When I think of the happiest times in my business, it’s the times when I have deadlines stacked up wall-to-wall, the phone is ringing off the hook, and I’m turning away more customers than I serve. It’s those times when I need to work late nights and get up early in the morning to finish a project. Gosh, I love those times — they’re exciting!
Conversely, there have been times when my business has run well, and extremely smoothly, and the work is predictable, and I can afford to take time off. The phone doesn’t ring for days. Those times are nice (sometimes)… but not nearly as fun.
I’ve blogged about this concept before: It earned a coveted place on my 37 lessons about business on my 37th birthday. Specifically, it’s number 5 on that list, although you can also connect the concept to number 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 24 on that list. And more recently, I blogged about a related concept when I wrote about the saying “Calm seas do not make skillful sailors“, in which I advised readers to stir the seas a bit and embrace the storm.
So this idea has been on my mind periodically (and more lately). I want to find the balance between that feeling of raw start-up and fine-tuned autopilot business. I don’t think you can live in either one for very long. But I think the tendency is to push through the raw chaos of the start-up, hope for the smooth seas of the autopilot business, and expect to coast after that.
I also think that people who get to that autopilot part of their business discover a few things: If they enjoy the autopilot for too long then their business becomes irrelevant and unprofitable as some other more innovative company leapfrogs them. Or, they realize they aren’t having as much fun anymore so they start something else.
With all of that in mind, I recently saw a couple of tweets by Tom Peters and they really resonated with me because they perfectly capture what I’ve been thinking…
First he wrote this one…
Endurance is directly proportional to tolerance for chaos.
— Tom Peters (@tom_peters) February 9, 2013
And then followed it up with this one…
Highest possible praise: He reveled in chaos.
— Tom Peters (@tom_peters) February 9, 2013
Love those tweets! Especially the second one. I want that to describe me.
WHY YOU SHOULD REVEL IN CHAOS
So why should we revel in chaos? Why am I devoting an entire blog to it?
One of the only constants in business (and in life, for that matter) is change. Things are always changing. Sometimes that change is permanent, sometimes it’s temporary; sometimes that change is expected, sometimes it’s completely out of the blue. And, change comes in many forms: The customers you had today won’t be the ones who are paying your bills tomorrow. The products and services you offer today won’t be relevant tomorrow. The marketing methods you use today won’t be effective tomorrow. The ways to transact payment and deliver your offering won’t be available tomorrow. The benefits you use to sell your product or service are no longer attractive tomorrow.
Things are always changing and we need to not just expect change but embrace it, welcome it, look forward to it. This isn’t just about innovation or about contingency planning. It’s not just about increasing your marketing or sales efforts or trying to jam more people into your sales funnel. Those are all part of it but reveling in chaos is so much more.
Reveling in chaos is a mindset that means we don’t fear change or run from it or avoid it or try to mitigate it. Rather, we get excited about the possibility of change… and not just its inevitability but its ubiquity! We shouldn’t just expect regular change but we should revel in the constant chaos that fills our business!
Someone who revels in chaos is able to handle the storms and they don’t let setbacks set them back. They are always pushing their business, building and innovating on the fly. They are creating momentum and using that momentum to gain even more momentum.
DO I REVEL IN CHAOS? DO YOU?
Am I someone who revels in chaos? Am I someone who enjoys dealing with the unexpected and overcoming the inevitable barrage of setbacks and obstacles that entrepreneurs face? I used to be. I loved those times when I was working like crazy and often taking on more than I thought I could handle. I accomplished a lot and had a ton of fun in the process. But today, I’m honestly not sure if I revel in chaos. I can sometimes let little things get to me; I can sometimes encounter an obstacle and decide that it’s not worth fighting for. I do what I can to mitigate chaos so that I can enjoy a nice, predictable day.
That isn’t reveling in chaos. But the best times in my business were the times when I truly embraced the storm. (And yet, I don’t want to give up some of the advantages I have with an autopilot business. This blog post isn’t going to reach a conclusion. It’s meant to continue my thought-process and perhaps start yours.
I’m not reveling in chaos anymore… but I’d like to do so again. What about you? Do you revel in chaos? Have you struck a balance between chaos and peace?