Earlier this year, my young son found an old cat toy in the approximate shape of a mouse. He soon adopted the toy, called him Jerry (after Tom & Jerry) and Jerry became a friend that traveled with us almost everywhere, shared bed space with my son at night, and made demands that only my son could hear (“Jerry says it’s time to have some candy”).
Naturally with all of Jerry’s activities, the already cheap, disheveled toy became even rattier. I did try to clean him once with laundry soap and a wash cloth but I’m not sure it did much good. As Jerry continued to travel with us and meet our acquaintances, he became a bit of an embarrassment. I started to wonder how I might go about replacing Jerry while weighing the possible reactions my son might have to a substitute.
Then today after a trip to the park, my son carried Jerry into the bathroom and after doing his business, accidentally knocked Jerry into the used toilet water. My son was quite devastated and I quickly determined that with Jerry’s descent into a whole new world of bacteria, it was time to suggest a replacement. (No amount of cleaning would entice me to kiss the mouse goodnight anymore)
At first my son was averse to the idea, but after I pulled up a website with stuffed animals and allowed my son to pick out the type and color of mouse he wanted, he was placated. He even grew excited for the new toy when he saw it will have upgrades over the old model, such as feet and whiskers. Now he looks forward to the arrival of the “new Jerry” in the mail in a few days.
I will admit I was relieved and even pleased at my son’s acceptance of an unfortunate situation. He’s never been a person who likes change and I worried he would remain tied to the old toy and refuse to see the benefits of a new one. But life is all about transitions; learning to deal with change, especially the negative variety, helps us emotionally cope better and also to be overall healthier and happier day by day.
For business owners and entrepreneurs, I think it’s especially helpful to learn how to:
- Make a negative into a positive
- Turn a mistake into a lesson well-learned
- Explore a misfortune to find a silver lining
- Use a missed opportunity as a chance to polish and refine before a new opportunity comes
The way to do that is to devise questions using the classic “who, what, why, when, where, and how” words in order to explore what can be learned from the experience. Some example I have are:
- How is my product/service better now?
- What have I learned about a person that will change how I interact with him/her in the future?
- Who provided the information (correct or incorrect) that led to a particular decision?
- Why did we fail to spot the problem initially?
- Where can we streamline, save or cut to prevent problematic reoccurrences?
- When should the new measures we’ve implemented take effect?
Entrepreneurs are constantly wading through a mire of challenges. The better you are able to rationally think through your problems and where possible, identify a bright side-you’ll be less stressed, less weary, and hopefully a whole lot smarter for the experience.
Challenge: Can you think of one particularly challenging problem that tested you in the last month? Now try and think of at least one way you benefitted from facing it.