When Winter Falls, Build a Snowman!

February 4th, 2009   •   no comments   

Courtesy of Faisal.Saeed

I seldom respond to tags, being a rather idiosyncratic blogger, but I felt that this one by Vivienne merits attention. She blogged recently about how one should seize opportunities “like a hunter” during winter, as opposed to enjoying life and living off the fruits of one’s labour “like a farmer”.

First, I must confess that I love winter! The cold, the snow, the icy atmosphere and the chilling breezes somehow add an element of magic. Haven’t you noticed that many fantasy movies (like the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia series) are often set in a white wintry snowscape? There is something surreal and otherworldly about a world blanketed in soft white cover.
Sorry for digressing. Here goes the real stuff.

If you have read my previous post based on UC Berkley’s Brad DeLong’s analysis, the current economic winter is very much a mind game. In other words, people are really really scared. The more fear there is, the less people will invest and spend. Portfolios that appear to have an element of risk are instantly liquidated for cash, and this led to a massive haemorrhaging of the financial system.

As a result, there are some with piles of cash stashed away – albeit lower in value than their stocks since almost everybody got creamed off from the exodus of funds. However, there will also be some who have lost close to everything. And sometimes, this may lead to an emptying of their “storehouses” using Vivienne’s analogy.

What would I do when faced with the winter of discontent?

As providence would have it, I will be taking a sabbatical this year to do my masters. This has been something simmering at the backburners of my mind for a long time. Going for studies or some form of personal upgrading is always a good exercise during a slowdown. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a formal education.

If you are a farmer, you can take advantage of the relatively lull period to retool yourself and widen your vistas. Use the opportunity to stretch your neurons and stimulate your grey matter in novel ways. Learn how to plant new crops, improve your annual yield, or reduce power consumption.

Building up one’s social network is another thing to do. Often, we are so caught up with the frantic rush of making money that we forget about ourselves and others around us. Take time off to re-establish contacts and network with those whom you care and who care about you. If you have been neglecting that old friend, now is the time to catch up. A farmer can drive to another farm (provided the snow isn’t too heavy!) and spend time catching up over a meal of last autumn’s produce (if there is any).

You may also want to embark on that project which you have put off for the longest time. If you are running a business, consider giving your office or shop a new facelift. Get rid of the junk accumulated over the years, and see if you can enhance or modify your outlet. In fact, prices are likely to dip this year so it may be a good time to focus on capital investments.

Finally, one should seek new niches and fresh opportunities (especially when the food in the fridge runs out). Are there new products or services that are needed during winter? For instance, digging snow out of backyards? Or selling of snowshoes? Maybe see if you can find a way to deliver food to the elderly who are housebound.

In sunny tropical Singapore (although the air here is also a mite chilly these days), one could establish a service helping people to source for low cost goods and services. Another idea I could think of is helping those who have recently lost their jobs to find freelance opportunities – tuition, copywriting, sewing, home-cooked meals, babysitting, running errands etc.

As I have previously blogged before, there are ways of getting around a slow economy. Take a deep breath, admire the beauty of the wintry environment, and live a slow burn lifestyle. When spring comes, you will be much better prepared.

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