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Will 2023 Be the End of the World?


As I’ve had the privilege of working with and interviewing a number of seasoned senior leaders, they seem to live in a tension between planning ahead and remaining nimble. They set focus and priorities, and yet they are also willing to pivot quickly as reality on the ground changes. As one of my friends, a retired general, says, “no plan survives your first contact with the enemy.”

So what should we be preparing for in 2023? In a word, uncertainty. What will 2023 hold? There is a lot of speculation around this question even as we hit the tail end of January.

2022 was the year when inflation spiked, a ground war in Europe began, capital markets tightened, and the wealth of the wealthy declined. At the same time, it was a great year for job seekers, with unprecedented job openings, pay increases, and incentives to look elsewhere.

As we begin 2023, several things seem clear:

  • A recession is universally expected–the “slowcession,” as Barrons refers to it. Some predict mild and short, while others expect long and painful.

  • Hiring is slowing, and reports of layoffs and hiring freezes are growing in frequency. The talent market advantage may shift back to employers, making it riskier to change jobs and more challenging to find a job.

  • Global security continues to be a massive wildcard with the war in Ukraine grinding on and the threat of China to Taiwan ever-present. These distant rumblings impact global supply chains and the price you pay for everything.

  • The return of a divided government to the U.S. as Republicans take control of the House brings its own questions. Will this usher in a season of negotiation, compromise, or deeper gridlock in DC?

Every year starts with some uncertainty. This year the intensity is amplified. So how does one navigate a work and financial landscape where making wise moves in one’s career and investments is overshadowed by so many unanswered questions?


Here are five suggestions:

1) Distrust (headlines) and Verify

The Proverb says, “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” (Proverbs 28:1). The news business is a numbers business: the number of viewers and page views. Negativity and fear, sell. They get attention. News skews dark. So find alternative sources of information. Avoid losing sleep over “impending disaster” that is merely hype.

This is where having a robust network of friends and connections you can rely on for wise counsel is essential. Get as much first-hand information as you can about opportunities and risks.

2) Be Prepared

Perhaps you’ve been led to assume that if you do everything correctly, all will be up and to the right. Sometimes faith traditions baptize this blind optimism with pious sayings and stifling expectations. Reality includes suffering and difficulty. Wisdom for uncertainty means being prepared. Ignoring real danger is not spiritual or having faith. It is foolishness.

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3)

Biblical wisdom emphasizes preparing for imminent challenges. The ant is elevated as the example, one who collects in summer to have food for winter. God also gives us the story of Joseph, who stored grain during the seven years of plenty to weather seven years of famine. Being prepared means:

  1. Doubling down on savings and throttling back on spending.

  2. Do your homework before making a job change, a big new investment move, or a large purchase. Game out scenarios with a significant drop in your income or investments.

  3. Taking the long view. Be diligent in the work that builds relationships, capacity, and impact over the long term.

  4. Prepare yourself spiritually by immersing in the Psalms. The Psalms are prayers. They are refreshingly honest. The raw anguish combined with God–centered reflection can provide you with the rootedness and authenticity required to thrive in the midst of 2023 fog.

3) Diversify

From Jesus and the soils to the Proverbs commending a backup plan (Proverbs 27:23), a repeated theme in biblical wisdom is diversification.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good (Ecc 11:6)

Workers do well to continually expand their skill sets and networks, even when things are going well. Current tech skills and connections open doors. For example, one of our clients successfully transitioned from church ministry to construction management because he learned industry-specific project management software and knew someone who needed that skill in a team member. The first best time to start building your network and skill inventory was five years ago; the second best time is today.

4) Divine Opportunities

When a run of very good years has ended, clouds of ambiguity are on the horizon, or the voices of doom are the loudest, it can be easy to become depressed about the future. This is never necessary when we remind ourselves that we are God’s children and he has pledged to care for us. With the ultimate safety net of God’s unfailing love, we can find divine opportunities in seasons of macro difficulty.

  • Character Opportunity: When it comes to your character and faith, even challenges are ripe with opportunities to make you the woman or man God wants you to be (See Romans 5 or James 1). But there may be more than just a personal growth opportunity in navigating intense uncertainty. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… A time to plant, a time to harvest A time to break down, and a time to build up; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3)

  • Love Your Neighbor Opportunity: When it comes to the call to love our neighbors, every economic contraction is ripe with opportunity to do more of it. Whether it’s practicing radical generosity to help those in need or sacrificing your time and risking your reputation to help a friend find a job.

  • The Ideas Opportunity: Constraints force us to prioritize and innovate. New ideas for service solutions, products, and companies can be birthed out of the challenges of uncertain times. Simplification and focus can come to our personal and working lives through the limits imposed by uncertainty.

We need not fear days of uncertainty, they are most surely divine opportunities for spiritual growth, spiritual impact on our colleagues, and innovation.

5) There’s No Such Thing as the End of the World

God is not surprised by our limited view of the future. He is actually in ultimate control of the future. So he’s not surprised that our world is full of turmoil and risk. He uses even these things to draw us to himself and to fulfill his purposes in the world. Consider the following thought from Dallas Willard.

Standing in the kingdom, we make responsible decisions in love, with the assurance that how things turn out for us does not matter that much because, in any case, we are in the kingdom of the heavens. In that kingdom, nothing that can happen to us is “the end of the world.”


Never Waste a Challenge

I admire my friend’s approach to downturns. During seasons of contraction, when business slows, he aggressively prepares for growth. That means three things: offboarding people who are not fitting in or performing, tuning up internal systems that cannot handle a high volume of business, and adding key people who can fuel better performance when demand for their services returns.

He is a great role model for all of us. When extreme uncertainty clouds the horizon, we prepare instead of panic. We rest in the fact that God is in control and has riches for us, no matter how difficult or easy a year it may be. We lean into our work with gusto, leaving it all on the field and trusting God with the outcome. This includes eliminating habits and commitments that are not fruitful, improving disciplines and personal leadership processes, and adding relationships that are about the future.

We do this with confidence and peace, knowing that no matter what happens with our earthly careers or retirement plans, even if it goes south, as partakers in God’s everlasting Kingdom life, no earthbound eventuality can be the end of our world.

 

Listen to our podcast episode on this topic, "Dealing with Uncertainty: Will 2023 Be the End of the World?"






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Go Chip.

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