few who will start their freshman year at Harvard.

How is it possible to endure the worst  current reality imaginable and maintain faith in your dreams? “When I was younger,” Dawn told the North Caroline Business Insider,  “I was able to look at all the bad choices — at the neglect, and the drug abuse, and everything that was happening — and make a decision for myself that I was not going to end up like my parents..”

Dawn learned to focus on what could be, even as she lived in destitution. She did within when she was without.

If you’re just starting your career adventure, you may feel, metaphorically, a little like Dawn.  You’re not sure what your true passions are yet. You may be in a tight financial situation that distracts you from progress. People around you may try to influence you to accept a job based on their perceptions of your prospects. It’s ok to work at something that isn’t the perfect fit while you are bracketing your passion. That’s what Dawn did. But it’s also easy to get caught on that treadmill. Many of us stay in unsatisfactory situations because it’s the easy way out. We put up with it because we don’t want to do the work to figure out what happiness is, and chase it.

And what about those who do have the courage to grab the brass ring? How can we do within, when we are without?

Erik Deckers who writes for Dan Schawbel‘s Personal Branding Blog shares these suggestions for building your brand when you are between opportunities and living on a shoestring. His advice is useful whether you’re already on the road to success or are still searching for your first job.

Make Gmail the email for your personal brand. And use your real name. Don’t create an address that might detract from the image you are trying to put forth.

Use Hootsuite to create and schedule your important tweets and links. And make the most of your LinkedIn presence, not just to highlight who you are, but to share the wisdom of others via links and articles to useful content.

The one place Deckers says you should avoid? Facebook. “Facebook won’t help you find a job,” he writes. Time management applies to every circumstance. So if you only have a few minutes of internet time each day don’t waste it there.

What about internet access? What do you do if you don’t have it where you live? An increasing number of fast food and coffee shops have discovered that free wifi is a business builder. Rotate among your local McDonald’s locations. A dollar for a Coke buys you an hour on the web. Use it wisely.

And don’t forget the place that was wikipedia before wikipedia was cool: your local library. Most offer computer access and all are filled with the wisdom of thousands of others who have walked your path and turned challenges into opportunities.

Whatever your situation, there is probably an organization out there that was founded to help you cope with it. It’s a lot like finding a good shrink, sometimes you have to test drive a few before you get the right fit. But it’s worth the effort. In Dawn Loggins case, it was a high school guidance counselor who challenged her to shoot for Harvard after she was accepted at UNC. Help is out there, if you’re willing to look for it.

What’s the most important trait to develop when you are struggling? Dean Becker, the president and CEO of Adaptiv Learning Systems, told The Harvard Business Review’s Diane Coutu “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”

Faith fuels hope. Hope fuels action. Action fuels success.

And last, but not least, wherever you may be right now, you have something to be thankful for. There is someone out there who has helped you. At some point you got a lucky break. You have experienced moments of joy, even amongst heartbreak. Latch on to those moments with gratitude and use them to generate the positive energy to keep moving forward, no matter what.

“Be thankful for what you have;” Oprah Winfrey says, “you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

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