I find this extract from the book “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday to be extremely relevant for today’s moment and offering a very helpful perspective on challenges any of us meet in the course of business.
LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
Do yourself a favour and run down the list of businesses started during depressions or economic crises.
Fortune magazine (90 days after the market crash of 1929)
FedEx (oil crisis 1973)
UPS (Panic of 1907)
Walt Disney Company (After 11 months of smooth operation, the 12th was the market crash of 1929)
Hewlett-Packard (Great Depression, 1935)
Costco (Depression of 1970s)
Revlon (Great Depression, 1932)
General Motors (Panic of 1907)
Proctor & Gamble (Panic of 1837)
United Airlines (1929)
Microsoft (recession in 1973-75)
LinkedIn (2002, post-dot-com bubble)
For the most part, these businesses had little awareness they were in some historically significant depression. Why? Because the founders were too busy existing in the present – actually dealing with the situation at hand. They didn’t know whether it would get better or worse, they just knew what was. They had a job the wanted to do, a great idea they believed in or a product they thought they could sell…
Yet in our own lives, we aren’t content to deal with things as they happen. We have to dive endlessly into what everything “means”, whether something is “fair” or not, what’s “behind” this or that, and what everyone else is doing. Then we wonder why we don’t have the energy to actually deal with our problems. Or we get ourselves so worked up and intimidated because of the overthinking, that if we would just gotten to work, we would probably be done already.
Our understanding of the world of business is all mixed up with storytelling and mythology. Which is funny because we are missing the real story by focusing on individuals. In fact, half the companies in the Fortune 500 were started during a bear market or recession. Half.
The point is that most people start from disadvantage (often with no idea they are doing so) and do just fine. It’s not unfair, it’s universal. Those who survive it, survive not because they took things day by day – that’s the real secret.
Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead.
A business must take the operational constrains of the world around it as a given and work for whatever gains are possible. Those people with an entrepreneurial spirit are like animals, blessed to have not time and no ability to think about the way things should be, or how they would prefer them to be…
It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you are in a good job market or a bad one, or that the obstacle you face is intimidating or burdensome. What matters is that right now is right now.
The implications of our obstacle are theoretical – they exist in the past and in the future. We live in the moment. And the more we embrace that, the easier the obstacle will be to face and move…
You will find the method that works best for you, but there are many things that can pull you into the present moment. Strenuous exercise. Unplugging. A walk in the park. Meditation. Getting a dog – they are a constant reminder of how pleasant the present is…
Catch your mind when it wonders – don’t let it get away from you. Focus on what’s in front of you, right now…