Sometimes we need a fresh coat of paint. We have discussed ways to look with fresh eyes, the idea of entrepreneurship, and a beginning discussion on how to freshen up who we are. The result is that we begin opening the doors for new possibilities and new adventures.
I believe we should be adventure-preneurs in our lives. As a result I have been getting out there looking for the small adventures. I have taken vacations that last only a few hours (ok, in truth, we just got lost!) I have changed my diet to add a few new foods and spices, and am working on taking in a healthier balance of foods. (That could explain why my husband is eating out on the way home!) Recently I had a meeting with our local congresswoman. When I left that meeting, I felt energized with the idea of really getting more involved with the issues of our country. You know, really being a part of the solution to turning our economy around. This morning I woke up in a great mood, ready to take on the challenges of the world. But then it happened! I read the paper, looked on the internet, listened to the news, and in the process, dampened my desire to make any effort. It just seems so overwhelming. Have you ever felt that way? If you stay in touch with the news, you see concepts such as a loss of business optimism, more bank failures, rising unemployment, and a change in consumer outlook, further worsening over the last six months. Why would anyone want to try something new at a time like this? There are too many forces against us. Too many obstacles! Right in the middle of this impending funk, a close friend of mine called and said, you know I see this too, but did you ever think that “obstacles were purposely put in our pathways so we always remember how to jump?” What?? Is that right?
A quick online review of our recent history shows that some companies believe that a downturned economy is the perfect time to launch new ideas and take on new ventures. For example, Hyatt Corp, Burger King, IHOP Corp, FedEx Corp, Microsoft, CNN, MTV Networks, Trader Joe’s, Wikipedia Foundation, Sports Illustrated, GE (General Electric Co) and Hewlett Packard all launched during tough economic times. It turned out pretty well for them. But I could also list another group of names of people who started business during those times but you wouldn’t recognize their names. Why, because they didn’t make it. What made the difference? Why did some people succeed and others fail? Was it the brilliance of the idea, the fit with the need, or was it the spirit and passion of the company’s leaders? I think probably all of these are important. When I looked on the internet to find out the real answer to the question, I found there were 5,850,000 results or opinions. Wow, that is a lot of opinions! Maybe there is no real concise answer. Many people think the major determinants lie in the attitudes of the individuals. Did they look at the challenges to starting the company as obstacles or opportunities?
Does that mean we should all have that PollyAnna attitude that “everything will always turn out fine” and just jump in? Is it the “don’t worry, be happy” carefree person who makes the successful entrepreneur? I don’t think so. I ran across an interesting 2010 study by Liang and Dunn that looked at entrepreneurs to find out if they were unrealistically optimistic, and oblivious to other input. Did they ignore other factors and always forge ahead? The results were interesting. The authors found that although most entrepreneurs were clearly optimistic, the more successful ones did use other information to keep them more balanced, and protect them from making risky decisions by being too idealistically skewed. Balance seems like the operative word here.
Matt Ridley in his book The Rational Optimist, puts it slightly differently as he explores the cycles of human history. He states “the human race has become a collective problem-solving machine which solves problems by changing its ways”. Hmm. Maybe it is addressing and finding the solutions to the problems that makes us really good humans. Now what? History shows us that we are at our best when we identify the problems, create solutions, and change to incorporate them. When we refuse to do that we are frozen in time, stuck and we feel powerless. While I was doing all this research, I also saw the tremendous amount of study done on the physical health of the individual that is optimistic, with a problem solving attitude versus the person who has a pessimistic, obstacle searching attitude. Those with positive attitudes live longer, have less medical problems, and have less cognitive decline. That means that we are meant to see the challenges as opportunities to solve problems. It keeps us healthier and functioning at our peak for longer periods. So next time when you feel overwhelmed, and see the challenges as more than you can deal with, remember it is probably time to JUMP!