If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too
So begins Kipling’s famous poem If — which he wrote as advice to his son in 1909.
Voted as Britain’s favorite poem many times (and as recently as 2009), the poem is often a common source of inspiration to entrepreneurs — it conjures up images of a “stiff upper lip” and a calm head in a crisis.
Kipling’s motivation for the poem was personal. He wrote it after witnessing a friend’s heroic and patriotic response to being cheated, betrayed, and imprisoned… yet refused to bow to public pressure to restore his reputation at the expense of the British government.
Many years ago, I was fortunate to get to know George Rathmann, the ‘Bill Gates of Biotechnology.’ I credit him with offering me the most sagely business advice when I ventured out to be my own boss for the first time.
He told me to stop wasting my life preparing a perfect business plan with this line:
“You don’t know what business you are in until you get into the business.”
Every day of a small business is unpredictable, and very quickly the entrepreneurial leader learns that nothing is what they expected.
How one handles constantly changing conditions depends on one’s mentality and, let’s face it, our world today is one that is constantly changing and we need skills of reaction and adaptability like never before.
Mentality is defined as a habitual reaction to outside stimuli
Depending on your mentality, you can view that as bouncing from one crisis to another, or from one exhilarating adventure to another.
The different mentalities produce opposing results.
I’ve worked for people whose habitual reaction is to panic, and others who enter a sort of ‘denial’ stage — preferring to ignore the problem — as if by doing so it will magically disappear.
The best mentality is outlined in the first stanza of If…
But how to get like that?
There are 3 key components
1. Work on raising your confidence in trusting your intuition.
The world of small business is no longer one of analysis and problem solving by logic and groupthink. There isn’t enough time. Your intuition is your best friend.
2. Develop the ability to stop judging events around you as good, bad, or indifferent.
We live in a world of judgment, and how we habitually react determines how we handle what we perceive as a crisis. There is no such thing as a crisis.
What makes us judge it that way is our mentality, and that then determines how we react.
Most people do not react well when they perceive a crisis, because simply seeing it that way causes a cascade of stress chemicals to the brain, and that sends you into panic mode.
Mentality control means being able to step back from the noise, taking time to observe, and then choosing a more beneficial reaction to the panic thoughts you are having.
By taking control of your mentality, you learn to pause, take a deep breath, and choose a better reaction.
3. Understand that you have all the answers to any situation.
Fear and panic disconnect your brain and intuition from finding them. Many entrepreneurs panic because they don’t feel qualified or experienced to handle an issue.
Typically, if they get over the problem and look retrospectively at what went wrong and how they handled it, they’re surprised to discover something.
In effect, it wasn’t difficult to handle once they got into a calm reaction oriented place.
Keep a calm head and all will be revealed.
A version of this article is also published on medium.com