Recession karma: What goes around, comes around, during a downturn.

The word “karma” gets breezily tossed about in pop culture. However if we go back a few millennia, things were different. The word karma wasn’t followed by “is a bitch” on bumper stickers.

Before karma showed up in trendy yoga shops, it showed up in ancient religious texts. Here’s an excerpt. (In case you haven’t brushed up on your sanskrit, I’ll translate.)

Harm we cause in this life will come back to us in the next. The universe is relentless. It will not let us get away with anything.

That’s some pretty righteous mojo. 

My 13 principles aren’t quite so extreme, but no less important in the workplace.

1) In the long run it, a trusted reputation is your career’s greatest achievement– and the one over which you have the most control. 

2) Be nice. Play fair. Do what you say you’re going to do. Being a good person matters. A lot. 

3) In most industries, everyone knows everyone else by .5 degrees of separation. Burn bridges, and you’re toast. 

4) Trust your gut. It’s smarter than you are.

5) Think carefully before you complain about anything right now. Many people are fearfully hunkered down in survival mode, more concerned about their own employment than others’ wishes.

6) There is no shame in failure. The same cannot be said for lack of effort.

7) Don’t aim to avoid negative feedback. Disapproval is inherent for anyone involved with new thinking. Unless you’re creating spreadsheets, your work won’t always add up in neat columns. Learn as much you can from negative feedback, and move on.

8) Likewise, don’t base your self-image on positive feedback, because no matter how good you are, you can’t count on it. Find other sources of confidence.

9) Your work can have attitude. You, on the other hand, cannot.  Step it down a notch (or three), and leave your prima donna feathered headdress at home. At every opportunity, make others feel better about themselves than before they encountered you.

10)  Go to great lengths to be stress-free and pleasurable to work with. This is true at any time, but even more so during a recession, or any time of great uncertainty. Clients and employers have an extremely low tolerance for moodiness or impetuousness.  

11) Don’t allow your ego to get in your way. People will see through the pretense and figure out your motivations pretty quickly.

12) Competitive is okay. Cut-throat is not.

13) Integrity is unsexy. It can also be difficult, painful, and even expensive. So is dental care. Neither are wise to shortcut.

So, what about your karma? How do you bring good karma into your work? Where are you seeing the most damaging breaks in respect and ethics at the workplace?  

(Of course, if you don’t comment, that’s okay too. No bad karma from me.)

22 Responses to “Recession karma: What goes around, comes around, during a downturn.”

  1. David Esrati Says:

    Work on things you love- and have a passion for, because, life’s too short, and the karma wheel will roll you over sooner than later if you hate your job.

  2. Prescott Perez-Fox Says:

    Sound principles (or “mantras”, in this case) for any time of the business lifecycle. It seems that the recurring theme here (and in Hinduism as a whole) is not to be a jerk. Kinda makes us wonder why so many of us are jerks in the first place.

    My thesis: it’s our outdated culture of hazing … and cubicles … and the word “synergy.”

  3. Jim Says:

    if there weren’t 13 of these they’d be good to tattoo — all good ideas, good stuff. thanks for this on a friday…..

  4. Jon P Says:

    They aren’t principles until you can practice them when the world is going to shit. I once read that karma is really tied to our own desires—we consciously and unconsciously bring many of the things we experience upon ourselves.

    Thanks for the great reminders Sally. Maybe this is what “The Forum” should really be.

  5. David Warren Says:

    These are all great. And I only violated 12 of them today. Is that good Karma?

  6. gary greenberg Says:

    Thank you Sally.
    It’s easy to forget in an economy like this, being a decent human being just might help you and others.

  7. Jim Says:

    Maybe now more than ever beofre we need to steep ourselves in principles like these. And is there ever a downside to doing the right thing?

  8. Courtney McLaren Says:

    Everyone should read this and live it. We all know this stuff…but need to be reminded…a few of your points I need to work on much harder. Thank you!

  9. Stan Moy Says:

    Aloha Sally.
    Mahalo for a great piece for living everyday. Living a principled life works. And the good energy returns in waves.

  10. Scott Says:

    What goes around comes around…karma…an eye for an eye. As Courtney states, “Everyone sh0uld read this and live it.” However, most won’t remember the importance of injecting and maintaining integrity in business cultures. Unfortunately, worldly goods and pursuits become far greater than the good of humanity and spirituality.

    Until these words become our mantra, develop our business cultures and realtionships, and rid business and communities of greed and corruption, we are bound to repeat history. The United States places a lot of emphasis on material wealth and money, and until our core values change drastically, which they might through this latest correction, history will repeat itself.

    A book that I recommend to your audience is Dropping Almonds by Bach Anon. Very much an alternative business book that chronicles an executive’s climb and subsequent fall from position. What causes the tumble? An executive’s inability to compromise his own moral compass for the sake of a company’s goals.

    Click on my name find a link!

  11. adchick Says:

    Just do the right thing. It all boils down to that. Where do business, if you try to be a schmuck, the WOM travels faster than small town gossip. Your #13 might have been my favorite. Good words!

  12. D. G. Faragó Says:

    Failures and negative feedbacks: They are good anyway to lose bad karma. My main challange is to be a nice person and at the same time a rigorously sincere one.

  13. Jim osterman Says:

    The more I see this the more sense it makes….

  14. Wade Simmons Says:


    I found myself a bit flummoxed, much like the protagonist in the above snippet!
    It’s the best way for me to illustrate my state of mind over seeing advertising
    professionals, being professional. Civil discourse amidst an AD-BLOG is indeed rare!

    My reaction wasn’t too dissimilar to how Ralph Kramden acted/overacted when
    Alice, Norton, or whomever, posited an astonishing fact or fix before Ralph.
    The following and aforementioned Honeymooners-ism came first to mind upon
    reading your blog, and reviewing it’s accordantly intelligent & affable comments:

    I stumbled upon your blog and was elated to see that no one felt the need to go off the rails! Devolving the T+ spirit, and spiraling the conversation into an endless bitter death-grip of profanity & inanity! I mean, LIKE EGADS, like I’m not like 22 anymore?



    That was fun!

  15. Lauren Says:

    After a while one has to weigh the wisdom of pulling up
    anchorage from a harbor of failed platitudes?

    From Sunday school lessons in Galatians 6:7-8.
    From lessons spun by Kermit, Bert & Ernie!
    From my first reconnoiters amidst kismet & serendipity!

    For the most part I’ve practiced what’s been preached, except maybe for
    when I flipped the bird to that guy in his green Camaro back in ‘96 0r was that ‘98?


    However as of late (like since 2001) I’ve begun to question
    my moorings in many of these timeworn precepts;

    their yield (see lack thereof) is suggestive of a failed policy?

    As the years roll by, I’m reminded of that scene from “Miracle On 34th Street”
    the one with Natalie Wood & Edmund Gwenn. Susan Walker (Natalie’s character)
    is holding fast, despite the skeptics, to her hope and belief that their is indeed a Santa Claus? As her mother (and her paramour) are driving home on Christmas Day, she
    peers out her window mumbling a mantra that she hopes (by her much repeating)
    will be proven true:
    “…I do believe, I do believe, I do believe”

    I too keep repeating (see mumbling) similar thoughts, and then I recollect this as well:

    “INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    “But… Is a puzzlement!”
    — Yul Brynner

  16. Sampath Says:

    Gems. ( I am not just fishing for good karma, but it would be nice if you could send some my way)
    Cheers :)

  17. Marcus Says:

    So then…KARMA is kind of like the SAT?
    It’s just one elongated ENTRANCE EXAM?

  18. Chris Says:

    Back around 1970-something, I signed up for a lifetime subscription into

    I joined those ranks at the Liberty Reformed Presby Church.
    During one of my many Sunday school pedagogies,
    I was taught the linchpin of all flanking circumambient guidance:
    LEVITICUS 19:34
    MATTHEW 7:12
    Over my years I’ve made multiple course corrections in an effort to
    honor that avowance.

    I swore off swearing back around 1979, after my coach chastised me
    regarding my use of some ill-advised invectives.

    I stopped drinking/smoking in my 30’s.

    I avoided many other a temptation, despite their temptations!

    Went to college!
    Got married!
    Had a daughter!
    Made some money!
    Won some awards too!
    Reached my summit as an agency EVP!

    Lost my summit as an agency EVP!
    Too Senior.
    Too Junior.
    Too retail.
    Too package goods(y).
    Too much Print.
    Too much Broadcast!
    Not enough Direct!

    Today (after much effort) I can’t get even the most-menial,
    or the most seductive of jobs! Typical rejections
    (when you’re fortunate enough to get one) come replete
    with the usual inarticulate riposte. All are often
    (by design) vague and very-varying and very-unhelpful.

    Recently I took personal stock & inventory, measuring my
    list of works against that most famous of TOP 10 LISTS!
    1. CHECK*
    2. CHECK*
    3. GUILTY (on cccasion)
    Like when I hit my thumb with the hammer!
    Or when some jerk cuts me off!
    4. GUILTY (often)
    My Sabbath’s usually involve NASCAR/NFL/MLB/NBA.
    So I could be in violation there?
    5. CHECK*
    6. GUILTY*
    (Should’a seen the size of that spider, had to kill it, it was he or me?)
    7. CHECK*
    8. CHECK*
    (Well except for those gumballs I stole at Olsen’s when I was 9?)
    9. CHECK*
    I may be covetous of my neighbor’s house, and his car– although I don’t believe
    “CAR” is cited in the new testament? I do not long for his manservant, nor
    maidservants, nor his ox (although that might qualify as car-lust?).

    If your advice is: “WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND”
    My only rejoinder is:
    “Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis”
    — Cicero (”the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”)

    Perhaps an explanation resides here, and I am the exception to the rule?

    If even the most erudite of instruction fails, where does one go?
    If long held standards bear no fruit, where does one go for nourishment?
    Contrary to what you may be thinking, I’ve faithfully devoured, and executed,
    many an encouraging word.

    Yet when all else fails, what else is there?


    — Rabbi Hillel


  19. Jon P Says:

    To Chris:

    Dude, it sounds like you learned a lot of stuff along the way. You should try teaching it to other people. For money.

  20. Chris Says:


    Love to, where do I sign?

    I’m not fond of penning dispiriting downers, I really do believe it’s imperative
    that we keep our sunny-side up? However (at times) life can be abrasive.
    I hope my missives/rants are not? It’s simply a summary of one man’s adventures
    in paradise. It is not a condemnation of anyone else’s stanchions.

    We all come in different weights, heights, shades and textures, each is unique and valid. I simply vented what I’ve envisaged! There is not a one-size fits all answer, our individual road maps could/should contradict one another. Or as Yogi Berra said:

    Your mileage may vary?

    Thanks Jon P. for your thoughtful reply!

  21. Jon P Says:

    Hey Chris, I’ve been there.

    One way for a guy with your experience to have fun and make a profit is to seek out companies that aren’t aware of the sophisticated creative and marketing ideas they could be using to build their businesses and kick competitor’s asses. There are a lot of cool companies that are way off the Fortune 1000 beaten track on which most ad agencies travel. That’s a lot of virgin territory once you pry your consciousness away from ad agency hell.

    Good luck, in whatever you do.

    Best, Jon

    P.S. Apologies to Sally for turning this into a private forum

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    [...] her list of Recession Karma principles, these are my favorites: 7.) Don’t aim to avoid negative feedback. Disapproval is [...]

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