Paddle!

As we get into week two of lockdown, it reminds me of those times I’ve had to move, when I didn’t really want to . 

Moving house to a new area for a job, because the current one had gone stale. 

Being made redundant. 

Or not getting the move I’d been expecting – the promotion, selection for the first XI. 

There are familiar sensations, the things we know of grief and change.

Denial, anger – at loss of status, of increased uncertainty, a feeling we are not as much in control as we were a moment ago. The strain on relationships, and perhaps above all, the sheer unfairness of it. We convince ourselves we can make it better – to  somehow go back to normal. When that doesn’t work we get really down. 

And then, the things we hadn’t seen – some of which we knew were there, but discounted, and some of them surprises – things we never even knew of – turn up. We get traction. We move on and wonder why we didn’t do it earlier.

I think we are all going to have to move. Maybe location, maybe job, maybe expectation, maybe all three but the same emotions will likely apply, and the difference between a good move and an indifferent one will be mindset.

Mindset

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”               

Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

“Normal” is a much used word at the moment, particularly by businesses who want to go back there, where they feel in control, and by the politicians who want to convince us they can take us there.

I suggest the reality is that normal is an illusion. It means we take a set of circumstances, and effectively convince ourselves they are a constant whilst the real world moves on. 

Sometimes slowly, sometimes very suddenly – like now. When that happens, all the things that have been changing, that we have been wilfully blind to, all turn up and throw a party.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Gradually, then Suddenly

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Always Rises

We can adjust and adapt to cope as best we can with our new circumstances, or we can choose to use this period to rethink. 

It’s about mindset. We can see this as a problem which we are victim to, or we can choose to do what humans do best – harness our imagination and determination, learn and innovate. Move.

Nassim Taleb introduced us to the idea of “antifragile” – the idea of treating unexpected shocks as less something to be resilient to, but to be altogether more assertive. 

Using the energy of the shock to grow.

To do that, we need not to wait for permission, for somebody to sort it out for us. We need to choose ourselves, and act.

To do what we need to do right now

Right now, there are countless opportunities, not just for business but for ourselves. 

The 750,000 volunteers have chosen themselves. 

Our local farm shop have turned their business model around in 48 hours, to generate greater protection for their customers and staff, and help their business survive. They have chosen themselves.

Gin Distilleries switching to making hand sanitiser are choosing themselves.

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of people and businesses making important small moves. Choosing themselves,

(Unfortunately, it’s many of the large Corporates who are using their cash reserves to wait for normal, thinking that they are protecting their shareholders interests. Managers with only upside looking after the interests of transient shareholders with no agency in the business. In effect, hiding. Not, I think, a good place to be. Particularly for the soul.)

Then, imagine what comes next.

What do we do when we can’t plan?

The reality is, none of us have a clue what this will look like in 2021.

Even in “normal” times, the very best forecasters rapidly become unreliable after 400 days, with most of us reaching unreliability after around 150 days. And these times are not normal.

So what do we do?

We Prepare.

Here’s my own checklist:

  1. Focus. Choose yourself, care for others. Be clear in your mind where you’re headed. Fit your own oxygen mask first, then help the people next to you. Be prepared to lead if needed. Pay attention to who you surround yourself with. Jim Rohn suggests you will become the average of them. Experience and research suggests he’s right.
  2. Stay Aware. Stay exquisitely tuned to your surroundings. Notice the changes, particularly the tiny ones that start gathering together. They are signals. Do not assume.
  3. Get Grounded.. Be calm. Find that centre of you that understands the bigger picture, the things that make your life worthwhile to yourself and others, and keep that in mind. It will determine the small steps you take.
  4. Stay agile. Whatever you expect to happen, something else will. Be ready for that. In start up terms, be prepared to pivot. Don’t get bogged down. Recognise “sunk costs”. In many ways 2021 will be a start up.
  5. Own it. Whatever you do, whether you have your own business, or you’re in a brand new squeaky clean role at the bottom of the ladder, own it. You have “skin in the game”. Be grateful for help, but neither expect nor wait for it. Do what you need to. Help others do what they need to do, but don’t steal other people’s problems. It’s wrong.

Enjoy the ride

If you set off for a paddle on the lake, and find yourself in white water, it’s not good. 

If you realise the white water is unlikely to kill you if you stay calm, go with the flow and paddle when needed, it’s exciting.

Relax. Go with the flow.

Paddle.

Published by Richard H Merrick

Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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