Your Finest Hour

“Houston, we’ve had a problem!”  It seems that nearly everyone in the world recognizes these five historical words.  They were first spoken by Jim Lovell, the Commander of the Apollo 13 Space Mission, over fifty years ago, when an explosion midway to the moon should have killed everyone on board.  The actions of the three astronauts after the incident still serve as a lesson to us all about unexpected tragedy, focus, discipline, and perseverance.  Today, our unexpected explosion is COVID-19, and what are we to do?

For business leaders trapped in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it feels like there has been a similar unexpected blast resulting in a mass of collateral damage and a cloud of uncertainty.  And, like the Apollo 13 astronauts, we’ve been left wondering, “What just happened?” and “What do we do next?”

In 1970, with the damaged, tumbling spaceship hurling toward the moon at roughly 25,000 miles per hour, the astronauts inside of it, with the help of the team back on Earth, did one thing first.  They remained calm.  They were unusually calm.  That’s what training does and that’s what resilience looks like.  Their emotions were in check, and they were thinking and acting logically, practically, and pragmatically.  With the clock ticking, it was not easy, but it was essential.

Within minutes, without actually knowing what had happened, and after assessing what was working and not working, a decision was made to protect the lives of the crew.  With that decision, and one single action, the vision, the mission to land on the moon, was lost and gone.

Over the past several weeks, many clients and business owners I work with have expressed their situations and feelings in much the same way.  They had a vision and a plan, but now, after COVID-19, the vision seems gone, or at best, totally fuzzy.

Well, for Apollo, as quickly as the vision to land on the moon evaporated, a new vision emerged, and it was to get everyone home safely.  To think, in just a matter of minutes, a vision that required thousands of people, many years of preparation, and literally millions of decisions, changed to a new vision.  Within hours, and over the subsequent days following the explosion, the new mission, along with a plan of execution, was communicated to the entire NASA team.  Actually, it was communicated to millions around the globe.

Thousands of dedicated NASA engineers, as well as hundreds of millions of people around the world, pivoted instantaneously and rallied around a new mission, a new goal – to get everyone back home alive.  And so it is for us…  A new goal.  New challenges.  Solving new problems one at a time and making our new vision a reality.

In the first few weeks after the pandemic hit, business owners were just trying to put out the grease fires and assess the damage.  Of course.  It made sense.  They were just trying to get a grip on what was working and what was not.  The successful ones did it calmly and pragmatically but, still, some found themselves faced with a destination no longer on the map.  What was once clear turned blurry or even dark.

Fate works in mysterious ways, and it sometimes picks the winners and the losers if we allow it.  Opportunities always lie in the setbacks we face, and there is always a new possible success story ahead.  For the Apollo 13 team, the success story was just getting home, and, in the world of space exploration, many have said that Apollo 13 was the most successful mission ever.  Imagine that.  A successful failure.  Is that possible?  The answer is yes.

Now is the time for businesses to decide.  Decide if their vision has completely changed because of COVID-19, or if it just looks a little different.  Okay, so maybe the original mission has been lost, but does that mean we just die, or does it mean we find a new way and define a new mission?  One that will point us to a new destination with new and greater opportunities.  A new vision that excites the mind, impassions the soul, and tells us there is now something even greater to achieve.

A renewed vision leads to new steps to take and new problems to solve, but also to a new success story.  A new prosperity.  Perhaps a successful failure!

Opportunity is constant and all around us, but it can be elusive and often change in a moment.  To those who are disciplined in mind and action, change is opportunity.  Change is the chance for greatness, growth, and prosperity.

If you are a business owner during this health crisis, you’ve probably been saying, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” but like those seasoned astronauts, you have the knowledge, discipline, and resilience to persevere.  Tick toc, tick toc.  It is time to assess the damage, set your vision, and calmly work the problems one at a time, and begin your new success story.

It may feel like a daunting task, but not to worry.  With the right mindset, this could be your finest hour.

Mike Gruley is a serial entrepreneur and has built several businesses from start-up to national scale.  He likes to tell people that after graduating college, he got a 35-year post graduate degree in entrepreneurship.

Mike is a leadership team coach and guide, and an EOS Implementer™.  He works with privately-owned businesses whose owners and leaders have built highly successful companies but that success has created chaos and stress.

Mike helps business owners end the chaos and stress, get the growth they want, the profits they deserve, and the life they envisioned.

To learn more about Mike, go to 1 Vision Advisors.

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