People Power: It’s that time - January 2023
By Sam Allman
If I were a betting man, I would bet that, as it is for me, it is also for you: “It’s that time.” I came to that conclusion for me recently while watching the 1987 movie, “The Edge.” It’s a story about a billionaire, his beautiful model wife and her photographer lover, and survival. The photographer (Alec Baldwin) and the billionaire (Anthony Hopkins) escape unhurt from an airplane crash and are lost in the wilds of Alaska. The story highlights the essence of Viktor Frankel’s description of the last great freedom: the ability to choose your response in any given situation. It also reminds us why we are also the most successful species on the planet. When the unwanted and unexpected happens, we can adjust, generate some creative juices and find solutions. We are able to change or alter at least some of the consequences we are dealt.
It was a desperate situation. They were lost with no food, very few resources and no plan. In addition, they had no survival skills or experience living in the wild. They were city-slickers, pampered by their affluence. The less desperate was the billionaire. He lived through books, knew history. His comment, “putting them (facts) to a useful purpose is another matter” demonstrated his lack of practical experience. But he knew how to make money, face adversity and find solutions.
In an emotional moment, while almost losing it because of fear, the photographer screamed, “What’s the plan?” Of course, there was no plan. The billionaire responded, “Most people who get lost in the wild die of shame because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives: thinking.”
That was the moment I asked, “Is it that time for me?” For what? To pause from doing to thinking; thinking about the potential answers to a plethora of questions: Where am I going? What do I want? What’s important to me? What’s my current situation? What’s going on in the world around me? What might happen? What do I need to do? What do I need to quit doing? Where do I need to change? As one can see, the number of questions can be innumerable, especially when they are applied to specific personal topics, such as health, finances, career, relationships, happiness and purpose.
It is, of course, the time for us to do that anyway. It’s a new year, 2023; that’s what we are supposed to do when celebrating a birthday or a new year. The purpose is to get us back on track if we have deviated from what’s important or from our goals. It’s time to course correct.
It’s a time for reflection (to think). And to quote Kemp Harr from his Viewpoint editorial of the last issue, “Free from the flurry of have-to-do activity, a lull provides the opportunity to consider what’s boom and what’s bust. To strategize and enact. To manage the business rather than the rush. This is the time to take a keen look; to clean out the closets, so to speak; to make those strategic changes that have been rattling around in your head.”
The problem for 2023 is not just course correction. We are in unfamiliar territory. We have crash-landed in the wild, like the players in the movie. Except for the scary dip of the Great Recession, for the last 40 years, we have had stable growth and relatively stable inflation. Those days are over. We are moving into a new era that may require a new playbook. Experts expect that 2023 will be one of the most unstable years that we’ve had in a long-time. The dynamics of the market are changing entirely. BlackRock, the largest asset management company in the world with assets of $9.7 trillion dollars, in its recently published global outlook, stated that a recession is “foretold”-if we are not currently in one already-because the “Fed and the Central Banks are on course to over-tighten policy as they seek to tame inflation.” BlackRock sees that because of Covid, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the sanctions on Russia and on China, “this is the most fraught global environment since World War II-a full break from the post-Cold War era.” BlackRock sees geopolitical cooperation and globalization evolving into a fragmented world with completing blocks. This will come at the cost of economic efficiency, and that will create volatility and consistently higher inflation than we have had it the past. Besides the fragmenting of globalization, BlackRock has identified three other drivers that add to the instability of the economy: an aging population (the decreasing size of the work force), the move to more expensive clean energy (away from fossil fuels towards renewables), and the infrastructure gap between what’s being invested and what is needed globally.
The reality is, we are really in unfamiliar economic territory; we are in the “wilds” of our time. What worked yesterday probably will not work or will be less effective today or tomorrow. I don’t know if we will need a new playbook or map or new skills or new strategies. But, for sure, “it’s that time.”
As we think, ponder, reflect and query, we will recognize that many of the answers we seek have been, as Kemp put it, rattling around in our heads. Let’s face it: it is easy to be proactive, to take action, when it is clear what needs to be done. The difficult part is to find what needs and can be done when we haven’t a clue. That’s how we have become the most dominant species on the planet. We use and have that human endowment of imagination. Our imaginations are the engines of our creativity and ingenuity; persistence is the fuel. We all have imaginations. Some are well developed and active, others dormant and unused. Children demonstrate theirs early. Many adults claim to not be imaginative, but they are fooling themselves. Theirs is just not turned on; it’s covered with cobwebs and dust.
My purpose here is not only to help you think more out-of-the-box as you navigate this new economic era but also to remind you of some areas in your life and business in which you may need to seek new answers to the problems you may face. I have no answers, just questions. You will have to find the answers for yourself, and they may be peculiar to only you. Let me show you what has worked for me to turn on my creative juices. I have used these strategies personally, with my business and with the many businesses I have consulted.
Understand how the imagination and the creative process works, and clarify your vision: As you think and jump-start your imagination, realize that your mind will give you the answers you seek, but it must be clear on what you want and what end results you desire. That’s why vision is so critical. Your mind will give you the “how” if you give it the “what.” Vision is defined as the clearest possible mental picture of a future desired result. Think about that result often, visualize it, write it down and ponder it. Basically, what are your goals?
Immerse yourself in all pertinent information: This is a critical step. You can’t expect your mind to do all the work. You must give it fodder to ruminate on. Read, research, make no judgments. Again, quoting Kemp, “In this endeavor, it’s crucial not to make judgments from your overlook alone, but to speak to employees, customers, providers, friends in the industry and friends in associate industries to get their view on what’s working and what’s not. To ask about their goals and expectations. To inquire about what’s holding back growth and fostering indifference.” When reflecting, consider what skills you may need to develop or knowledge to acquire to be more effective in your life, business or career.
Generate lists: To give your mind fodder and help you focus, make lists of issues of which you are concerned or problems you would like to solve. You could do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).
Ponder and incubate: As you consider your issues, distract your consciousness from them by doing something fun or something that does not require much thinking. Your subconscious will still be ruminating on your issues. You’ll be amazed where and when your mind will provide you solutions. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a clear solution to an issue of mine. The problem was solved. Someone once said, “I get my best ideas while milking my cow.”
Brainstorm: Generate ideas of action to take. All ideas count. Create as many as possible. Again, make no judgment. Evaluate each idea or action. Prioritize by importance. Do it alone or with your spouse or some loyal friends or employees. Choose the actions you decide to implement. Remember, two heads are better than one, and, well-managed, four heads are better than two.
Set short-term goals with action plans: Take the ideas that are generated to create short-term goals with specific action steps that are required. Include the ideas that were “rattling around in your head” for a while. You now have plans. In all your planning and thinking, some actions will not work or result in the outcomes desired. That’s when it will be time to rethink, re-evaluate and change your plans on the go. “In preparing for battle, I have always found that once the battle starts, plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Consider all the ideas you could generate if you took the time to consciously deliberate on the opportunities to grow your business in 2023. There are only three ways to grow a business: acquire new customers; get current customers to buy more; and get current customers to buy more frequently. What if you researched and brainstormed each of those? Could there be other strategies that could be more effective than those you are now utilizing?
As a leader or manager, you are responsible for profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction and retention. What if you put your focus and imagination on improving one or all those responsibilities?
Of course, you should use your imagination and ingenuity to improve your personal life as well. How do you use your time? How do you manage your finances and your preparation for retirement? How do you take care of your body and your health? How well are you managing your stewardships, family, relationships, assets? How about acquiring or improving knowledge and skills? Obviously, you will never run out of things to think about and improve.
My Grandma Pearl used to say, “It’s a lot to think about when you think about it. Don’t you think?” When you consider all there is to think about and work on, we begin to see why it takes a lifetime to become all we can be. When we look at the challenges living in this wilderness we have not experienced before, wouldn’t you think that “it is that time”? Let me complete this column by quoting Kemp one more time: if you do it now, “when the skies go blue again, you’ll be sitting pretty in the sunshine.”
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