There’s a song that speaks about life’s ups and downs.

I get nervous when I’m happy I get nervous cause what comes up must come down (“Nervous” by X Ambassadors)  

A client shared the story of a professor he had while studying at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. The professor talked about the seasons and cycles of life. And how to manage life’s ups and downs.

His challenge to the students about life’s ups and downs

When you are in the ups, don’t live in fear of the down times to come, but use the ups to prepare for the downs.  

My childhood in a minister’s home exposed me to the stories and principles of scripture.

Joseph comes to mind. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of the skinny cows swallowing up the fat cows as seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine.

Pharaoh asked, “What should we do in preparation for the seven lean years?” Joseph told him to gather excess grain during the years of plenty to distribute during the lean years. Pharaoh saw the wisdom in this suggestion and put Joseph in charge of the project.

A quick aside about life’s ups and downs

Sometimes sharing wisdom leads to responsibility and authority to bring that wisdom to reality. Just keep that in mind as you prepare to speak.  I didn’t see Coronavirus coming and my 2020 plans didn’t account for a global pandemic. Evidently this is true of my clients as well.

But some of my clients had used their years of plenty to prepare for lean years they knew would come. In prosperity, they were preparing for unknown challenges they knew were coming.

Other clients have been casting about to come up with plans to meet the evolving challenge they now face. Both will survive, but those who were preparing are thriving in spite of the body blows they have taken along with the rest of the world’s economy.  

I’m not sure where you find yourself, but it is not too late to apply this wisdom to your present as well as to your future. The ups will be followed by downs. We know this. Just make sure that next time you are up you are preparing for the downs, not living in fear, but in anticipation.

My Challenge To Clients

I’ve been challenging clients to celebrate during this pandemic, not a celebration of denial, but a celebration of recognition. So many clients are making good decisions, wise decisions that will prepare them for the future.

My point…

These good decisions don’t just happen.

This isn’t luck. This is the result of effective leadership, healthy cultures, and determined preparation. Many businesses that were counting on luck are no longer operating. The fact that yours persists is not an accident, and is worth celebrating.  Don’t allow happiness to make you nervous. “What goes up must come down” is a truism. How we manage those ups and downs is what matters.  


Dr. Stephen Julian is President of Julian Consulting, a firm specializing in team health, effective communication, and leadership development. He has worked with leaders and their teams for nearly 30 years in a variety of settings – including Africa, South and Central America.

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