Welcome to Plan B Nation

if it makes you fly...

December 31, 2008. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m not at a party or having dinner with friends or even at home alone with popcorn, watching Times Square on TV. Instead, I’m on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, millions of psychic miles from my frenzied if fulfilling job at Harvard Law School.

For the past five years, I’ve penned speeches for Dean Elena Kagan, juggling deadlines with cups of coffee at my storied alma mater, but when I get home one week later, everything has changed. During my silent sojourn, my boss was tapped to become Solicitor General, soon to join the fledgling Obama administration in Washington D.C. (As it happens, this will be short stop, en route to the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Four months later, I’m newly unemployed at the peak of the Great Recession. A rueful refrain runs through my mind: But I did everything right! This is not what my life is supposed to look like!

Welcome to Plan B Nation.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, it seemed reasonable to think that with education, hard work, and a modicum of luck we could chart a course in our lives—Plan A—and follow it through to the end.

Today, these assumptions no longer hold. Globalization, layoffs (actual or feared), the foreclosure crisis, the widespread demise of traditional pensions, the roller coaster stock market—these are some of the factors turning once-stable lives upside down.

“Plan B—it’s the new Plan A!” I quipped to a friend who was, like me, facing an unexpected reversal.

“Plan A, that’s so 20th-century,” I said to another.

But if Plan B Nation brings challenges, it also brings new possibilities and options. The trick is to finding new ways to work with things as they are.

As I recently wrote in Salon, thriving in Plan B Nation requires us to exercise many traditional American virtues: Fortitude, faith, patience, courage, and self-control.

To this list, I would also add ingenuity and a flexible, open perspective. In essence, we need to become artists of life. Rather than simply wishing things were different, we need to make creative use of the materials at hand.

Over the next weeks and months, this blog will be exploring just how we go about that. I’ll be sharing personal stories (my own and those of fellow travelers) while also taking a look at books and research helpful in navigating Plan B Nation. Please join the conversation–and if you’re so inclined, help me spread the word.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Are there issues you’d like to see addressed? Do you have suggestions for blog posts or features? Other thoughts or concerns? Please let me know.

Again, Welcome to Plan B Nation.

And now, let’s get started.

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

24 thoughts on “Welcome to Plan B Nation

  1. Feels like so many of us are still out there with our lanterns wandering in the dark looking for a “job” from someone. How about the possibility, freedom and fear of creating something of value, and an organization on your own? Freelancing is partway there, but is still personal services. What about creating a product or business? That is what a growing group of us “post-corporates” are doing up in New England. We have produced the top user-rated New England travel apps for iPhone / iPad. We have used our many decades of New England living to write first person invitations to the amazing recreation places across the region. We have used our passions for digital photography for producing stunning photos. We have retreaded our technical skills, the VCs no longer wanted and architected the most advanced and cloud-based scalable platform to expand across the nation on. We are being retro in building our marketing program with the real travel industry and not thinking that tweeting, and facebooking does the job. We are organized as a democratic workers co-op. We are looking for fellow travelers who want to be social entrepreneurs in having a social mission and making some money too. We are virtually distributed across the region and some participate part-time, some full-time. We have opportunities for amazing “Plan B’ers” across the US and in many skill areas. We also want to support others in creating similar alternative work structures in other professional, skill and business areas – Lookk us up. Be in touch. Robert Gray, Founder At-Hand Apps, publishers of At-Hand Guides.

  2. Great blog. Love the comment by Victor Navansky about the fee being in the “high two figures.”
    I fellow freelancer and friend of mine says, “We’re all part timers now.” How true.
    Your mention of the New Yorker cartoon reminded me of a Dilbert strip from 2003 in which the Pointy Haired Boss puts Dilbert in charge of building a new tech center. When the bids come in, Dilbert meets with the low bidder, a beaver. Dilbert asks, “So you’re bid says you’ll do the job for … ‘a chance to gnaw on wood’?” And the beaver replies, “Too high?”
    I have it on the bulletin board in my office. Here’s the link:

    Best of luck with Plan B Nation.

  3. Hi Amy,

    I have read your article published in Psychology Today (Oct 2012 issue) and I love it. Thanks and looking forward to reading more of your articles and posts. :)


  4. This is a fantastic blog. Love the writing and I completely relate. That said, it’s both frightening and inspiring. I too am smack-dab in the statistical wave of the long-term unemployed and am facing all the fears and challenges. Love reading your stuff, and congrats on your new job!

    • Both frightening & inspiring — I relate to that description! (In fact, it pretty much sums up the past 3 years for me.) I wish you much luck with your efforts and completely empathize (for obvious reasons) with what you’re going through. Thanks so much for connecting & I hope to hear more from you.

  5. Hello Amy, I am here through subscribing to second act because I am a baby boomer about to embark on my second act, which for you is plan B. My situation is a little different in that I have been in the workforce all of my life. It is my second act, or plan B, or encore years I am seeking to now do work in an area that aligns more with who I am rather than out of necessity. I have subscribed and look forward to following your blog.

    • Welcome! I hope you enjoy Plan B Nation–and best of luck as you embark on this new exploration. I’ll hope to hear more from you.

  6. Such a good idea, Amy. You are building a supportive and enlightening community!

  7. Bravo. I’m looking forward to continued commentary and perspective, what a great approach! I’m fully engaged in my Plan B and so deep in, wouldn’t consider looking back.

  8. Wonderful Amy! Looking forward to being a regular consumer of your wit and wisdom!

  9. Can’t wait to read more. As a freelancer, I’ve actually been weathering the recession quite well. I just feel for all of the people who were not in such a position when things started going pear-shaped.

  10. Me? At this point, I appear to be on Plan Q. This looks wonderful. Go, Amy!

  11. Well done! Looking forward to coming here and getting inspired, because you do that well. My philosophy?, I PLAN to be happy as much as possible. You can’t wait till life is perfect to begin enjoying it.

  12. This is fantastic! Are you getting it a twitter feed? Can’t wait to read more. And I did not know these details about your plan B arrival…

    • Thanks so much, KJ! And yes, I have a Plan B twitter feed, but I haven’t really launched it yet–this blog is very much a work in progress Any and all suggestions welcome, and thanks for stopping by.

  13. You know that I love thinking about life as a canvas and we are the artists. This is a great piece and I look forward to hearing more.

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