You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf. ~Hawaiian Proverb
Having been raised in Florida, much of my childhood and even now, my favorite thing to do is spend time at the beach. Though I have never been a surfer myself, I was raised around it and have had a deep admiration and fascination with the sport and its finest athletes. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly Slater was raised at the beach where I frequented as a child, but I digress.
My appreciation has grown into being inspired by those that seek the thrill of “big wave” surfing, and I have read about and watched many documentaries highlighting the spirit behind such a pursuit. The reigning theme is surrender your control but be prepared for the unexpected. You can’t predict everything that is going to happen, regardless of how long you study the tides, the weather, and all of the elements. But you can prepare in your training, both mentally and physically, to be strong enough to handle whatever happens. The key: harness your fear and don’t panic. The same rings true in our industry.
Fear vs. Panic
Being afraid isn’t a bad thing. Fear is information. It is a reminder of your humanity, and what you learn from it can help you face it. Panic, however, is an unhealthy response or reaction to fear. In some situations, panic can be deadly. In surfing, fear is a part of the way you prepare. You harness that fear, and allow it to inform you in your training. Panic is what leads to injury or even death. The same applies in business.
For instance, the stress of being an entrepreneur impacts you physically and mentally. When you are engaging in business endeavors, in the beginning, you may be fearful of your outcome if there is not an automatic return on investment, not understanding that fear can help inform you on where to make tweaks to your plan. Perhaps it means you need to hire someone to handle that specific task, or outsource to a service to alleviate the worry. But when fear turns into panic, you’ve already lost the battle. No good decisions are made in panic mode.
Prepare for the unexpected
Even the best plans don’t always turn out the way you expect. Life, business, surfing, in everything in life there are variables you cannot predict. But a plan nonetheless is a great way to keep the balance between fear and panic. In the federal market, constant and on-going education and market research is as important to the GovCon as training and conditioning is to an athlete. You will start to see things a few steps ahead the more you know, and the path will become more visible than in the beginning.
Doing business blindly without the proper information or understanding of the industry is setting you up for disappointment equally as much as surfing while blindfolded. The more you know, the more you will see your opportunities. The more you connect with what creates angst in your process, the more you can account for how to react when it happens. When you get in the water the only thing you can rely on is that the wave is going to come. How you respond to it makes all the difference. So are you going to adapt and ride the wave, or are you going to panic and get washed up in the tide? The choice is yours.