Stay Positive Going Into a Bleak New Year

Sometimes, All You Can Do Is Hold On Tight

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Tiffany Warren
Tiffany R. Warren
Due to the recession, the economy isn't the only thing that has suffered. My writing has receded in recent months as well. I spent many a weekend waiting for the mental levee that the negative state of the world had created within my mind to break. What finally broke through was the thought that where we stand and what we do in challenging times pushes us to create either good or bad chapters in our own story. Right now, it is hard to write any real happy endings -- especially about the state of diversity in advertising -- when tough decisions are being made daily, budgets are being cut, accounts are being lost and, with them, jobs. In such circumstances, the unique benefits of building a diverse workforce become secondary to keeping the doors open. But I'd hate to be the one to stop writing the chapters to this continually unfolding story because it's a good one.

It is sobering indeed to hear from weary colleagues all over that the bridges that were built on behalf of increasing diversity within advertising's executive and management ranks over the past few years are being torn down and used for scrap to keep the home fires burning. This effort is damning to the progress being made and will only help build up more animosity toward our industry. So what I'm resolved to do now is not provide a how-to guide on becoming "diversity fit" for the New Year but to offer some guiding principles that have kept me emotionally fit and have seen me through some of my most challenging times.

A week before the holiday break, I had the honor of serving as a judge for the 2009 AAF Advertising Hall of Fame. I received the nomination binder weeks before the actual meeting and in those pages were the professional life stories of some of the founding architects of our industry who literally changed the face of our business. The incoming class of inductees' mental complexion was just as important as their physical one. They endured incredible adversity, made unbelievably tough calls and had a clairvoyant ability that in hard times brought their respective companies unprecedented prosperity. The common thread through all of their stories was that there is always a silver lining no matter how dire the situation was that they faced.

An old Latin proverb says that "if there is no wind, row." I say if there is too much wind, row harder! The following are the very things I arm myself with daily and I share with you as we face the winds of change that lie ahead together.

When you are faced with a loss or change of any kind, don't let the fear from the outside get inside of you and whatever you do, hold on. One of my favorite songs is by Dwele and it's called "Hold On." The opening line of the song sweetly reminds the listener to "hold on, hold on, if you don't mind," because it is so easy to let go and lose sight of the important things in life when you are in a particularly tough situation. Instead, try and better yourself every day and position yourself for new opportunities. A new opportunity comes often when you least expect it, so be ready for it.

Find the benefit in every bad experience. I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and those closest to me during the low points we have all faced. Often when we have had bad experiences or have failed at something we get stripped so completely that what is left is the very lesson we could not have learned otherwise. People often ask me, "What is the secret to your own optimism and the optimism of those you mentor?" I say the same thing over and over again, "We have all faced adversity but have moved onward and upward!" We got up, we got going and we got over it.

To illustrate this, allow me to share a story with you that I heard many years ago while attending the annual Essence Magazine "Woman Shaping the World" conference. Julie Washington, of Luxottica/Pearle Vision and a current Arnold Worldwide client, was a featured speaker on a panel of very distinguished women of color who were sharing their secrets to success. I was at a crossroads in my career and was itching for inspiration. Julie asked the audience if there were any business travelers present because they would surely appreciate this analogy. She had shared that as business travelers we often experience flights that are either on time, late, delayed or canceled. At hearing this, many in the audience said an "amen" or "mmm-hmm" to her declaration. She then said that the blessings and setbacks we receive in life or on our "runways" are often like those flights. If we are to receive any of those things we deem "good" or even "bad" in our lives, our runways have to be clear in order for them to land because they will eventually land.

I tell you all of this to say that blessings and setbacks are going to land on your runway, it is what you do with them that determines your altitude in life, so don't forget to write that next chapter, good or bad, before you take off and, if you don't mind, I think I am going to hold on.

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