Well, 2021 seems to be off to a nice start. Nothing happening out there to cause concern or unrest in our minds and everything is “back to normal” now, so doing business should be a breeze this year, right?
OK, maybe not so much. I will agree that there are many alarming things happening and I will also agree, and caution that it is easy to get “on tilt” during times like these. Much like 10 months ago, when the US started seeing serious outbreaks of the Corona Virus and started taking drastic measures to respond, I’m hearing a lot of “unprecedented” and “unheard of” labels being thrown around, and like you I’m sure, I’m seeing a lot of fear and concern in my clients and my prospects. Negative emotional state can be even more contagious than COVID 19 if you let it go unchecked, and just as lethal from a career and emotional perspective. I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that reminded me of good steps to take in these kind of times.
1 – Get Perspective – None of this is unprecedented, and none of this is outside of the scale from a historical perspective. Unemployment in the 1980s went up to almost 11% in the US. During the great depression it was 23% in the US, as high as 33% in some countries. During the outbreak of the civil war, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ruled against Lincoln, and Lincoln had him arrested, sending soldiers to his house. The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 killed as many people as WWI just had. It infected 500 million people (1/3 of the world population at that time) and killed somewhere between 25-50 million of people. HALF the population of Europe was wiped out. I get it, things seem rough right now, but humankind and more specifically the United States have survived far worse. None of what’s going is fun, but none of it makes me think Revelations is coming to life. Atlas Shrugged maybe but not Revelations.
2 – Name the Monster – When having conversations with clients and prospects (and even family members) it helps to specifically identify the source of the angst. Help people put a name to their fears. Talking with a panicked client last week, I asked some questions and got him to admit that what he was really afraid of was the unpredictability of certain things that affected his business plan. As a sales trainer who for the last 10 years plus has worked inside my client’s offices and delivered trainings to rooms numbering between 7 and 700, I’ve identified my own fear that live, in person trainings may not be a part of my business this year. I love doing those, and I’ll miss them, but like the time my mom helped me name the monster under my bed, it’s a lot less scary dealing with something specific than something unknown. (His name was Phillipe, BTW)
3 – Control the self talk – A few years back I heard a wonderful speaker discuss self talk. She mentioned that for most people, 70% of self talk is critical and mean. Stuff like “I always mess that up” and “I really blew that one”. Insist on making your internal voice a coach, not a naysayer. Ask better questions of yourself. Instead of asking “Why does this always happen to me?”, try asking “What could I have done different?” or “What can I do different next time?”. The BEST way to do this for yourself is to do it for others first. Give that coach some practice time on others, then turn him/her loose on yourself. One of my mentors actually has a written list of questions he asks himself every day. They are inspirational and powerful questions that power him, not dead end negative questions that demotivate and deflate him. Do not accept from your internal voice anything that you would not accept from a stranger on the bus.
4 – Make an Action Plan – Here is a nice bouquet of quotes and cliches for you. “Motion creates emotion”. “The road of failure is paved in good intentions”. “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. “Analysis/Paralysis”. “The road of someday leads to the town of nowhere”. “It’s way harder to hit a moving target”. “Motion is life”. “Sharks have to keep swimming to survive”. Got it? Make a plan and then DO SOMETHING. I’m not saying just flail, you need a plan, but it does not have to be a perfect plan (no such thing anyways). I used to have lunch once a week with a guy who parachuted into Normandy on D-day with the 82nd. His plane had gone off course. His team was scattered and half his equipment was missing. He told me of fighting off the urge to just find a spot and hide. All night long and into the next day, the Germans were looking for him. His fear urged him to just stay still, but he fought that fear and kept moving. That night, at least 8 times he observed the Germans search a spot where he had been only minutes before. He had a plan (get to his rally point) and he committed to constant action towards that plan, even while making adjustments based on what obstacles he observed. But motion meant survival. This isn’t the time to lay still. Don’t like something that is going on? Decide on an action plan and start executing towards it. Just keep adjusting as you need to, but KEEP MOVING.
I adopted a mantra many years ago, and it has served me well, as well as others who I’ve shared it with. “Your life isn’t about what happens to you. It is about how you choose to react to what happens to you.”