A number of years ago I was struggling with my business. A few business deals had fallen through and I was pretty frustrated. I wasn't looking at food stamps or selling my plasma, but money was just going to be a bit tighter than I thought it would be for the rest of the year.
I called a dear friend to ask him for some advice on dealing with this kind of adversity. I remember his advice like he said it yesterday.
"I've been consulting for 16 years," he began. "I've become pretty confident that things will work out for me. Take this year -- right now I have business booked for the next two months. After that I don't have any work scheduled. But something will come my way; it always does."
This sounded to me like a dangerous way to go about your business. To be expecting that something will come around the corner when it needs to, well, I like a bit more certainty. Then he added the key concept. "I always try to be a little bit hungry. Not famished and not totally satiated, but always a little bit hungry."
I think that this is the best way to approach your job. It's dangerous when you are totally famished and constantly hustling whatever you can. It's equally dangerous to be in a professional coma, assuming that everything is just fine.
I can honestly say that barely a day goes by that I don't think about the concept of being a little bit hungry. It usually pushes me to shake that extra hand, to meet that new person, to ask that extra question of whomever I'm talking to.
I'm not saying that we should all become a nation of used-car salesmen who are always trying to land that next sale. But I am saying that it does make sense to always be scanning the horizon for the possibilities of the next big thing. Heck, usually even just the next little thing would be an improvement.
This all reminds me of an old Sufi story. A man is walking down the path and he runs into a fellow traveler. "Are you a wise man?" he asks. "A prophet?" "A teacher?" To all of his questions the stranger replies, "No." Finally the man asks, "What are you?" The second man replies, "I am awake."
I see a lot of people at work who aren't awake. Either they're mired in putting out fires or tilting at windmills or asleep at the switch. But I tend to see precious few who are actively looking for new possibilities.
Being awake and a little bit hungry. What a concept.
"A man's gotta make at least one bet a day, else he could be walking around lucky and never know it." -- Jimmy Jones, horse trainer
Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ABCNEWS.com online ballot:
How do you deal with adversity?
I am defeated by it, 2 percent
I avoid it, 19.3 percent
I battle it, 26.6 percent
I overcome it, 52 percent
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.