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I Refuse to Participate in the Recession!

By Dr. Ivan Misner

I started BNI in 1985. Since then, I’ve helped navigate the company through three recessions. We have now entered our fourth recession since the mid-eighties. Having experienced four recessions now, I’ve discovered something along the way. I’ve learned that mindset has a lot to do with how one navigates a tough economy successfully.

This first became clear to me when I was at a large networking event during the recession of the early 90’s. As I walked around the room, I discovered that virtually the only topic of discussion was the recession and how bad business was. Almost everyone was completely fixated on how horrible things were. It was incredibly depressing. I found myself meandering around the room when I saw someone standing in a corner observing all the distraught business people in attendance.

I walked up to him, introduced myself, and asked him what he did. He told me he was in real estate. As soon as he told me that, I prepared myself for the onslaught of horror stories as to how bad the real estate market was in the state. But instead, he said that things were going really well for him.

Naturally, I was surprised and replied, "You said you were in real estate, right?"

"Yes," he said.

I asked, "The real estate market has dropped significantly here, hasn’t it?"

"Yes," he said with a slight grin.

"And you're having a good year?"

"I'm actually having my best year ever!"

"Your best year!" I said in amazement. After thinking for a moment, I asked him, "Is this your first year in real estate?"

"No," he replied with a laugh. "I've been in real estate for almost ten years."

I asked him how he could be doing so well, given the condition of the economy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a big button that read: I Refuse to Participate in a Recession!

“That’s it? You have a button that says I absolutely refuse to participate in the recession, so business is booming?" I exclaimed.

“Well, it’s not just the button; it’s the attitude that goes along with it,” he told me. “You see,” he went on to explain, “during difficult times there are almost always opportunities that exist, and if you want to succeed, you have to focus on those opportunities.”

“OK,” I said, “School me a little on this – what kind of opportunities can there really be right now when the real estate market has taken a nose dive?”

“Two big ones,” he replied. “First, there are real estate investors who buy properties to rent and lease. I’m going to them and sharing that real estate is on sale right now! I’m saying to them, ‘Don’t be one of those people who come to me a few years from now and say that you should have bought that property when I showed it to you. Let me show you a duplex that you can get at a steal on today’.” He paused to take a sip of his water, and then he continued, saying, “In addition, there are still first-time home buyers in a down economy. I’m going to them right now and explaining that they couldn’t afford a house a year ago but they can today. Now is the time to buy while the market is low.”

He went on to say that he was selling more real estate than ever while almost everyone in that room was obsessed with the economy and the drop in prices – and yet, he was making a killing.

He wrapped up by telling me the button represented the attitude and the action that one must pursue when times are tough. He said he was ok with the recession because many of the people in the room would be transitioning to another business while he became focused and they simply froze in fear.

His is not an isolated story. I’ve seen this happen during all four of the recessions I’ve experienced. Years later, I met someone who left his employment, cashed out his retirement money, and decided to become an entrepreneur. He started his very own moving and storage business. He literally began with one truck, a storage facility, and an office. He opened his doors and was excited to start his journey. It was in early 2008. Just as he joined the ranks of entrepreneurship, the Great Recession came crashing down on him.

He was devasted. All his hopes, dreams, and cash were about to evaporate. But he had a similar attitude to my real estate friend. He doubled down his efforts and immersed himself in networking groups to build his word of mouth. At the same time, he integrated self-storage programs into his business to help people who consolidated homes during this time period. This was one of the few growth areas during the recession.

The bottom line was that he also refused to participate in the recession. While other people were frozen in fear, he was focused on solutions. He came out of that recession larger and stronger than he was when he and his company went into it. You can find him today with many trucks and multiple locations around the country.

Entrepreneurs have been hit with a double whammy. First, Covid-19, and now a recession. What I know to be true is that if you focus on the problem – you will be an expert on the problem. However, if you focus on solutions – you can become an expert on the solutions. The solutions will get you through both the Covid-19 struggle and this recession successfully.

A powerful mindset begins with the belief that you can find solutions to the current situation. Belief is that little voice inside you whispering to you the things that “can be” while everyone around you is screaming about the things which “can’t be.” The right mindset along with a plan of action will lead you successfully through these turbulent times.

I for one, am going out today to make more buttons that say: “I Refuse to Participate in the Recession.” I invite you to do the same.

About Dr. Ivan Misner

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (, the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Who’s in Your Room, The Secret to Creating Your Best Life, is available at bookstores and at


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