The World on Fire

I’m up crazy early on a Monday, getting ready to write my script for SpeedStart Monday™. As I read the Wall Street Journal digitally, the world is on fire. It isn’t just the virus. It’s the implications that we may not be able to travel in the near future. I found out that the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) closed or more correctly was canceled, and the impact on the city of Austin, Texas is estimated to be in the $300 million range.

This is quite astonishing. Just that would be enough to rattle the market.

On a side note, as Gabe and I prepare to launch our book, Most Businesses Fail in the First Five Minutes, he shared with me that a friend of his in Italy had been put into quarantine, because in his workplace one person had tested positive for the coronavirus. So now he waits, wondering whether he has the virus. His girlfriend is pregnant with their first child and they are concerned that there may be health issues for the child. Wealth issues, personal safety issues. We reached out to him, to see if he could help us do some research on a project that we’re working on, to keep his mind on something else.

I mean, even if there’s a crisis we should continue to work and move on. But panic creates a sense of immobilization. It stops people dead in their tracks, and makes them wonder if the world will ever be right again. That as a backdrop was enough to make me wonder about why humans react the way they do, mob psychology being what it is.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get a little crazier, the Saudis decide in the midst of global oil consumption declines, that it’s now time to open up the taps and flood the world with oil. As I’m writing this, oil was down like 20%. And the Asian markets, the European markets, the US market hasn’t opened yet because it’s crazy early. We just moved over to daylight savings time, so we’re staring at 4 am on the west coast. Still about two and a half hours away from seeing if this market is going to go anywhere but down. It feels a little bit like the world has caught on fire.

As I talk to clients today and interact with those on SpeedStart Monday™, I know one thing. Opportunity is hard to see in the middle of a crisis. Even seeing a certain opportunity is hard to capitalize on in the midst of a crisis.

When will this burn itself out? Will this fire envelop other industries? I do believe that those who sit down, wring their hands, clutch their pearls, and run in a circle Instead need to take some time, calm down and think through how they’ll position themselves in such a way, that as this crisis, like all crises, eases that they will see a new world. A reshaped world.

Eighty percent, at least, will struggle with the crisis aftermath and twenty percent will become more successful than they would have been otherwise. Which group do you want to be with? Focus on the solution. The problem is going to take care of itself.

Now I’m not saying be cavalier or put yourself in danger. I’m saying, what can you do to reshape, rethink, rebuild, and communicate with your customers, and prospects a positive attitude? Put yourself in a position that even today, while the world is on fire, you will be able to succeed. Work to control your emotional response to what is clearly a global situation, where panic is rampant.

It is critical that you follow the simple but direct insight that I learned so many years ago, sitting at a poker table. Emotions can destroy even the best of hands. The man who gave me my first break, General Gordon, said that the smartest words in the Air Force (USAF) were “never fly drunk and never fly emotionally”. I asked him how you could maintain the never fly emotionally during the war while your friends were dying and you were probably extremely pissed off. This was a personal matter. They were shooting at your plane because of the symbol on the side of it. In many ways, it was personal. 

And he said, “Those who could contain themselves, in spite of the risks, in spite of the jeopardy. those are the ones who are going to make it through.”

The crisis we are in now is not just about survival. It is understanding how to make the situation work for you. Don’t lose this opportunity. And yes, we want to make sure that everything that can possibly be done can be done to help individuals and world populations. But this is no time to sit out. This is the time to make plans to figure out how you, your team, your industry can get to the other side. Because the world is temporarily on fire.

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