I was born Easter Sunday, April 21, 1946. Harry Truman was President of the United States. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series. The Chicago Bears won the NFL Championship, of course, that was before Super Bowls. The DJI was at 1189. You could buy a loaf of bread for 10 cents, a gallon of gas for 15 cents, a gallon of milk for 70 cents, and the average price of a new home was $5600.
The Oscar winning movie that year was “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Frederic March won the Oscar for best actor and he starred in that movie.
Olivia de Havilland won the best actress Oscar for her role in a movie called “To Each His Own.” Although I have never seen either movie, I prefer the title of the later.
This past year has certainly been interesting. I joined Holmes Radford & Avalon, a fund-raising consultant firm, on November 3rd, 2008. Jim Radford, the President of HRA asked me, “How do you feel about today’s economy?” I replied, “We have a choice. We can be calm or we can panic. I choose to be calm.” I’ve been calm all year even though the economy has created a bumpy ride.
Jim asked me to put my thoughts on paper. So, together, we co-authored an article about philanthropy in this economy. We made the point that you can either believe television hype claiming that politicians and corporate greed have crippled our economy or you can get focused on the facts.
Our markets have not ceased to function, our economy had not collapsed, commerce still continues for all essential goods and services, most Americans are still employed, most companies are still operating aggressively, Americans had just elected a new President and change is forthcoming.
We also said, “Although the extraordinary turbulence in our financial markets is real and most definitely will have a temporary negative impact, we believe with every adversity comes new opportunity. We recommended that every non-profit organization (our clients) needed to return to their “mission” with resolve, crafting new strategies for strengthening revenue and refocusing effort. In other words, be calm, but go to work with a sense of urgency.
Jim and I did not know at the time we made those suggestions, just how much we, individually and collectively, were going to be tested. Now, one year later, I can share this information. Holmes Radford & Avalon has just experienced the most challenging year in company history. We have gone through downsizing, salary cuts, salary freezes, and cut backs in every expense area. For a period this year, the phones were dead, prospects wouldn’t return our phone calls, and new business had all but disappeared. Our existing clients and the few new projects that we did aquire were just enough to keep the doors open.
As our business revenue declined and our personal income shrank, we, and everyone associated with HRA, were forced to examine our “mission.” Jim Radford had created Holmes Radford & Avalon with a personal mission of serving clients as he himself wished to be served. He would treat his clients with integrity pouring himself into each project with the goal of raising philanthropic donations to meet his clients objectives. Jim was unwavering in his demand that HRA would do everything within our power to exceed client expectations, despite the economic downturn. Finally, after six difficult months, the phone has begun to ring again. Multiple new projects have been signed. Work is underway. We are busy. The recession has passed (it seems). HRA has survived. Although it will be several more months before we can look back on this time and truly exhale, we believe the toughest time is in the past.
As I look back on the past twelve months, as tough as it’s been, I can easily recall more difficult times for me and my family. I remember rummaging through old files some years ago and I came across a hand written note to myself. It read, “I have $207.03, some cash value life insurance, no car, no job.” That was November 7, 1977.
My note went on the read, “At age 31, with four kids and $1,300 net overhead things look dismal. But…I know everything will eventually turn out well for us.”
Even on a larger scale these were not “unprecedented times.” Think back to The Great Depression, World War ll, Vietnam, the 70′s malaise, the 1987 recession, the bursting tech bubble or more recent catastrophic events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks or the devastation of hurricane Katrina, and yet, media mania would have us believe that our current economic mess will go on endlessly. Don’t believe them. These times will pass. As Mark Twain once observed, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
I have long enjoyed the reputation as a “positive thinker.” Some people who know me well would say I see the world through “rose-colored glasses” implying that I am too positive to the point of being unrealistic. Whatever the case, I’ll have to admit this past year has truly tested my resolve. It forced me to review my personal mission statement written some seven or eight years ago. It reads:
To live my life serving God, family, friends, associates, clients with unwavering commitment and dedicated effort. To show my appreciation for the talents and gifts God has given me through prayerful thanksgiving. To make a difference in someone’s life. To be a positive influence. To bring dignity to others. To do it one day at a time, one prayer at a time, with enthusiasm.
As I write this I have no idea what the immediate economic future will bring. Things may get worse, they may get better. But, I believe, now is the time to be calm. Stick to you plans, strengthen your resolve, be motivated by the importance of your personal mission.
With positive self expectancy I recall the words of Ella Fitzgerald when she said, “it isn’t where you’re coming from, it’s where you’re going that counts”.
Finally, I leave you with two of my favorite quotes:
“Peace is not something you wish for; it is something you give away.” Robert Fulghum
And then from the heart of a little nine-year old girl, Nora, a big voice reverberates, “Dear God, I don’t feel alone since I found out about you.” Children’s Letters to God