As an entrepreneur, you put yourself in the firing line every day. You know full well that bad things will happen. You will be shot at.
Staff will move on, clients will leave. Competitors will compete. Haters will hate. You do everything in your power to mitigate the risk of these things happening, but some events are just out of your control. You come to appreciate that this is what your role entails. It’s not a case of trying to dodge the bullets; it’s a case of becoming bulletproof. This is why resilience and a sense of invincibility are fundamental to your existence.
But just knowing and accepting that adverse circumstances will occur doesn’t make you bulletproof.
When world-class sports people compete under huge pressure in make-or-break moments in their career, they have practiced what they are about to do thousands of times before. They give themselves every chance of succeeding, whatever the game throws at them.
As a business owner, many of the situations you find yourself in are brand new. This means you are regularly reacting to high-pressure, critical situations and being forced to think on your feet. Things will change. People will present you problems. Deadlines will be missed. Here’s where you really find out if you are bulletproof. Are you able to make the right decisions and move forward without creating unnecessary drama and your mood, demeanour or outlook being negatively affected?
If you are overly emotional and in the wrong frame of mind you will make bad decisions that could have long-term implications for your business.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
– Mike Tyson
In the Ben Horowitz book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Horowitz explains:
“The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare. The hard thing isn’t setting big, audacious goals. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goals.”
Running a business is easy when everything is on track. You only find out if you’re bulletproof when the wheels fall off.
I believe that negative visualisation should play a key role in how modern entrepreneurs operate. Rather than visualising your success, achievements and dream lifestyle, negative visualisation involves visualising yourself in various adverse scenarios – challenging you to consider your emotional response and next moves.
Of course, you cannot possibly have dress rehearsals for every eventuality in your business, but you can better equip yourself for when they happen. A phrase I always bear in mind is “expect the best, prepare for the worst”.
The Daily Stoic reports on a technique called a premortem, designed by psychologist Gary Klein and with roots in Stoic philosophy, where a project manager must envision what could go wrong – what will go wrong – in advance, before starting a project. They go on to explain:
“Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.”
Consider the three worst things that could possibly happen to you and your business. Accept that these are all potential realities and imagine that each one had actually happened. Place yourself there. Imagine what it is like to receive this news. How do you feel? What’s your instinctive reaction? Then, consider the next five steps you’d take to deal with this situation and move forward positively.
No matter how bad the situation, there is always a course of action you can take. In doing this exercise you might get to thinking that these worst-case scenarios aren’t actually that bad, and even that some of them would have benefits for your business in the long run.
I practice negative visualisation regularly and find that the best time to do it is when things are going well. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Consider that if you can deal with the absolute worst-case scenario, you can deal with anything.
Once you have full confidence in your own ability, once you can genuinely say you back yourself to deal with whatever is thrown at you, and to thrive regardless of any adversity, that’s when you will feel invincible and on the way to becoming bulletproof.
Jodie explores concepts in enterprise education and modern entrepreneurship.
Jodie Cook – Read this excellent article on Forbes.com