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.

© 2011 — 2013, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

27 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!
    John recently posted…The Row­ingfest That Is Mas­ters NationalsMy Profile

    • 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.
      amy gut­man recently posted…Job? Check.My Profile

  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.

  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. 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.

    • 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.

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