Last week, as a grateful family and community welcomed home 8-year-old Leia Carrico, and her 5-year-old sister Caroline, who’d been missing for two days in the Northern California wilderness, I was moved to tears by the bravery of these adorable girls and their stunning ability to move quickly into survival mode.
Could you live through such crises? How about an income disaster? If you get the infamous pink slip tomorrow, will you know what to do?
It is essential that you keep your head and your cool, as demonstrated so aptly by young Leia who told reporters, “We needed to find shelter fast!”
The first few minutes of any crisis are critical. If you lose it now, you will waste precious energy. At the moment of impact, take a huge deep breath and stay calm. While a job loss can be a devasting shock, it is not life-threatening. There is a way out and you will find it.
Rally the troops
Your attitude will make or break your ability to lead in a crisis. Equate survival with adventure and exciting new opportunities, resiliency, and creativity.
Every person in the family should be assigned one key responsibility. Even the very youngest can be named the family’s official “smiler.”
Change your attitude and your feelings will follow. Declare that from now on in this family only positive, can-do attitudes are allowed.
Just stop. If it is not necessary to the preservation of life, don’t spend a nickel on anything, for right now.
Start with unemployment. Find out the steps to activate any unemployment benefits you have so you get that first check at the earliest possible time (probably six weeks).
You may have to stand in a line, but you do not have to allow yourself to feel humiliated. Choose gratitude instead.
Hoard lump sums
If you walk away with severance pay, vacation pay or other lump sums, hoard them. Do not pay down debt or buy anything with this money. You do not know how long this challenge will last and you may need that money for basic survival supplies.
You need to know exactly what you have with which to survive. Anything more than a pack of breath mints should be considered a gold mine. Maybe it’s not first class food, but you will be able to live on the staples in your pantry and the stuff in your freezer.
Pull back to the minimums
If you have been paying more than required on your mortgage, loans and credit card balances, consider pulling back to the very minimum required until your income stream is restored.
Cancel all non-essential services
Cancel the nail and hair appointments (learn to cut your kids’ hair); fire the lawn guy, housekeeper, cab drivers (walk or take the train.) Cancel cable TV, Internet service (sign up for a free service before you pull the plug on your pricey ISP—check here for a good overview with resources); paper delivery, dance and music lessons. You can reinstate services later.
Find the way out
You may get rescued tomorrow. But it’s more likely that your rescuers are not aware of your plight. For now, you have a new job and that’s to find a job. And you will.
For me, the best part of great survival stories is when the survivors through tears of joy say they are better for having made it through. Some even say they are thankful for the experience.
That same joy will be waiting for you, too!
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