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Be Your Own Compass: The Survival of Your Business May Depend On It

While I was still in university, I was sitting on the grass on campus one afternoon, and out of the blue, I was struck by the fact that I didn’t much care anymore what other people thought of me. At that moment, I realized that the most important thing in my life was what I thought about myself, the goals I set for myself, and the direction I would take. I was the pilot of my own destiny. Many people never reach this point. Parents, partners, friends and others can heavily influence a person to the point that they lose their own way. We have all seen examples of this. I am not saying this to criticize or discount the value of family, mentors, and muses, only to remind ourselves that it can damage your personal development if not kept in perspective. Realizing your control and taking it can be the single most important decision you make in your life.

This powerful idea is also a double-edged sword. It is liberating to recognize the potential of defining and controlling your life completely. It is also frightening, because with the freedom comes the realization that you cannot blame anyone but yourself. This is an example of existentialism and the angst that comes with it. I am now going back and revisiting my existentialist roots in university. Existentialism was born in a time of great adversity. I think we may have forgotten about adversity and what it means for us. It’s time we give some thought to how to deal with adversity.

In my recent posts I have made the point that in this global pandemic and economic crisis, all of the usual tools to guide our business strategy and decisions are unavailable, unreliable, or outright useless. Even if you research crisis management, most crisis management tools focus on some kind of isolated disaster or corporate blunder. None of the guides I have reviewed are relevant to a crisis of this magnitude and probable duration. Some observers have compared this situation to the pandemic of 1918-1919 combined simultaneously with the stock market crash of 1929 followed by The Great Depression, two events separated by ten years. There really is nothing comparable to what we are experiencing now. This makes economic forecasts more speculative and unreliable. There are a variety of other scenarios possible, driven by populism, autocratic scenarios, conspiracy theories, and even war. The rise of digital currencies revolutionizing global banking, and disruptions of global supply chains have been suggested, along with longer-term food shortages and other critical basic supplies. It is virtually impossible to sort out all of these possibilities.

This leaves us only with self-reliance to guide us through these times. Taken to its most basic definition, self-reliance is essentially existential freedom and the anxiety of total self-responsibility that is an inseparable part of it. We cannot develop any usable guide to external events outside our control, which would otherwise be possible in normal times. We can only turn inward and choose what we will do in the face of an absurd world.

This freedom of choice extends to our businesses. You must create our own guide posts, develop our own plan and act accordingly. I am going to repeat the mantra that businesses that have a strategic plan and act on it have been shown to have a much better chance of survival. In this scenario you create your plan in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, and with no sure way to reliably predict what will happen in one month much less one year. As with any plan, you will need to revisit it regularly and probably revise it as things change. This brings me to the concept of strategic inflection points. These are unexpected changes in your situation that you may not even recognize at first, but eventually you begin to realize that something has changed. You must react to these quickly and pivot as necessary or risk the survival of your enterprise. Then there is lateral creative thinking. You should give yourself the time to ponder alternative business strategies you may never have considered, and to seize unexpected opportunities that may arise. It’s the story of the quick and the dead.

Not everyone or every business will be able to rise to this occasion. Some people and businesses are going to fail. There is nothing you can do about that prospect, except to be a caring human being to the extent that you can without jeopardizing yourself or your business. There is a basic principle in counseling that says ultimately you must care for yourself before you can care for anyone else. It is not selfishness. It is a basic principle of human psychology and survival. That said, caring for our fellow human beings is basic to human civilization.

How this all plays out is anybody’s guess, so let your inner compass and sense of human ethics and empathy guide you.

David Mayes

I would like to hear your feedback on my thoughts. I am available via contact us on this website, or by scheduling a time to chat by clicking here: Livestorm Meet.

Post Author: David Mayes

Founder, Mayo615 Technology Partners Ltd., UBC adjunct faculty, Intel alumnus, technology assessment, international business, cleantech, fly fisherman, native Californian and citizen of France, who has been very fortunate to have traveled, lived and worked all over the globe. My wonderful wife, Isabelle has reintroduced me to my French Provençal heritage.

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