Are you feeling uncomfortable about what the world is going to look like over the next few days, months or even years as we recover from the current situation?
In this article I’ll be showing you how you can set yourself up to take advantage of that uncertainty rather than duck and cover, missing the opportunities that uncertainty always brings.
As businesses continue to fold and governments struggle to keep their economies afloat, the only thing that we know for sure is that the world is going to be a very different place in the coming years. But this isn’t the first time that we have had to deal with uncertainty. If you look back over the last century, there have been world-shaping events in every decade, from World Wars to the Great Depression, from Oil Crises to stock market crashes. But in that uncertainty, there are winners and losers. And behind every business that survived, thrived or failed, there are people that made the decisions that led to those businesses surviving or failing.
Scientists estimate that we receive around 10 gigabytes of data every second from our surroundings, and this is too much information to process, so we are actually very selective in what we process.
Information from the real world comes in through our sense but it then passes through what is called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS for short. This RAS acts as a Spam Filter; it filters out unnecessary information and only passes information necessary to your current situation to your conscious mind to process. But how does the RAS know what is important and what isn’t? It applies meaning to the data based on how you feel.
Consequently, you can have the same information, say a busker playing a tune as you walk down the street, and if you are in a bad mood, maybe you’ve had a tough meeting, an argument or you didn’t sleep well at night, then that busker might annoy you. Bloody buskers, making a noise, they are ruining that song, and you stomp on by.
But if you’re in a good mood, maybe you’ve had a lie in, the sun is shining and you’ve had a good meeting, you might stop to listen to the busker’s unconventional rendition of that song, and come away even happier.
This all happens because of what scientists call the cybernetic loop. How you think affects how you feel, and how you feel affects your physiology and even your body chemistry. But the change can start in any area. If you’ve not slept well and you’ve overdosed on caffeine then your thinking is going to be scattered, maybe even anxious. And these situations can lead to thought spirals, where a worry becomes a safety issue and suddenly you see more threats than you normally would. You see the world through how you feel.
So what does this mean to you as an entrepreneur? Well it means that your ability to achieve your business plan is affected by how you feel every day. I work with a lot of entrepreneurs who have a solid business plan which shows that there’s a tough climb ahead but it’s doable and achievable.
They start executing that plan but, to quote Mike Tyson, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. There’s a lot of businesses out there whose plan went out of the window back in March. A lot of expensive business plans that were ripped up when the lockdown started.
But I also work with a lot of business owners who say that their journey, either successful or not, looked a lot different to that original plan. In fact it looked a lot like this. Sometimes they were so caught up in the latest obstacle that they couldn’t even see the original goal anymore, but they had to continue as if it’s still there and find different ways to navigate their way through the obstacle course. And the common thread for those that did succeed, whatever success was for them, was that they had the resilience to bend and adapt to whatever life and the economy threw at them. To take the punches in the face, and get back up and keep moving forward.
Because if you see the pool of sharks or the barbed wire tunnel as impassable, then they are. If your RAS is coded to see everything as threats and imminent danger then you won’t see the opportunity that is there. A pool of sharks will help you to swim faster. Barbed wire helps you learn to be agile and take your time. When you’re in the right mindset, all these obstacles help you deal with bigger issues on your way to achieving your goal. To quote Marcus Aurelius, Emporer of Rome and famed Stoic Philosopher, the obstacle to success actually becomes the way to succeed.
So my experience is that there are three elements to being a resilient entrepreneur, first up is being focused on customer need, always having that goal in mind, seeing your service from the customer’s perspective. So you need empathy, which is a tough thing to maintain when you feel under threat. Just think about how everyone stockpiled during the panic stage of the coronavirus. You couldn’t buy a toilet roll anywhere.
Executing that smart solution requires innovation and creativity. Try being creative whilst you’re worrying about your mortgage, it’s not possible. And having that relentless enthusiasm for what you’re doing is really difficult if your mind isn’t in the right place, as is maintaining positive relationships with your customers, even when they are being difficult, which clients do a lot in my experience.
So you can see that how you feel affects every element of being successful, and this is true even when there isn’t a pandemic, so it is doubly true in times of uncertainty! In fact some of the biggest companies on the planet were founded in times of uncertainty. Disney emerged during the great depression. Microsoft was founded at the end of an Oil Crisis that resulted in a stock market crash and even Whatsapp, that was bought for $15m just 5 years after being founded, emerged during the 2008 stock market crash.
So great things do emerge from uncertainty, and its those of us that look at the opportunity that uncertainty brings, that will thrive in these times.
So my question for you is… if you see the world through how you feel, then how do you want to feel such that you can seize the opportunities that uncertainty brings?