Friday, June 15, 2012

Life is a Lot Like Frogger

There is this game from the eighties called Frogger, and I wasted a lot of quarters on that game.  The object of the game is simple.  You try to get your frog across a highway and a moving river to the lily pads at the top of the screen.  There are cars you must avoid on the highway, and you must hop on logs and turtles to get you across the river.  The logs and turtles must be abandoned before they reach the side of the screen or you die.  The turtles have an additional peril in that they regularly submerge, and if you are on them when they do your frog dies.
All games have strategies for winning and so does Frogger.  One strategy is that sometimes the way to move forward is by temporarily moving backwards.  This aspect of the game is a great analogy of fiscal livelihood.  You must move forward through education, training, and hard work.  Sometimes you can look down into the future and you can see an end of a job coming (like the log or turtles) and you must alter your course.  Sometimes you must accept a short-term career path or job that holds you until something more stable comes along.  

Taking a low paying job may feel like going backwards, but that may be the best strategy for that moment.  You may look down the line and see that the job you have is about to become obsolete.  In this case you need to “hop off the log” and begin preparing for your next move. All analogies have their weaknesses and Frogger is just a game and not real life, but in life you will be blindsided occasionally.  Layoffs and health issues are two areas that catch people off guard.  It is very hard to recover financially when blindsided with something big, so preparation is the best measure. 

My son Bryce had a condition called Kawasaki’s Disease.  This disease is a temporary inflammation of the arterial system.  Since the heart is a part of this system, extended inflammation can lead to an aneurism or even a heart attack.  Bryce was very fortunate to have an alert doctor catch the subtle signs, and he was quickly medicated with two treatments of an anti-inflammatory called gamma globulin.   Bryce recovered quickly and had no major aftereffects of the disease.  When we got the bill in the mail we were blown away that each treatment would cost us $20,000!  

We had insurance and after a lot of calls, our insurance paid for all of it.  We were very fortunate to have insurance, but we had always made it a priority to make sure we had medical insurance and so should you.  Besides the importance of having medical insurance, this episode illustrated to me that there are events that can come along that have the ability to immediately turn your world upside down.  It is prudent to expect a couple of these events in your life and prepare to the best of your ability.

Another area where people get blindsided is a layoff.  Are there signs to look for to help you notice an impending layoff?  There are, and some signs can be seen years in advance!  When you are working, it is wise to take note to what is going on around you.  You will want to continually ask yourself if the company you are working for is healthy.  Is your position secure for the moment, and for how long?  Is there a skill you will need in order to progress or continue?  Is this job going to evaporate when a new innovation comes along, and how likely is that?  Am I getting positive feedback?  Are the things I’m doing relevant for this company, and could they decide that I’m not needed?  

Even with watching carefully, you may still get blindsided, but you should still watch carefully and make adjustments.  Using the Frogger analogy, use your footing in the current job to work on your plan to ensure you have current skills that are in demand in the marketplace.