One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.
We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.
And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.
Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.
As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.
Knowing what you know now, how would you have better prepared for COVID-19?
Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.
Had I known back then what I know today, I would:
- Declutter all aspects of my life and lead a much leaner life both professionally and personally
- Appreciate the simple things in life and appreciate the difference they can make to the day
- Take more time to fully think things through
- Juggle less balls
- Remove the “fat” from all aspects of my business
Ensure that your cash position is not skinny
Ensure the balance sheet is in good condition, and the cashflow and cash reserves can support the business closing for X period of time (without the assistance of government subsidies and laying off staff). Ensuring that your cash position is not skinny going into a pandemic is the greatest business relief.
Also ensure that supplier agreements allow special dispensation in times of a pandemic.
Ensure your staff stay informed. It’s an enormous advantageous for people to not have uncertainty as to what is next.
Have a plan for the worst-case scenario
Have a plan for the worst-case scenario. For example, what if your business had no revenue for 12 months?
Some questions to consider are:
- If my business had no revenue for 12 months, what does this reality look like?
- What actions need to take place so that my business survives?
- How fast do I need to act?
- What does my business need to look like so that it can survive 12 months without revenue
Embrace remote teams and cloud-based technology
I’ve had the privilege of building distributed teams and working almost exclusively with cloud-based systems for about a decade now; often with no office, no on-premise IT infrastructure, and have been a user of Zoom for more than half of that period.
The picture looks very similar within my current business, which has left me — let alone the entire company — in the fortunate position of frictionless transition into a COVID-19 world.
You could call this lucky; no one could have predicted this pandemic (although Bill Gates came close), but I’ve long been a believer in the stark benefits that flexible working environments enable. It felt inevitable that the world would follow suit.
However I did not expect that our hands would be forced in this manner, leading to an incredible acceleration of decentralised workforces and processes.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, summarised this new reality with a startling yet unsurprising remark on the company’s recent quarterly earnings call: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
Transition completely to virtual and focus on profit vs. revenue
There are two main things I would have focused on:
(1) Transition completely to a virtual workplace. COVID-19 has shown us that we can be productive and can collaborate effectively in a remote environment.
(2) Have laser-focus on profit vs. revenue. Put more in the coffers for rainy days, and operate as lean as possible whilst still producing exceptional work.
It’s what you do before the storm comes that most determines how you look after the storm passes
I subscribe to the adage “fortune favours the prepared” (and the disciplined). The application of this idea in my life reveals itself in the strategic decision that I only enter battles that have been won before the fighting starts.
On being prepared, the main question I ask myself is: “Have we built disciplines in our personal, family and business that we live and breathe during both times of good and bad?”
On discipline, the questions I ask myself are:
- Business: Are the meeting rhythms set in stone, diarised, communicated and running like clockwork? (Daily huddle/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly.) Personal: Have I scheduled in regular check-ins with myself? Family: Have I scheduled in regularly touch-points with my family?
- Business: Do we have a regular communications cadence? (During bad times, increase the communications cadence.)
- Business/Personal/Family: Do we have cash buffers and reserves? (How long can my business/myself/my family survive without external assistance? How many months/years do we/I need so that we/I feel safe?) Is my business, my family and I maintaining the discipline of regularly setting aside a portion of the income in a difficult-to-access savings account?
- Are my key relationships strong? Cash and capital is oxygen, but the best kind of capital are my relationships. Business: Do I regularly check-in and cultivate the relationships with people and businesses that have a vested interest in my/my businesses’ survival and success? Personal/Family: Am I cultivating the relationships with the people most important in my life?
COVID-19 is not the first global pandemic and it won’t be the last global pandemic. We know with 100% certainty that there will be more, we just don’t know what they will look like and when they will appear. So when the inevitable storm hits, maintaining my discipline, and protecting the things that keep me disciplined, keeps me in good form.
The importance of time, and the importance of people
Time is a resource that once taken, cannot be returned. However, how many of us really shape our lives around this? COVID-19 taught me that there may not be a tomorrow so I like to do things now.
I also look into who I invest my time with, who I invite to join me on my life journey, and what I need to engineer in my environment so that I achieve my goals in structured and date-stamped manner (rest and relaxation included).
On people, I have taken the time given back to me during COVID-19 to be more honest with myself and really consider the people around me as they have an indelible influence on the shape of my life.
What do you think?
Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.
Call to action
My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.
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