Things change quickly. Just six weeks ago, the economic conversations focused on the record-high balances of Americans’ 401Ks. While there certainly has been speculation about the possible (inevitable) market downturn/recession, the dominant questions were about how mild such a recession would be and whether it would even meet the technical definition of a recession.
Then in the proverbial blink of an eye, everything we thought we knew changed…radically. In a 24-hour period, America began to get serious about the pandemic that dominates news coverage today. Oil prices plummeted. Gary Cohn, past Director of the National Economic Council, referred to it as, "Where we were last month has nothing to do with where we are now... We are now dealing with an economy where there has been massive demand destruction in the oil market."
We all entered a new world on Friday, March 13th and it’s important that everyone accepts this. I do not believe for a moment we won’t get through this crisis. I am also confident (as I’ve always been) that better times lie ahead.
In times like this, I’m reminded of The Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was a Vietnam War POW for seven years. During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured. He found a way to stay alive by embracing both the grim reality of his situation and healthy optimism.
Stockdale explained: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
This paradox holds a great lesson on how to achieve success and overcome difficult obstacles. It also flies right in the face of the unbridled optimists and positivity peddlers whose advice pervades nearly every Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook stream today.
Stockdale discussed this paradox with author Jim Collins in the book Good to Great, where he spoke about how the optimists fared:
Collins: Who didn't make it out?
Stockdale: Oh, that's easy. The optimists.
C: The optimists?
S: The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.
There is good news. Difficult times are your opportunity to stand out and be rewarded for taking strong action and making good decisions. It is in difficult times that good companies separate themselves from their peers and become great.
Difficult times, properly managed, are called defining moments in hindsight. Here are 5 actions to take on the go-to-market side of your business to make this a defining moment for you and your company. By the way, I’ll be sharing more details on this Wednesday in our upcoming webinar. (If you’re reading this after April 8th, you can watch the recording of the webinar.)