There is no more useless waste of our energy than focusing on that which we cannot control.

Can you recession-proof your career?

In last week’s newsletter (which you can read here) I discussed the pending “perfect storm” of the rise of artificial intelligence, massive budgets cuts across all forms of entertainment, and a pending writer’s strike all converging into one ugly job market for potentially months to come. (and now a banking system meltdown!?!?!)

The day after releasing this newsletter, one of my students during Office Hours said to me, “So basically you’re saying we’re all f***ed?”

Um….no. I wasn’t sharing all of this to be all doom & gloom. Complaining about circumstances we can’t control is a tremendous waste of energy.

There is no more useless waste of our energy than focusing on that which we cannot control.

On the contrary I very much see a silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud. And while I don’t think it’s possible to “recession-proof” your career, I do see a tremendous opportunity to use the lean times to lay a stronger foundation for our careers for years (or even decades) to come.

Last week when I asked you and the rest of our global community what we can do to prepare, here were some of the amazing suggestions I received:

“The slow down of work is providing a good opportunity for increased networking & outreach. A lot more people seem available to chat/meet up & seeing very high turnouts at monthly industry events.”

“I’m trying to organize my finances to survive.”

“Taking some time to skill up – I’ve long been planning on migrating to narrative, this slow period has been a great opportunity to refresh myself on my skills and bolster my network so that when things pick back up (and they always do) I’m ready for it!”

First of all, can I just say how awesome it is to be surrounded by such brilliant, supportive, and amazing people! I truly believe it’s possible to reach the pinnacles of success without stepping on others to get there. And this community is proof positive that a rising tide does indeed lift all boats.

Secondly, I’ve strongly advocated for years that a core component of living a more balanced & fulfilling life is learning how to manage your energy.

  • We have no control over the emergence of artificial intelligence, nor do we know how it will affect our creative jobs in the near future & beyond. (We do have a tremendous amount of control over whether or not we choose to accept it into our lives and interact with it…but that’s another topic for another newsletter).
  • We have no control over the number of projects in the current production pipeline or the slashed budgets (unless I have studio execs and media moguls reading this newsletter? Rupert are you with us?)
  • Most importantly, we have no control over the results of the negotiations that may or may not lead to a writer’s strike and massive work stoppage.

I choose to expend exactly ZERO of my time, energy, and attention worrying about any of the above.

As recent Oscar-winning writer/producer Lesly Paterson recently shared in our podcast interview together:

“If you know you’ve committed 100% effort and attitude to whatever it is you’re doing, you’re not going to be disappointed because you couldn’t have done any more.”

Therefore the key to weathering this storm is focusing on the actions that you can control so you can rest your head on the pillow at night knowing if you haven’t found work yet, there’s nothing else you can be doing.

Embrace the Silver Lining

I get it…this probably seems like the WORST time to focus on long-term career development, no? When you’re in survival mode it’s all about keeping your head above water…or alternatively sticking your head in the sand.

screenshot from Facebook post

But when viewed through a slightly different lens, I think we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us.

Those who embrace the silver lining and ignore the dark cloud will emerge victorious when the storm passes.

I promise…this too shall pass.

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020 it was a huge inflection point in the way we live and work. It was a wake up call that we weren’t willing to allow our lives to go back to normal because normal wasn’t working.

Hitting the pause button gave us a moment to breath, reflect, and take stock of whether or not we were at peace with how we were spending our time.

And what most of us realized is we were NOT at peace with how we spent our time.

There were some who took action, stepped outside their comfort zones, and did the necessary deep work to change the direction their lives were headed. (many of them students in the Optimizer community)

But there were also others who waited it out, stuck their head in the sand, and went back to their “normal” lives in hopes things would magically change. With over two years of hindsight, it’s pretty clear things have not only NOT gotten better, things are worse in many respects.

As storytellers for a living, I see this slow period as a tremendous opportunity to once again choose how we want to write the next chapter of our stories. By intentionally directing our energy towards actions that we CAN control, despite the challenges, we can emerge ahead of the game when the job market roars back to life.

Here are a few examples of how you could use the pending down time wisely:

  • You could catch up on sleep, exercise, time with family & friends, and all the other things that in the grand scheme of life are WAY more important than career development!
  • You could level up the skills you keep saying you want to learn when you “find” the time
  • You could reorganize and take control of your finances
  • You can update your professional branding materials (résumé, portfolio, etc)
  • You can start a side hustle or work on a passion project
  • You can build your professional network

What are some additional ways we can use our time wisely if the market continues to be slow?

The more we band together as a global community, the more we succeed together. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Keep an eye out for next Monday’s newsletter where I’ll dig deeper into a few of the strategies above and provide you the best resources to emerge from this pending storm not only where you are now…but ahead of the game so you can all but recession-proof your career for the many lean times to come.

Be well.
Zack Arnold
Creator, Optimize Yourself

P.S. If you believe the best way to prioritize your time right now is building your professional network, you’ll love my brand new workshop launching in April. In just a single afternoon you’ll go from “Who am I supposed to reach out to?” to having a prioritized list of hundreds of people you can add to your dream network.

Basically you’ll have a year’s worth of potentially life-changing outreach organized in a single afternoon. And a kick-ass Google spreadsheet that makes prioritizing your next outreach braindead easy!

Click here to add your name to the ‘Build Your Dream Network’ waitlist

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”

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