The Unexpected Upside of a Lean Season

The cold shoulder from the public and common media can be a blessing in disguise. The snow season is a time to focus on what really matters—your family, your friends, yourself.

Vintage Great depression family eating dinner 1930s.

Note from the editor: This story first published on

Many individuals, it’s safe to assume, go through at least one period of financial trouble throughout their life.

When you’re just starting out, it’s a common part of the ladder-climbing process. It may also happen while you’re between employment, or as a result of an accident or a slump in the economy.

Despite its difficulties, the season may provide a lot of benefits. These advantages are referred to as “surprising silver linings,” or “lessons learnt through adversity.”

I started my own editing company around 10 years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties.

My company was declared bankrupt five months later.

What followed was “our lean season,” as my wife Mary Margaret and I now refer to it. We weren’t impoverished by any means; we had a roof over our heads and ate three meals a day.

However, by G8 standards, we were bankrupt. We were unsure how we would pay our bills, were on the verge of losing our home, and were worried and anxious about our current and future financial condition.

I applied for almost 80 jobs over that winter. I went for interviews, went to job fairs, spoke with company owners, and handed out dozens of copies of my résumé.

The downfall of the newspaper business is to blame. There were a slew of eager, well-credentialed journalists searching for employment on the field. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

Mary Margaret and I still chat to folks who have gone through comparable tough times over a decade later. We have close friends, such as a surgeon and his wife, who tell us about their time in medical school after the birth of their girls. They resided in a rat-infested flat.

This is what we learnt about lean seasons from other people as well as our personal experience.

1. You realize you have a nice group of buddies.

When faced with financial difficulties, some individuals get humiliated. They remain silent and attempt to maintain the image of financial prosperity.

We decided to travel in the other way. We spoke freely about our condition with our closest friends and family, seeking emotional support and counsel.

It’s amusing. Strange things start to happen as word spreads. We had ham provided to us by someone. Our automobile was repaired for free by someone else.

If you’re used to being self-sufficient, it might be uncomfortable at first to accept the compassion of strangers in your community.

But it didn’t seem like we were getting a free ride. It felt like a helping hand. People knew we’d be there for them if they needed it, and now it was our time to provide.

2. Your personality changes for the better.

I don’t have great memories of our lean season. That wasn’t “the good old days,” and I’d never want to go back to that period.

But good came out of that season. It elicited sympathy from those who are financially disadvantaged. It instilled a healthy sense of humility, recognizing that we’re all in this life together.


It also instilled a love for the simplest things in life. When my wife and I were finally able to afford a $40 Costco membership, I remember being overjoyed. We genuinely whooped and high–fived one other.

3. Desperation may turn into one of your most powerful friends.

It might be easy to keep doing the same thing year after year if you despise your work and want to pursue something else. You’re overwhelmed with dread, yet your consistent income makes quitting tough.

Desperation might give you the bravery you need. If you’re unemployed, the same applies.

Throughout our tight season, I got more daring in my job hunt. I’d speak to anybody about any opening at any time.

I’d boldly ask for professional favors, such as being introduced to their boss or putting in a good word for me regarding a job position.

My desperation eventually drove me to build my own job. I began my editing firm a few months later. It was successful the second time around.

Have you ever had a dry spell? Maybe you’re already there. What have you discovered thus far?

Have you ever had a dry spell? Maybe you’re already there. What have you discovered thus far?

Marcus Brotherton is the author of Feast for Thieves and a frequent contributor to the Art of Manliness.