Back to basics

A colleague reminded me the other day how important it is for me to stay focused on our company’s game plan.

It’s not that I was slacking off, it’s that most every working American is facing tougher job challenges right now — from mail room clerks to salespeople to business owners and even journalists.

Things are just not as easy as they were six months ago. We have to work harder to accomplish the same thing, for a variety of reasons. Maybe your competition is scrambling harder, perhaps the stress level in your office is greater or maybe your customers are cutting back on spending, as are most businesses and consumers.

It’s ironic that in these times that call for harder work, I’m hard-pressed to find a person who isn’t going through some self-doubt or self-evaluation about the importance of their profession. We’re expected to work harder and be more motivated when, at the same time, we’re questioning our lives.

I imagine firefighters, teachers and health care professionals are feeling fairly valued right now, but I don’t know of a journalist or salesperson who hasn’t tried lately to come to grips with his or her value to society. Why are we doing what we’re doing? What mark am I going to leave if I spend my career doing this?

The twist is that I think this introspection can actually help us get back to work. And to work harder than ever. We need to occasionally remind ourselves why we’re in the professions we’re in in order to get back to the fundamentals of the job.

For instance, as a journalist, my job is not to fill pages of a magazine every month as quickly and economically as I can, even though I sometimes think that. I went into this profession to assist in getting information to people so that they can make better choices, which will, in turn, help them to live better lives.

I know that sounds pretty lofty, but that’s what I strive for.

We all must ask ourselves what we are striving for. Use the wake-up call of Sept. 11 and this declining economy to get back to your mission. Most people who succeed in business or in the arts do so because they are able to stick to the basic principles upon which their companies or careers were founded.

We just rarely get the chance to evaluate that. Connie Swenson ([email protected]) is editor of SBN Magazine.