When the financial crash happened in 2007 we lost half our business overnight and the phone never rang for six months. The dreamy spires of academia, from whence we came, were never so seductive; going back to a monthly salary and guaranteed pension was, some said, a no-brainer.
But we never quit, or seriously considered it. We exited our city centre offices, looked closely at our costs, never replaced staff who left, waved bye-bye to our non-exec, worked a bit harder and earned a little less.
We also had time to think, a luxury not fielding enquiries afforded. And we thought that businesses emerging from the crash would need business development skills above all else, so we got to work on just that. And sooner than even we expected we were proved right, as professionals being able to get away from their desks and make rain went right to the top of the charts.
You learn more about yourself in hard times than when it’s all tickety-boo and here are the two simple, essential, lessons from that time on the subject of resilience:
Don’t quit. I have no doubt that rekindling our academic careers was possible; we had gained many abilities in our time away and commercialisation was all the rage. I am also sure I would have regretted going back to an environment- measured, collegiate, bucolic- I was not suited to. Still, it would have been an easy option for one of us to take a monthly cheque, as we were advised by more than one business associate. A safety net, if you like.
The positive consequences of not quitting were many: Financial for sure, eventually; still being in a business we love, of course; preserving something we had created from nothing; and working with a great team of people.
But more than anything we painted our own picture of the future, the one we chose and at the time a tough one. We were unsure what the canvas would look like but the decision not to quit nine years ago puts me at the top of Maslow’s pyramid: self actualisation, a feeling that my personal and professional goals and aspirations were being met because of something The Snip and I had chosen to start, then not give up on. That would never have happened had we returned to academia.
Quitting is as important as not quitting if you want to be resilient. There is a terrific sixteen minute video of Steve Jobs during his second stint at Apple. All of it is worth a look but the part I like best is where he explains why he is cutting 70% of the product lines, some of which were very close to the hearts of many. I wonder how that turned out for Apple…
Quitting our city centre office was a big deal. Nobody liked it, least of all The Snip and me as we moved everything back home. Losing our long-time non-exec was difficult but it was time for a change anyway, or at least that’s how it looks now. And not replacing leavers while working harder? A breeze, a reason to get up in the morning.
Quitting allows you more space and time to do the things you need to do to get to where you need to go. And I’ll say again: it’s every bit as important as not quitting.
So I have two questions for you, now you have a handle on resilience:
What are you not going to quit? And if you are not going to quit, what’s your plan?
What are you going to quit? Because stopping will allow you to paint a different landscape, maybe a better one on a pristine canvas?
Be ambitious, sure, but be specific. And be tough on yourself.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive and is an expert on resilience. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.