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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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We Live In Interesting Times

My thoughts from lockdown ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 01/04/2020 @ 8:00AM

I've taken to using the term, "We live in interesting times" when responding to enquiries about how I'm coping with the lockdown. I've always thought it came from an ancient Chinese curse. but apparently not ...

We certainly live in interesting times! Lots of anxiety and danger but also an equal amount of opportunity and excitement!

We certainly live in interesting times! Lots of anxiety and danger but also an equal amount of opportunity and excitement!

copyright: stokkete / 123rf

According to a website called Quote Investigator, it is far more recent and from closer to home. It was used by Joseph Chamberlain, father of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in a speech at the end of the 19th Century.

"I can't remember a time in which each day brought us new stories of interest and, let me say also, more anxiety!"

Joseph Chamberlain's other son, Austen, later added the Chinese myth when talking about the growing tensions in Europe in the 1930's. Focusing on the negative connotations, "We move from one crisis to another; We suffer one disturbance and shock over another."

It is that fuller meaning from Joseph that I have in my head when using the term. He used it in a wonderful bit of ironic British understatement to evoke a feeling of excitement, opportunity, anxiety and danger that has resonance with our current situation.

Lots of anxiety and danger because who would have thought a visit to Sainsbury's would be a potentially life-threatening experience? Opportunity and excitement because companies like Prodrive are diverting their energies to building ventilators.

"So, how do you as business owners cope with
living in interesting times?"

First, deal with the anxiety and danger because you must survive. That means looking after your personal safety and that of your people. While governments across the world felt they had to impose draconian laws on us to get our compliance, we can also look at it another way.

In comes the excitement, probably for the first time ever! Governments of all persuasions gave people permission to put their personal well being ahead of earning a buck!

However, in business terms, earning money is also necessary for survival of the individuals who rely on it for their income and for a company to carry on trading. So, most people very sensibly have been examining their costs and seeing where they can pare back. Sometimes that is decided for them by their customers, for instance when a young man introduced himself at a recent online networking event as, "I'm an events photographer, with no events."

It's a fine decision when to, and how much to, cut back. You must liberate enough resources to be able to respond, and invest in how to recover. Whilst life will be tough, remember that for most of us, the market is still there ... its just not in a position to buy right now.

"It will come back, perhaps in another form, but it
will be back. So, be ready!"

When it happens, you can take advantage of these new opportunities and position your business to thrive as the markets open up again. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to make any major financial investment.

Take two accountants I know. They have both been inundated with cries for help in understanding and accessing the Government grants. Despite working 10-hour days they offered this freely to both customers and non-customers. As a result, both have picked up new clients who had neither heard from their own accountant or been able to make contact with them.

"Now add in the excitement! If you've gone really quiet
workwise, it's innovation time!"

I'll give you my own example here: I have been thinking for a while that I should be delivering my courses online. What had stopped me wasn't really a lack of time. Instead, I was firmly in my comfort zone; I knew how to engage people face-to-face.

Countless testimonials refer to it and my belief was that I wouldn't be able to replicate that remotely. Additionally, I was not comfortable using technology, Well not any more! Guess what? I actually love the challenge and the results to date are good. So, I am unlikely to return to all classroom sessions and will find more imaginative ways of bringing people together who may only have met online.

The added benefit is that suddenly, both me and my clients are saving money on travelling time and venue hire! And there's more ... this has instantly solved another initiative I had started to reduce my carbon footprint from 4 tonnes per year to zero. As I had already offset this by sponsoring a tree planting scheme in Uganda, I am now actually carbon negative.

Which leads me to my last point on this which is the really exciting part. Look what humanity can achieve when we, as a civilisation, face a real crisis and are forced to take action. The worldwide lockdown has had an unexpected impact, hasn't it? The online coverage has shown millions of people a real-life example that tackling pollution is quite possible and can work really rather quickly.

"I love seeing the space photos of the massive reduction in air pollutants in the locked-down areas!"

Now, that genie is out of the bottle we need to make sure it is never put back again. Whilst we may get backlash with 'revenge pollution' when we first come out of our houses, we will have many more advocates on what is possible.

Then we can comfort ourselves that those who have suffered and died in this crisis will not have done so in vain ... that will be really interesting times!

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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