Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on March 29th, 2011

Today: In the worst of times, opportunity glimmers.

In 1971, the Vietnam War was raging, protesters were marching and the economy was growing weak as military spending was exploding. Unlike today, our nation still had a positive trade balance but confidence in the dollar was sinking so fast, that many U.S. trading partners began to demand to exchange their dollars for gold.

Those demands got so loud, that year, President Nixon abruptly took us off the gold standard and then as now, the dollar became backed only by the faith people have in it, an ominous thought.

From all the war spending, inflation made a sharp uptick and despite promises to the contrary, President Nixon instituted wage and price controls. People were getting nervous about what might happen next. As you can envision, that does not bode well for hiring.

My wife Anne and I had purchased a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula the prior year and in order to afford that home, we had to take a first and a second mortgage. As economic times grew hard I lost my job because the company collapsed and couldn’t afford to pay me and I didn’t know if we would ever see those past due wages.

With a wife, a 4 year old boy and a 1 year old baby to support, I aggressively looked for work and then as now, the job market was soft. After knocking on numerous doors, a business contact helped me get a brief consulting job which brought in a much needed paycheck.

Meanwhile, our savings began to run out. With house payments, car payments, property tax and insurance and groceries, children’s clothing, electricity and gas and other expenses mounting, these were scary times. And a health care plan? That came only with a job. At that time only gas credit cards were in common use, but fortunately we had an excellent credit rating and because of that a bank check guarantee card.

To pay our bills, we began writing checks we didn’t know how we would cover. And like many of you today, I sat awake late into the night worried about the consequences of our actions. What if I couldn’t get another job? What if we got sick? What if the bank demanded cash payment of those checks?

I had always worked hard and now I couldn’t find a job. But extremely determined, I didn’t listen to those who said there was no hope for I needed all the positive energy I could muster. And every day, I read the help wanted ads and even knocked on doors of firms where I thought there might be openings. I didn’t just send resumes, I called and visited.

And then three things happened. First, we got our tax refund, second the earlier company paid most of the past due wages they owed me and third, I landed a job. It later turned out to be a six month job for that company was hurting financially and laid off a group of us.

But that combination got Anne and me through tough times. After the layoff, I pounded on doors, called on employment agencies and cold called and finally landed another job.

It too turned out to be for six months. But this time, when I landed another job after that, it was a top notch sales position and my career took off, as did my income. Ironically, part of why I landed such a job was I had honed my sales skills making job presentations.

Today, we are all confronted by the bad economy, and despite government claims to the contrary, the economy is growing worse, as the Iraq and Afghan Wars and military spending drain us, much as the Vietnam War did. But don’t give up hope.

In the worst of times, there is always opportunity and someone is always hiring. If you are out of work, carefully define your strongest skill set, write a resume that shows how you can help others, then put a smile on your face and knock on doors. Lots of them. Use the Internet but also pick up the phone and let others hear your voice.

If you have a job, cross train so you become more valuable to your employer. Think in terms of helping that employer make money or cut costs because that’s how top management thinks.

Also add to your education so that if your company collapses or conducts layoffs you have more to offer the marketplace. And by education, part of that is simply reading. Read books, magazines and newspapers so you know what’s going on and can conduct an intelligent, interesting conversation.

But whatever happens, don’t lose faith. You have special qualities to offer and your life has meaning. Each day you can make a wonderful difference in people’s lives in ways that far transcend what you do for a living.

Success Tip of the Week: If you are out of work, it is terribly demoralizing. But to get back on your feet, you must focus on your job search as if it in itself is a job. Also, regularly take stress relieving breaks to relax and literally smell the roses. And to meditate or do yoga or whatever else you find is helpful in keeping your balance and a smile often on your face.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written for the Los Angeles area newspaper The Daily Breeze and was published by them on 1/18/11.

In the next KazanToday: A largely unknown vicious beating of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how it propelled the civil rights movement.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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