Down and Out in Switzerland

Recently an expat contacted me and related her story. What began as a world of financial and personal freedom turned into an ugly nightmare. Two years ago Ms. Zurich packed her bags and wired her life savings to a Swiss bank account. After landing in Zurich she found a small apartment and began a new life.

Ms. Zurich’s background was in publishing and wanted to continue her career around books. Her plan was to open a tiny bookstore specializing in female mysteries. Unable to find a location that was suitable and affordable in one, the book shop dream disappeared. A true personal failure she claimed. Instead of being aggressive and creating a new revenue stream, Ms. Zurich admitted she fell into the expat mindset that sometimes hypnotizes. That mindset can almost border complacency with a don’t worry be happy attitude.

Like many expat writers Ms. Zurich believed she had the next Moveable Feast on her fingertips. She played writer and spent the mornings writing in local cafes overlooking the large beautiful lake that streams through the city. While playing writer she lost sight of her business goals, her income and savings dwindled. The outcome, sixty-thousand words later, no interest from publishers. She admits, she fell into the romantic notion of being a failed expat writing cliché.

Ms. Zurich decided to put her publishing background to work and offer some editing. This did not create long term opportunity and her income became week-to-week and hand-to-mouth. Job opportunities were limited for reasons she did not discuss. Her only prospect seemed to be hoping and bargaining with the universe.

Her question to me, was what does one do when life fails. This is a real tough question and something people deal with being disappeared or not. Perhaps bargaining with the universe could be a good start, who knows maybe one’s perspective could change or that ah-ha moment strikes.

I believe that when all fails one needs to deal with their head and emotions first. The self needs to be kept in check and under total control. Because if you lose your head or allow emotions to dictate you will not overcome. Taking control is not easy especially in a situation where what is occurring is temporarily out of your control. Think about taking control of things you can actually govern. This could be cleaning your home, emailing people you have done business with, walking, feeding the birds, whatever! Just prove to yourself that you have a handle on a few things in your life. Even if these things appear insignificant.

The next mindset is to realize that it is not the end of the world, it only seems that way. What is occurring is only a short time in a space of life. This new chapter can become unruly, unkind, unknown, desperate and downright frightening. Then again, when hasn’t life had some of these ingredients. Fear not what is happening, it is happening.

So, what does one do when all fails? Think survival! Perhaps survival begins by asking some hard questions. Like, are you holding on to a failing job or business because of fear? Or are you abusing drugs or alcohol? Whatever. Ms. Zurich, realized it was her own actions that brought her to certain ruin and she knows it will be her own actions that will get her out of her mess.  Survival begins with truth.

My suggestion to Ms. Zurich was the second she wakes up, all of her thoughts and actions must be about food, shelter and internet. How, how, how and how! Nothing less than this thought process should exist in her day. Yes, I know this is not an exact formula of do A, B and C to rid failure from life but it is a starting point. Or maybe the starting point is realizing that, life has failed and this admission is the start to removing failure from life.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According, to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans


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