The United States government defines tough times as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. If we take that strict definition by the US as a basis and relate that to Ghana’s situation, we have had a continuous negative growth for upward of eight quarters between 2012 and now. Therefore, it is justifiable to say that we are in tough times. On a personal level, you know when things are tough, the market feels soft and buyers negotiate harder than when demand is greater than supply.  If you enter any of our local markets, the market women will confirm that majority of their customers must have taken a good dose of lectures on negotiation skills because of the way they haggle with them before they reluctantly pay for any item these days. The above observations confirm that, indeed, we are in tough times.

The Genesis

Let me make it clearer with these bible verses. ‘’There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the philistine in Gerar. Then Isaac sowed in the land and reaped in the same year a hundred fold, and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous. Genesis 26:1, 12-13. (NKJV)

From the above bible passage, two things stand out clear. Firstly, it is apparent that hard times or tough times is not something that just started today; it has been with us from the time the days of our ancestors. Then, they called it famine but economists today have found a softer or kinder word to describe the ugly situation or a period when money fails. Gen. 47: 15

There is nothing that is new under the sun so says the word of God. It is part of God’s surrender agenda for human beings to remember that they have a creator no matter how smart or intelligent we may be. Sometimes when it happens like this it defiles any logical scientific reasoning. We must see it as part of our economic life so that we would be humbled to remember Him as our creator.

Secondly, despite the fact that there may be economic hardship in the land some people who are obedient to His instruction will still have enough room to prosper in the same land no matter the severity of the economic hardship of the time.

If we do a bit of study on Isaac the son of Abraham from the bible passage we mentioned above, it was unmistakable that tough times came but he triumphed over the situation just like the eagle get excited in the face of fiery storm.

The question is: what did he do to survive the economic famine of the land which was more severe than the one his parents experienced.

I am not preaching bible here, but we must be smart and intelligent enough to understand that when things are the way they are in the system, we should dig deep from wherever we can source for solutions to get us out of a quagmire by using time-tested and proven approach; which many pool-gamblers always refer to as “sure banker”.

‘’Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’’ says George Sartayana the Spanish philosopher.

Reasons for hardship

Economies of nations like business, the world-over runs in cycles. The typical business cycle has many stages within each stage, but only three things can happen; Things improve; things stay the same or things get worse. Things are getting worse for us than earlier projected. But you must remember that this is not rocket science. It’s a cycle, a pattern, a season. There are seasons for country just as there are for our personal lives and businesses.

When we talk about steeling yourself in tough times, it is not restricted to businesses or national government alone. Generally, it affects almost every facet of the economy. Getting a job is much more difficult for unemployed person in a depression period.  He put his skills and competences on the market by preparing nice curriculum vitae for people to buy his skills you don’t get call up. Technically, what you do when you send you CVs out to potential employers is trying to market your brand by asking employers to take a look at what you have to sell. In tough times that becomes very difficult to get many potential employers to look at your direction because the most important objective in their mind is their companies’ survival.

For a young adult lady yet unmarried, you can captured this tough times looking at her frustration from getting someone to look at her direction. It becomes very frustrating for a beautiful and admirable young lady with a good education who’s done everything humanly possible to make herself noticed by potential male ‘customer’ who should see the good work of God in her beauty and make some overtures but they are not forthcoming. When times are tough, minds are dull and people scarcely perceive beautiful things because of too much things the head is carrying. It becomes difficult to notice anything beautiful around you.

This hardship may be as a result of change in demographics, that is large population of the people are falling into the old-age bracket, which in United States of America is called “the graying of America” or the usual economic cycles where by every boom is always followed by a bust. (The seven years of great plenty followed by seven years of famine).

Sometimes it comes as a result of government socio-economic policies that are not palatable, it could also be as a result of technological changed or industry provoked like the subprime mortgage issued that fuelled the last economic meltdowns of 2008 to 2012.

It can also be caused by Mother Nature, this may not be quite familiar with us in Africa but in some part of the world where tsunamis, tornadoes, wild-fires are regular occurrences, they slip into recession as a result of these natural disasters. It could also come from serious and fierce ‘’cut throat’’ competition among businesses that may drive some of them to the point of no return.

Finally, personal factors may also bring hardship or tough times when we mishandle a serious matter like personal financial planning or the health of an individual gets deteriorated or that of a close relation.

What do we do when times are hard?

The question then is what should you do to stay on top of tough times? It was Robert Schuller a great motivational speaker that said “tough times never last, but tough people do”. The first and most important thing when things are tough is to know what to do. That is the beginning of the solution.

Know what to do

There are many instances in the scriptures supporting the argument that you must know what to do. If you look at Isaac whom we used in early part of this article, He engaged in irrigation by digging wells to water his farms during the famine season.

Joseph was able to handle the economy of Egypt during the famine period because he knew what to do by saving twice the amount that would usually have been saved in the plenteous times.

When Jacob was suffering under the employment of his uncle Laban, he put his brain to work and he came up the science of animal husbandry (The term refers to the practice of selectively breeding and raising livestock to promote desirable traits in animals for utility, sport, pleasure, or research, but also refers to the efficient exploitation of a species in agriculture advantageous to humans). That is what he takes to come out of poverty and hardship of the land. Knowing what to do is critical and if you don’t know what to do then you need to consult far and wide in order to buy/obtain the knowledge you need to solve your problem.

Step back and Step up

An economic downturn is your time to step back and take about two to three days to reevaluate your own position in the economy. How solid is your personal financial situation? Are you one of the good ones in your industry who will keep afloat if things turn worse? If not, what’s your plan B? You must also remember that selling is service. If you are not prepared to serve more clients as things are getting worse by increasing your productivity or render more services at higher quality, you may be the cause of your own downturn in business.

It is only by stepping up the game that your work can have expression and become more valuable to interested consumers. It’s not only about what you are trying to sell, but what additional value are you bring to the table in that difficult time that attracts more buyers.

Personal Growth

 To review your plans and have strategies, this must begin with a commitment to personal growth. Personal growth is a process of increasing your knowledge and effectiveness so you can serve more, earn more and contribute more to the betterment of yourself and your family. It demands an investment of time, effort and money. You must remember that if you are not moving forward, you must be falling behind. This investment in personal growth is to boost your self confidence and your ability to defeat whatever life sends against you particularly in the era of economic hardship.

Fear is quite common when tough times are upon us. We hesitate to do that which we fear most. And fear is nothing more than lack of knowledge. The bible tells us that “my people perish because of lack knowledge”. When we are operating from a state of fear, we don’t always think rationally. Irrational thinking and anxiety can cause us to do things we later regret.

That is why you need knowledge of how to handle your challenges. The skills of living successfully are acquired through knowledge. Knowledge is available to each of us, and when properly applied becomes power. Our degree of ignorance will determine our place in society whether in hard times or in a state of boom.

Increase the rate of your service

Economic security is not attained by the possession of money alone. It is captured by the service one renders. The service you render is what attracts the money you control. It is in this that all enduring economic security can be obtained. Your service must come from you, your mind, your ability, your talent, and your energy. To paraphrase Earl Nightingale-“the amount of money you received will always be in direct proportion to the demand for what you do your ability to do it and the difficulty of replacing you”.

We should remember that we are all here to serve, and if you can kill your clients with service you are your way to reach a worthwhile relationship that would bring more money to your pocket. All of us can serve; we can give faster, quicker, cheaper, better, smarter, nicer, sweeter and excellent service. That is the secret of success when times are hard. Give your best, work at making your service better and give more than is expected of you with the right attitude. You will discover that no matter what the economic situation are in the land at anytime, you shall be “like  a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever he does proper”.(Psalm 1:3).