choices made for us

A muffled “krak”-like sound. That’s what I heard when I landed out of a jump in rehearsal. With that sound, something in my knee snapped. Finishing my dancing career in the theater in the blink of an eye.

One lousy landing wiped away everything I had vigorously worked for in an instant. All the holidays sacrificed. All the things regular kids were able to do. Had it all been for nothing? Training to be a dancer is similar to training to be an elite athlete, with an added layer of artistry.

From the outside in, it may seem like entrepreneurs always are their own bosses and that they’re able to make every little choice in their career for themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

This one goes out to all the entrepreneurs who had choices made for them. Entrepreneurs forced to quit due to road works in the street of their shop. Restaurant keepers taking heavy blows due to lockdown regulations. Co-owners who have no choice but to forfeit because their partners decide to quit.

If you ever have a choice made for you, know that the sparkle, your unique ability to do what you have been doing in your entrepreneurial career is still there. You must find a way to re-apply it, perhaps in a different domain.

Choices made for us impact us differently as opposed to choices we deliberately make for ourselves.

possibilities paralysis

Adversity caused by limited options isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While having (too) many options may seem desirable. It’s not always the case.

Surely, by now, many are familiar with the paradox of choice or “choice overload” principle. Presenting consumers with many options doesn’t necessarily boost sales, quite the contrary. As studied by Sheena Iyengar from Columbia – and Mark Lepper from Stanford University.

An overfunded company has the luxury to try a couple of things simultaneously. Launch a bunch of new features, enter a new market segment, and so on. This can lead to possibilities paralysis.

A company that is underfunded, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same luxury. Arguably, in the absence of that luxury, focus increases. It’s like a hit or miss situation. Probably the reason why Amazon’s motto is: it’s always day one. This isn’t a plea for deliberately underfunding your company. Being chronically underfunded is expert-level adversity and can take the “living soul” out of a company.

Maybe entrepreneurs are sadomasochistic in a weird way. Sometimes, actively looking for adversity can be a good thing. Starting a company isn’t: maybe I’ll do some of this, and then some of that, and maybe some of this as well.

Starting a company is do or die.

anticipation training

We can anticipate some situations, definitely not all. Nevertheless, we can train ourselves to deal with both types of cases as they arise.

Those situations that we can anticipate, we should anticipate. Full stop.
If you’re selling ice cream, you should probably expect reduced revenue during wintertime. Many businesses deal with cyclical seasonality in one way or another. Ideally, strategical planning occurs as meticulously as possible.

For customer-facing businesses and jobs, anticipating should be done as wholeheartedly as possible. This is what the Japanese refer to as omotenashi. From a customer-centricity point of view, we should understand our customer’s desires before they can even express them. After all, who doesn’t like to be catered to their needs?

Situations that we can’t anticipate, on the other hand, require mindset training. In the end, you can’t control what you can’t control, so predicting the unknown consumes much energy. These types of situations require, when they manifest themselves, a combination of flexibility and resilience.

Anticipate when you can. Train your mindset for when you can’t.