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I don't see the rate of change slowing down, I can't foresee the next black swan event, and I have given up trying to predict what is going to happen next. What I am working on is how I react, and I want to share some thoughts that I think will give you comfort and inspiration in these dark and changing times...…...
You can only control how you react
The Rebel Business School sells two-week entrepreneurship courses (that are the complete opposite of traditional startup teachings) to Housing Associations (HAs) and other sponsors to help people build businesses without debt.
In July 2015, the British Government announced that they were going to force HAs to drop their rent by 1% per year for 4 years. This doesn't sound a lot but combined with inflation going the other way and the compounding effects, HAs were left with multi-million-pound deficits in their budgets. They had to cut quickly and cut deep if they were to sustain their good work in the UK.
What do you think they cut first? Resident training was one of the first areas and in the preceding weeks, we received many phone calls cancelling our events with them. Our core business tanked overnight. Luckily we didn't have many fixed assets so our monthly costs were relatively low but it still hurt so much.
At this point we had two choices:
Can you guess which way I reacted?
Yes, you are right. To start with I was angry. I reacted badly and was furious with the British government for what I saw as a bad decision. I reacted badly.
This didn't get me very far.
Then I calmed down, and with my business partners, Simon and Henry, we worked to get more positive and to figure out what the opportunity was here for us. We started to brainstorm other business ideas, other sponsorship ideas, and more.
Out of this tough time came the lead that helped us to run our first large-lscale event in a shopping mall in Reading, England. An incredible company called Hammerson approached us and we were able to pull together a partnership with them and the council to run our biggest event to date in Reading. You can see the BBC report on it here.
We changed focus and started to run partnership events rather than focusing just on HAs. We built our first multi-agency partnerships and developed a far stronger business.
Was it easy?
Were we stronger having gone through it?
We could not have foreseen that the British government was going to do that or that the side effect was our business getting crushed. We had no way of knowing it was coming.
What was important was how we reacted to it, and those tough times actually helped us to create a stronger business.
How are you going to react to the tough times that are here right now? How are you going to react to the virus? Are you going to stay in, watch the news and whinge about how badly the government is handling it? Or are you going to react positively, focus on what you can control, and come out of this stronger than before?
With the restaurants in New Orleans closing down and people being told to stay at home, Katie and I have chosen to focus on eating healthily. We are focusing on eating salads and using the time to eat right.
Innovate or die
The most challenging times create the biggest issues and problems, and the biggest opportunities. It is up to you how you react and what you do about it.
For many years I have run courses for large corporate organisations on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. One of the strongest messages I hit these companies with is that if you don't innovate you will die.
Business history is littered with stories of businesses that haven't innovated and have been crushed by changing times. In my last article (Building an Entrepreneurial Culture) I gave a few examples, Nokia, Blockbuster, and more, that had died because they didn't innovate.
I can see a lot of pain coming for a lot of people right now. Travel is on lockdown around the world, restaurants can't serve customers, money isn't moving as fast as it was, and all of this is going to cause financial and economic suffering for a vast amount of people. This doesn't even take into account the scale of the health challenges facing us! Tough times have arrived from Wuhan, China and are going to stay for a while.
You have two choices:
Rebel Business School has had 10 events cancelled. If we weren't a company that saved, we would likely be destroyed by this crisis. That is another story. We are still not out of the woods; this crisis might go on longer than we have cash reserves and we need to innovate and change quickly to make sure we survive.
So we have started to ask different questions:
You have a choice right now. You can focus on the shit that is going wrong or you can ask yourself better and more productive questions, brainstorm ideas, innovate and work to create a positive future for yourself and others.
The choice is yours!
At any point in time you have a choice of where to place your focus. Right now as I sit at my laptop typing this for you, I have a choice. I can focus on writing a positive message and creating ideas of how to improve my business or I can focus on the news, the problems and the fact I can't go on the jazz cruise I had planned for Katie's birthday tonight.
You and I both have a choice in this and every moment of where we will focus.
The next sentence is going to make me sound older than I am, but I am going to go for it anyway.
In my youth, I lived the other way. I focused on what was missing and what was wrong. I would sit and think endlessly about what was wrong in my life, focusing on why people hadn't responded to me or what wasn't working. It made me feel unhappy, depressed, and down.
I didn't realise it was a choice at the time. I thought it was just the way I thought. It took many years to train my brain to think positively about most things. I did it by changing every problem I had into a question that would focus me on solutions and progress rather than pain and depression.
In one recent interaction with a close friend, I failed to do this and this article has reminded me that I need to work to make sure that I stay positively focused in all my interactions. If you are reading this, then you know who you are and I am going to work to stay focused on the positive!
It is so easy with everything that is going on around us to focus on things we can do nothing about and be dragged down by them. This is why I am writing this article! So I can help you be positive and you can help me.
Can you help me to remain positive throughout these changing times?
The positivity challenge
Here is my challenge to you: Take the problems you have, turn them into positive questions, and then brainstorm for answers. To help you, here are some examples:
You have a choice right now in how you focus. Take out a notebook and pen, Post-it notes, or your laptop right now and start turning your challenges into questions that will focus you more positively on the future.
Take a few moments each day to think about the questions, write down answers, and take action. Use the questions you have come up with to positively focus yourself, feel good, and make progress.
Maybe put the question on a Post-it note on your laptop so you can see it every day, or write it on the background on your phone. In times like these you have to do whatever you can to stay positive.
I would love to know how you are staying positive and what you are choosing to focus on? Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you are choosing to focus on next!
You have a choice right now. Make it wisely...…...