Isolation Blahs: Don’t let regulations squelch your sense of adventure

Date: April 16, 2020
Author: Kristin Zhivago
Photo of a woman standing on a tall cliff, contemplating the view

It’s quiet. Too quiet. A pandemic has put us in a strange cinematic twilight zone consisting of “don’t touch that,” and “home alone.” But just a few short months ago, you were the captain of your ship, living the interesting, goal-driven life of the entrepreneur. It was exciting. It felt good. 

But now your future is at the mercy of bureaucrats and politicians, all arguing with each other on our screens, determining how we can work, play, and interact. This is not the life you envisioned for yourself when you set out on your great entrepreneurial adventure. 

I’ve always considered entrepreneurs and business owners to be the great adventurers of our time. It takes a lot of guts to walk away from a steady job and depend completely on yourself for your income. It requires courage that many don’t possess and the ability to learn from mistakes, which requires humility, another character in short supply in our “so me” environment. 

It also takes a sense of empathy. The key entrepreneurial characteristic is that of solving problems for others. If it wasn’t for entrepreneurs, there would not even be an economy. Taking that risk—going out on your own—is the seed that starts all companies, and companies make life better for all of us.

The problem with this pandemic, and the resulting regulations, is this: If you want to suck the air out of an entrepreneur, just slow them down with red tape. Or worse, shut down their business! That kind of obstruction can defeat even the most hardy business owner. 

So I can bet that right now, those of you reading this are on a scale with this on one end: “I don’t feel like doing anything. I’ll just hang in there until this is over, and try to pick up the pieces.” And this on the other end: “I can’t believe they have shut down my business! What on earth am I supposed to do now?!” 

You might also be paralyzed by uncertainty. We can literally freeze in place until we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once we see the light, we will start running full speed again.

The problem is, if you’re frozen, you’re not progressing. What you need right now is a different perspective.

Welcome to your new adventure. 

This is a time when your competitors are reeling and retreating, and when business as you know it may never be the same. It’s the perfect time to look around and figure out how you can reinvent yourself. 

Self-reinvention—or reinventing your business, which is pretty much the same thing—is one of the most gut-wrenching, stepping-off-the-cliff experiences that a person can go through. That’s the bad news. 

But, as with most of life’s super difficult things, it may also be the best thing you ever did, the thing that you look back on and say, “Wow. That was hard, but it was worth it.” So the bad news is really not bad news at all. 

I have pivoted completely several times in my career, and I have some good news for you about this time: 

  1. A lot of what you’ve already learned can be applied to the new venture. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking your business completely online. Perfect time to do it, while people are spending more time than ever in front of their computer screens and looking for an entertaining yet educational way to better themselves. But everything you learned as you were doing what you were doing can be applied to what you’re doing the new way. 
  1. This is a perfect time to fix a weakness in your business. Yes, things have slowed down. But history has proven that things will pick up again, and you’ll be so busy handling all that pent-up demand that you won’t be able to focus on the weaker areas of your business. This is the perfect time to “Find It, Face It, Fix It,” with determination and new energy. 
  1. Make the most important decision you can make. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that temptation to slow down with a slowed economy; it’s only natural. We resonate with those around us and tend to slide into whatever their frequency is. But the most famous entrepreneurs are always those who see that everyone is going west and decide to go east. They don’t follow the herd. They don’t slide into complacency; in fact, they do just the opposite. They find problems that need solving (and there are ALWAYS problems that need solving), and figure out how they can help. It’s that discipline thing, that darn discipline thing, that always gets us. Decide to get off your duff and look up; look around; start dreaming big. But remember what Simon Sinek says: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” See it, make sure of it, then make a plan and go for it. 
  1. What you come up with will either take you to a whole new revenue stream or make your current business even better when things get more normal. And yes, I know, there may never be another normal like the one we had a few months ago. But that’s not the point. If you sit around lamenting while the rest of the world is sitting around lamenting, you’re 1) just letting your business go downhill and 2) you’re not preparing yourself for a whole new and even better reality. This is an opportunity in disguise (actually, I think that is true of everything in life). Go for it. 

Stand up and vow to yourself that you’re not going to take this lying down. As my husband often reminds me, “The world is always going to hell in a handbasket. The trick is to stay out of the handbasket.” 

Look around. Take an inventory of what you do well, and what you could be doing better. Work on fixing the not-so-great stuff. But also ask yourself, “What could I be doing now—what could our company be doing now—that would address the current mindset of our customers? Of other people we could appeal to? How could we package it up so it’s easy for them to understand it and buy it?”

Don’t let the regulators—or this nasty pandemic—put you in a funk. You are a brave, bold entrepreneur, one of the great adventurers of our time. Get to work!

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