WHAT ARE YOU SEEING
My clients and students have asked me lately: "What are you seeing in the other companies you work with?" I typically see about 35 private clients in any month and engage with roughly 20+ students. Intimately engaging with roughly 50 companies, though a small sample size in the bigger context of the economy, does give me a privileged position to notice patterns and themes. What has been interesting to me in these times is how many entrepreneurs have experienced a slowdown and pointed at the economy as the culprit. What is so interesting about that was so well articulated by Economist Paul Krugman in his NYT Opinion piece yesterday, "Why Are Americans So Negative About the Economy?" :
So what’s going on? The general rule seems to be that Americans are feeling good about their personal situation but believe that bad things are happening to other people. A Federal Reserve study found that in late 2021 a record-high percentage of Americans were positive about their own finances while a record low were positive about the economy. We don’t have results for 2022 yet, but my guess is that they’ll look similar.
Yes, there are big things happening in the world. Yes, there is always "news" about the economy, the debt ceiling, and my favorite, the AI Killer Robots. But ultimately, what I see to be the issue is entrepreneurs rising up to meet this moment. What has changed is the sense of urgency so many consumers felt over the past few covid years, which fueled a lot of consumption. That space that is being created as the urgency wanes is causing entrepreneurs to attune to stories of scarcity and stagnation. Once we are attuned to stagnation, we'll act as if that is the only true story.
Instead, it is true that most entrepreneurs who launched their businesses in the last ten years have maxed out on their leadership capabilities. Most are leading with skillsets developed in an era of easy access to consumers and little to no existential threats. Look no further than the crumbling of Vice and Buzzfeed for confirmation that the model everyone believed would drive the economy (using ads and social media) is d.e.a.d.
What is happening now, as the living landscape of entrepreneurship changes, is that all are being asked to rise to the occasion and meet the moment of this economy. What this requires is a different awareness of how you lead and how you lead your teams. If you find yourself, in this moment, listing out the reasons why the economy causing your business to slow without also listing the ways in which your leadership needs to change to meet this moment, you're missing the most important list. What got you here will not get you there. What Michael and the Maestro knew about these types of moments is that they were the most authentic opportunities for growth. But that growth requires focus and a healthy dose of self-confrontation. Where do you find the inspiration to rise to the occasion?
This spring, I have found myself deeply immersed in the NBA playoffs. Each series feels like a metaphor for economic shifts—one week you're up, one week you're down. One quarter you're up, one quarter you're down. My team this year is the Celtics, who were down in the series to the 76ers. When they began to climb back with a game-six win, Jayson Tutam was asked where he found his confidence to trust himself and come back, to which he responded that he was HUMBLY one of the greatest basketball players in the world and that everyone goes through struggles and slumps and what is most important is to find a way (and Deuce for cuteness). What way will you define for yourself in this moment?
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