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When the Lights Go Out

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

According to many news reports, we are on the cusp of a recession. Those of us here on Saipan are seeing certain signs of this. Businesses are closing. Gas prices are rising. Electricity is becoming more unreliable. I’ve spoken to many people who’ve been here for 10 years or more who believe this particular period is uniquely dire. In light of all this, it might be tempting to join the "woe is me" bandwagon, pick up and flee, or remain and whine, but you’re not tuning in to hear me sing any of those songs. If you’ve read my columns before, then you know I strive to offer alternatives and options, or at the very least a different way of looking at things.

What we know for sure

With that said, here’s what we know for sure. We are in transition--or more accurately, we have before us the opportunities of and for transition. In any transition, for sure, some things change, some things stay the same. In any transition, for sure, what results and remains after the transition won’t be to everyone’s liking. In any transition, for sure, some people will stay, some people will go, and others will arrive. Yes, in any transition, there are always those who will be attracted to what results from the transition, whether those who are here think it is good or bad.

Let’s assume, for instance, that trends continue, businesses close, gas prices rise, and electricity continues to be unreliable. There are people for whom this transitioning Saipan will be a welcome change from whatever their current experience is. But I’m not just speaking in strictly economical terms, or of the people for whom life here is better economically than where they’re coming from. I’m speaking of people of every economic level the world over. There are people who wish to live "off the grid," for example, for whom unreliable electricity is not a concern. There are people who wish to live off the land for whom restaurant dining and supermarket food shopping is not a concern. There are people who wish to live closer to nature for whom gas prices and vehicular transportation is not a concern, so for these and others the post-transition Saipan might well be a welcome and desirable change. These newcomers will still see a paradise ripe with advantages and opportunity when they arrive.

Remember, the transition of which we speak is not affecting everyone equally. There are people right here in the CNMI who already live off their land, walk or ride bicycles, generate their own power or live without it, cook with butane burners or open flame, make their own oil, or live without air conditioning. This transition is only dire for those who are addicted to certain trappings and lifestyles, and who have expectations that are not in synch with the new reality.

You may think of living without air conditioning as a fate worse than death, but there are those who are doing so who are realizing that their nagging cough, asthma or breathing challenges are greatly improved now that they are not inhaling unnaturally conditioned air. There are those who are finding that the effects of the transition are not only tolerable, but have some benefits. You may, and have every right to personally prefer a CNMI with these trappings, but they are simply preferences-expectations-and as you know, expectations are the only source of unhappiness. You can only be unhappy when your expectations are out of alignment with reality. So how do you get your expectations aligned with reality? You choose to adapt.


It’s tempting to gage advancement, define prosperity and rate your worldly success using other people’s standards. We have before us, however, an opportunity to paint a new image of ourselves using the available colors. And how do you do that? You upgrade your belief system, alter your definition of progress, adjust your expectations, expand your tastes, modify your preferences. In other words, you adapt. Now, to help ease the process, here are a few helpful concepts:

- Just because you’re not currently prepared for adaptation, doesn’t mean it’s not an option.

- Just because you’re forced to adapt, does not mean you have to resist it.

- Just because adaptation forces you to do without, does not mean it’s a bad thing. Much of what we’ve come to call “normal” represents an over-reliance on things unnatural, and in most cases harmful to ourselves, to others and to the environment, and it wouldn't hurt to question and discard them anyway! (But that's just my opinion!)

Last week I offered that the two most important questions for the majority of humanity are "How shall I survive?", and "Why am I here?

People are afraid that their survival is at risk if current trends continue, and for sure, that may be true. However, people have survived on these islands for countless generations before there was air con or traffic lights. Can you? What would you do if there were no electricity? What would you do if..?” is the question to answer. Do you know how to prepare a meal without an electric stove or microwave? Do you know how to obtain or make your own coconut oil for use in diesel generators, for cooking, health maintenance or skin protection? As a business owner, do you have a means to generate income that's recession-proof, or, at the very least not 100 percent reliant on local economic conditions? If not, then you may not be prepared for certain aspects of the transition.

As we’ve noted before, in response to the transition, some will leave and some will stay. Some will view any adaptation as a sign of regression. In other words, because they’ve been steeped in certain conveniences and ways of life, they view doing homework by candlelight as a step backward. They view cooking without a microwave as a hardship that is beneath them. Some people see these adaptations as assaults on their pride and chosen identity-forcing them to live in ways they have always associated with "third world" countries.

What good may come

But, for those who stay, there can always be good that is extracted from even the most dire situation. Let’s speculate for a moment, and present a hypothetical and entertain some of the good that may come as a result of this transition.

- Perhaps there will be a return to ways of living that are more sustainable and more natural.

- Perhaps people will consume products produced locally rather and internationally.

- Perhaps entrepreneurs will start businesses that sell globally in addition to locally thus becoming less dependent on local conditions.

- Perhaps people will barter more and trade what they have and what they can do for the things and services they want.

- Perhaps people may start to grow their own food more, make their own sea salt, coconut oil, etc.

- Perhaps people may start to car pool or use mopeds, bicycles or, heaven forbid, walk to work!

- Perhaps others will add to this list and start to focus on adaptation rather than aggravation.


Along with these potential adaptations to the transition, comes something else quite unique for the entrepreneur. That thing is opportunity. Instead of railing against the winds of change and naming them “bad,” savvy entrepreneurs decide to succeed because of the current situation.

So what’s going to happen? Where’s the opportunity? Where’s the silver lining in all of this? According to a post on

"The first thing for an entrepreneur to do, when considering business prospects for harder times, is think of what needs may emerge. Recessions mean lower employment levels, difficulty in personal and company bill paying, lower numbers of customers, foreclosures of homes and businesses, and a trend to cutting operating and capital costs. All of these scenarios present business opportunities for an entrepreneur. They are not simply profits from preying on hardship either, but are very often business and credit savers for others."

People are looking for cheaper alternatives so they can maintain some semblance of the lifestyle to which they’ve grown accustomed. Not just here on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, but as the worldwide economy feels the effects of the US slide, entrepreneurs are looking for ways to meet the new needs that are arising.

In order to generate income, people are lending money, and of course, following their passions. According to author and internet expert Scott Fox, "The key to finding the right new business is to combine a person’s skills, interests, and hobbies to target the right group of customers with in-demand products and services that will help them solve their problems in a cost-effective manner."

To find a business idea, take a look at the “What Good May Come” section above and rephrase each question from a business provider's perspective (i.e. “what products and services can I sell to help people return to ways of living that are more natural and more sustainable?”

When the lights go out

I was in New York City several years ago when electricity all across the northeast United States got shut off. In those few dark hours without power, many New Yorkers, deprived of radio, television, video games, air conditioning, and lights, did an amazing thing: They went outside and talked to their neighbors. Friendships formed, families interacted, and people who lived next door to each other for years finally met. (Of course there were others who saw evil opportunity as well.) The moral is that in the midst of darkness there is always some benefit that can be extracted.

Some people may read this and see an extreme or impractical response to the situation here in the CNMI. At the same time, others here may have lived lives of adaptation and opportunity for as long as they can remember, and are already psychologically prepared for whatever may come. Others have no idea what they will do, and simply hope things won't get as bad as they fear.

Regardless of what you think about my outlook and perspectives, if you’re here when or if the lights do go out, you really only have two choices. You can sit in the dark and curse the darkness, or you can sit in the dark, enjoy the beauty of the Saipan night and the take the opportunity to count the stars.

Questions to help with the transition

Meanwhile, it is true that these times are presenting you an opportunity to redefine yourself, your purpose, why you are here, and what next to make of your life. Here then, are some questions to help you gain clarity in the midst of the transition and see what adaptations and opportunities are in your stars that shine in the darkness.

1. What are the elements and assets and opportunities that are swirling around in my life now that might figure into my future?

2. Given that we live in a supportive universe that ALWAYS brings to me my greatest dreams and opportunities, why is this happening to me/us now?

3. What opportunity is this presenting to me/us that I/we have been asking for in my/our hearts?

4. What lesson am I learning through all of this?

5. What hints have I received in the past six months of some hidden value that I have in my possession that others have noticed-something that I may use to generate income?

6. What expertise or experience can I sell to people through the Internet?

7. What aspect of my being is now being given the chance to flourish?

8. What would I like to see happen next?

9. If this were an opportunity to head in a completely different direction in my life and redefine myself free of all contracts, commitments, job skills and others’ expectations of me, what would I do next?

10. Where can I buy some candles?

For more tips on acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit!

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Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt


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