'Shift Happens': Making Sense of Life After Job Loss
Author James D. Feldman knows a thing or two about change. Having endured both significant health problems and financial calamity within the past decade, he's had to rethink not only how he lives and works but also the way in which he views the challenges he's faced and the world around him.
One way that Feldman sought to embrace change was to -- as many have in this digital age -- embrace social media to not only reconnect with old friends and colleagues but also to make new ones. Through online conversations with colleagues and acquaintances he learned that many believed he was innovative in both how he viewed the world and in his problem-solving techniques.
"And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to share that with other people?'" says Feldman, especially in these tough times. And thus the book "Shift Happens!" was born.
AOL Jobs asked the consultant and change-management adviser to give us his insights on why change is happening and what people can do about it:
Who's the book for?
It's for anybody that's struggling right now. Whether you're out of work, just out of school, going through downsizing. Everybody is looking for some kind of an answer as to how shift their own life, rather than having those shifts take place without your own control. It's really a book about taking control of your own life.
Why write it now?
Now is the time. Certainly, 2008 impacted everybody and it was something that no one saw coming and we're not out of it. We keep hearing, "It's over," but I'm not seeing it.
What's original about this book?
This is not the typical self-help book. This is a self-think book. This is really where you sit down and you create a "to-be" list, as opposed to a "to-do" list. The difference is that it's one list. Instead of just adding to the list day-in and day-out, you start to look at it and say, "At the end of the month, at the end of the year, what is it that I'm going to do differently today that will get me better results than I got yesterday?"
It's written for both. But it's really written more for the people who don't have time on their hands. It's a time-poor economy right now. Everybody is being asked to do more with less resources. If you got a job, you're taking on [the duties] of six other people who no longer work there. I'm basically saying to the reader, "Ask yourself: 'Am I satisfied with everything as it is, and what could I do today that will impact tomorrow? There's nothing I can do about the past. But if I get up in the morning, am I going to continue this same thing over, over and over?'"
Is it your sense that workers are "shifting" quickly enough in this economy?
No. People don't like change. Shift happens because it is being forced upon us, not because we want it. It is the speed of change, not our acceptance of it, that is creating the current shift. Everything is changing so rapidly that they feel that they can only make incremental shifts rather than totally alter how they think or act. However once "shift" begins it can gather momentum like a snowball rolling downhill. We are trying to outrun the "shift" but [are getting] buried in an avalanche of change.
In addition to using the word "shift" as a way to describe change and embracing it, you also use it as an acronym. What does it stand for and how does it help people better understand your concept?
Everything in our life is about making choices. It doesn't matter whether it's food or jobs or girlfriends or boyfriends -- everything is a choice. So, to me, 'shift' could also be the word 'focus.' When you focus on something, it kicks open a door. And I think that's what a shift is all about. Is there a way to get away from being scared and making lousy decisions? A shift is basically saying [to oneself], 'Am I going to Stay Happy In Frightening Times' (and that's the acronym I've come up with).
Several times in the book you use a quote from the movie, "Network": "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Do you view anger as a constructive, motivational tool?
I think any voice, whether it's [your own] or someone else's that gets you to shift or move off the dime, is productive. All of us go through life saying, 'I'm not going to do this again,' and sure enough we still do it. Whether it's working for an abusive boss or getting into a relationship that's not beneficial, we do it.
You use a device that's common among books of the self-help/motivational genre: Pointing to people who have achieved enviable success and using them as examples of how to solve particular problems. But do you (and other authors) risk alienating readers who can't relate to people who have achieved radical success?
We have to look at those organizations or people who have achieved it, and more importantly figure out how and why. Today, you can look at Apple Inc., and say, 'Wow, $65 billion company.' But the important thing with Apple is that they've got 30 products. That shows you can bring it down to a very small, manageable number and own the marketplace. All of us, doesn't matter whether it's corporate or individual, have to continually refocus and understand what it is we're trying to accomplish.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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