There’s no question that the last few years have completely upended what we once thought of as “business as usual,” forcing everyone to not only adapt, but in many cases, even completely re-engineer their businesses and careers.
From side hustles to work from home to certain industries dying and new ones being born, there is no putting the genie back into the bottle at this point. The word has fundamentally changed, and as with previous paradigm shifts, including the Dot Com boom, Web 3, and remote work, this means the rules we play by have changed.
Entrepreneurs who adapt to these new rules will thrive, while those who don’t will struggle, and eventually collapse. Think of it like Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest, but for the business world.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart both because I know how important it is, and because most people don’t give this the thought it deserves. Most wait too long before taking action to adapt to a changing environment, and when they finally do, they spend far too much time over analyzing and planning, and nowhere near enough time executing. That is a recipe for disaster.
My mindset on the topic comes from two distinctly different perspectives.
One perspective comes from my experience in the business world over the last two decades, where I’ve adapted to countless changes in my own industry as well as several significant, pivotal changes in the world as a whole, including the Dot Com bubble, two real estate crashes, and the COVID pandemic, to name a few. These events highlighted the importance of adapting quickly and aggressively.
My other perspective comes from my experience serving in the Marine Corps, where I learned that while planning is important, it’s far less important than most people think. There’s a reason we say, “No plan survives first contact,” in the Corps, and that reason is that once a few variables change, your entire plan can quickly be rendered obsolete.
When you bring these two perspectives together, it becomes clear why we need to pay attention to changing conditions so we can plan and adapt accordingly, but also that we need to do so quickly and aggressively.
Jason Feifer, Entrepreneur’s Editor in Chief, is on a mission to give people the tools they need to do exactly that, with his latest book, Build for Tomorrow.
But he didn’t always view change in the way he does now. Feifer explains,
“I hated change when I was younger! My mom always tells a funny story about how, when I was in high school, I refused to use this blanket she’d bought me, because I kept saying my childhood blanket was better.
I started to become more comfortable with change during my early career. I quit a few jobs that I was unhappy in, and that change forced me to think strategically about what I wanted next — and allowed me to leap forward. I came to realize that newness wasn’t scary; it was the first ingredient in progress.
The pandemic was when I finally came to understand how other people manage change. I got to watch as everyone grappled with the same change at the same time, and how some people pivoted and thrived while others fell behind. It was the perfect controlled experiment.”
As he explored this topic, he realized that not only is change inevitable and essential, but also that it follows a predictable pattern. In his book, Feifer explains that we experience change in four phases. He says,
“The first is Panic! Then there’s Adaptation, where we identify what’s available to us. Then there’s the New Normal, when we build a new foundation for ourselves. And finally, there is Wouldn’t Go Back — that moment when we have something so new and valuable that we say, “I wouldn’t want to go back to a time before I had that.”
While it’s impossible to predict the exact changes or how severe they will be, he lays out a detailed action plan to accelerate through the phases so we can adapt fast and be tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs.
Through the lens of pivotal historical events, such as the Bubonic plague’s effect on shifting the power of labor and why the novel was once considered a dangerous distraction, as well as interviews with some of today’s greatest entrepreneurial minds, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Maria Sharapova, Feifer lays out guidance based on real-world case studies and reveals how anyone can be more forward-thinking and resilient through periods of uncertainty.
While a documented framework for change is important, I think the bigger value is in the stories shared that transform that framework from an intangible concept into something readers can understand at a deep level, and more importantly—implement, because at the end of the day, ideas alone hold no value.
And it’s important to remember that change means facing new challenges, so you’re probably not going to be very good at first. This is all a part of the process. Feifer shared a quote that actor, Ryan Reynolds, once told him about the topic; “In order to be good at something, you need to be willing to be bad.” He said that quote really resonated with him.
When asked for the most important piece of advice he has for entrepreneurs who want to be more forward thinking, Feifer said,
“Consider why change is so hard. Here’s my theory: We often equate it with loss, and loss is so much easier to see gain. We know what we’re comfortable with, and therefore we know what we’ll lose — and because we want to see the future, we start to extrapolate that loss! We think:
I’ll lose this, and then I’ll lose this, and then I’ll lose that…
But that’s not how it works. Change leads to gain too, and that’s much harder to see. So we need to start training ourselves to not only trust that there’s gain, but to start extrapolating the gain: To say, ‘This could lead to that, which will provide me with that, which will…’
How? Here’s a simple way to start. When you’re grappling with a change, ask yourself: ‘What new thing is happening as a result? And how can that be put to good use?’ Take that seriously.
Extrapolate it. Start to build a worldview based on seeking opportunity, rather than protecting
loss. That’s the beginning of your journey.”
Ultimately, entrepreneurs who do embark on that journey will have a significant advantage over those who don’t.
Jeremy Knauff is a contributor at Grit Daily and several other publications, a Marine Corps veteran, and the founder of Spartan Media, a digital marketing agency.