We’re half way through my 2021 list of Lessons Learned, so sit back and enjoy this week’s duo!
Lesson 5: Keep perspective – I have a foreign policy background. Before I started my first business, I worked for six years on our reconstruction and democratization efforts in Afghanistan. After I left that career behind, I paid less and less daily attention to what was happening, but still had an eye on developments there and around the world in general (yes, I am one of those people who reads The Economist cover to cover each week…). And seeing the heartbreaking way the country has relapsed and collapsed since the end of August this year has whiplashed some perspective back into my life.
Now I get it. A lot of people everywhere have it hard. We all go through personal challenges and difficulties that consume us and feel like the equivalent of a personal disaster. But there is disaster. And then there is disaster. And any time I find myself anxious or worried or frustrated about how hard my life is, I look at a picture on my fridge that I took in Kabul of a car full of smiling kids who waved excitedly at me from their windows way back when.
And I wonder what their lives must be like now. And I tell myself to stop being such a whiny “first-world” citizen and remember how damned lucky I am. Problems and all. If we have the luxury of access to email (and a luxury it is) and time to read articles like this one, then how bad could our problems really be? Perspective is powerful. And we all have a lot to be thankful for – yes even amidst all of the challenges we face – if we let ourselves remember that.
Lesson 6: Less is (often) more – Now this is one that I find really hard to digest sometimes. I’m the kind of person who thinks “Why say something with just one word, when two hundred words will do?”, but a lot of the time, less is very definitely more. This past year I have shrunk one of my businesses to almost half the size it was at its peak and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
There is less “noise”, less stress (it’s that Pareto thing where 80% of the stress comes from 20% of the customers…), less hassle, AND our profits are actually higher.
It’s not easy to tell our egos that we are shrinking our businesses, but it can be a necessary exercise to save our businesses. So be honest about what you are putting up with. And whether each part of your business, each client, each partner, each relationship is worth what you are investing in it. Sometimes the answer will be “yes” (horrah!), but if it’s a “no” then don’t be precious about letting it go. Sometimes one of the best things you can do is “fire” your customers or excise the extra.
See you next week for my final two Lessons.