Man About Town

In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t have bothered me so much. But I was shocked—shocked, I tell you—when I realized the Charlie Brown Halloween special was no longer on CBS. “Thirty years!” I screeched, rocketing a pillow at the TV. “Doesn’t 30 years mean anything?!” I felt like the jilted wife of a Dallas oilman, throwing a bottle of Jack at the bumper of a vanishing Cadillac. Instead I threw the remote.

Watching my beloved cartoon on ABC was like seeing Charlie’s face on the side of a milk carton. Then the other shoe dropped: Dolly Madison didn’t sponsor it. I was aghast. Particularly when the first ad aired—for Dis ney! I almost lost my mind. (“What about the Snoopy-sponsoring folks at Knott’s Berry Farm?” I thought, outraged on their behalf.)

I repeated this hysteria during the Peanuts Thanksgiving special a month later. I had tuned into CBS, like a fool, and was newly horrified.

Well, the holidays are here, and the final installment of Chuck’s annual animated triptych lit up my TV the other week. I remembered this time. But I am Linus minus his blanket.

Change is everywhere. And it’s simply not possible to be glad about a lot of it. So if, like me, you find yourself having a fit about something silly, maybe the best course of action is a new course of action. Maybe the best antidote to sudden change is to make your own.

Now, there’s good change and bad change, of course. But just because the world is chaotic doesn’t mean you have to “wait and see.”

The media’s been pummeling us about our collective dash to “comfort.” Apparently everyone’s “nesting” with their loved ones all piled up on the sofa, vast quantities of mac and cheese in the cupboard. Engagement rings are flying off the shelves as new relationships and babies are up, up, up. As are Home Depot sales. And Martha Stewart stock.

I’ve read three different agency “studies on the aftermath” that confirm this frenzy of connectedness and commitment. Everyone’s supposedly circling the wagons, hunkering down, working overtime to keep “the status quo” status quo.

But I don’t buy it.

Charlie Brown moved? “Get over it” was my tough-love Rx to myself. At which point I seized the reins and shook things up a bit. (A lot, actually.)

I’ve often been described as an “agent of change.” Which is true. I thrive on it. My career is based on it. Isn’t yours? Isn’t our entire collective experience based on change? New-business pitches. New clients. New partners. New presentation techniques. New strategies. New talent. New pro cesses. New work.

I’ve been a high priest in the Cult of the New for 18 years. I’ve changed bosses, jobs, apartments, friends, co-workers, neighborhoods, time zones … well, you get the idea.

Now change is in the air. Again. So what? We’re better equipped to deal with it than most. Why not completely rethink the future?

How? Reprioritize.

That’s what I’ve been up to. Hired myself for a consultation. (Got a fabulous rate, by the way.) Took an entire Saturday to investigate “Brand Nei l an.” I made sure it was fun but treated it with as much importance as my projects for agencies or clients. Which is when it hit me: My personal goals really are just as important as those of the companies I work with. So this qualified as “real work.” Who knew?

In a nutshell, I realized there were five career elements I was interested in, ranked in order. Unfortunately, I was spending 95 percent of my time and energy on No. 5. Which meant I had to make some changes.

Every time I’ve tried to do something really important for myself in the past, I’ve made it seem like medicine, thought of it as arduous and made sure it was. No pain, no gain: What a hideous axiom. Growth (personal, financial, professional) doesn’t have to hurt. A spoonful of sugar, indeed. That’s what I figured out.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to propose a toast: “Do for yourself what you would gladly do for others.” (This is not Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good.”) Want more secure footing? Build your own foundation. Take what may be an extended holiday season and pay attention to yourself. For a “change.” Figure out how to do your job better. What a better job might be. Decide to really run that marathon or write that book. Start that new company. Why the heck not? Call the SBA and get some concrete advice or help. Call the 4A’s.

Enlist friends. Get a personal coach. Visit your clergy (I’m not kidding). Talk to your spouse or partner. Figure out how to be that “fabulous you” I wrote about last month.

While you’re at it? Have a wonderful holiday. And many happy new years. Starting with the next one.