My grandmother used to save everything and now I know why. Looking at the current financial environment and state of the world helps me now comprehend why every plastic baggie was cleaned and reused until it almost fell apart. With record unemployment and an environment in true turmoil, there are lessons each person could pull out of history’s archives to shape tomorrow’s future, today.

Use it all.

From tooth to tail, every scrap was used of a product. Every piece of cloth was utilized; nothing went to waste. Today we can see that in relooking at every required step in production. With respect to employees, output is critical from all who are working. Every single hour billed must not only be productive, but also accounted for. No longer are there grace periods in the day and the hustle is tough. Within the workforce, challenges produce greatness for those undiscovered gem employees on the staff. Heed the advice that, when challenged, some people will produce extraordinary results.


My grandfather’s favorite saying was, “never pay for something you can do yourself.” That advice helped me learn how to change the oil with my first car but over time, I’d grown used to just taking the car in for a simple oil change. Now that we’re in a period of a potential recession or depression, this advice rings true. This is the time when you have to roll up your sleeves and start digging. Applicability of this is required in and out of the office. For instance, within your workplace, it’s best to work on training yourself and developing new skills. Think of it as a garden: when you’re starting from scratch with just a seed and soil, you’re more likely to appreciate the fruit of your harvest. Your self-reliance will pay off as you multidimensionally develop yourself or use your talents in a different way.

Move on.

The great depression taught an entire generation that they had to move out of a location where they’d grown up for generations. My grandfather left the homestead and farming in Nebraska to start up as a cook in California. My grandmother left Arkansas and took up typing, becoming a secretary. By the end, my grandfather ran a successful gas station and my grandmother was then-Governor Reagan’s secretary in California. Moving outside of skills they’d cultivated for years demonstrated their generation’s resilience and grit. Today it’s critical to assess. Living in your comfort zone is no longer acceptable, because it doesn’t exist. Being forward leaning and looking at areas where growth is possible is the new aim point. Stop concentrating on what you like versus what is now necessary.

Hard work still pays off. Do this by learning more than one trade. In a depression-like environment, hedgehogs don’t do as well as foxes. Don’t hedge your bet. Instead, move on to the next you.

In it Together.

Psychologically we use the word “depressed” to paint a picture of a bleak world. This is the time to fight insularity and work to keep your organization, coworkers, and family focused on the positive. If you’re in it to win it, community is key. In the spirit of learning from the depression, a barn was raised by a community and not one individual. Focus efforts and keep in mind that you’re surrounded by a team. As each player helps you win the game, you’ll find you value those who contribute most as critical. Also, outside of your circle, you’ll realize that making friends with your neighbors pays off, because word of mouth matters for hearing about that next opportunity.

Things Will Get Better.

In the end, the bad times were pretty bad, but they’ll always get better. My grandmother would often remind me that, “the only thing constant in life is change.” While we’re reflecting on the now, why not use this time to challenge hierarchies and leadership by throwing out the bureaucratic and linear way things were done? Look at the potential next and focus on what is most important. From that viewpoint, the future we create does look much better.

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Candice Frost is an active duty Army officer and a leadership consultant. Her work in intelligence on the Army Staff provides her unique insights on the highest levels of leadership in DoD. She is a public speaker who focuses on mentorship and leader development. She lives in Washington, DC and can be reached at