Think back to the last time you went to the beach. Perhaps the winds kicked up, blowing a speck of sand into your eye. Cautiously, you cleaned it out. Problem solved. But an oyster looks at the grain of sand as an opportunity, not a problem. Slowly, sometimes taking as long as two decades, it turns this grit into a beautiful pearl. Adversity can bring irritation, and it can also bring opportunity.
Today you’re going to discover why you should welcome adversity and problems into your life and business.
Even the drought in California has spurred entrepreneurs to generate new ideas to solve old problems.
From the NY Times:
John Cox, a chef at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, became an instant folk hero among chefs on the hunt for water-saving techniques in April, when word spread that he had rigged up an air compressor to blow the food off plates before putting them in the dishwasher. He estimated that he has saved about a thousand gallons a day with the practice.
If his idea goes statewide, it will help millions, if it goes worldwide, he helps billions. Why didn’t he think of this before? He didn’t have to! When water flowed freely in California there was no problem and there was no incentive for him to find this opportunity. Only when faced with adversity was he forced to invent.
Adversity makes us stronger, smarter, and innovative. You must embrace the hardships that come your way in life. Wise readers will lean into them and turn the bitter into better.
Let me show you how I do it. Each morning, during the time I set aside for Big Thinking, I reflect on four areas of my life: Early To Rise, my Turbulence Training personal trainer certification, my Life’s Legacy, and my relationships.
Next I apply my mentor Yanik Silver’s 18th Rule for Maverick Entrepreneurs that states, “Keep asking the right questions to come up with innovative solutions. “How?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “Who Else?” & “Why?” open up possibilities.” Each question stimulates a big idea.
Last month I added one more question, “What is the opportunity in the problem associated with this area of my life?”
The problems in my life are opportunities to develop new skills, achieve personal growth, and learn from mentors.
For example, one problem with my Certified TT Trainer program is that it lacked a reason for existence. It was no different than every other certification, so why would anyone choose get certified in my methods? I meditated on this question and three solutions have come to me.
Our Certification will become the leader in helping beginner female trainers get started on a second career thanks to our Personal Trainer Start-Up Kit, and we’ll also become the leader in delivering Continuing Education Credits (CEU’s) to trainers – solving one of the biggest problems in the industry (as all trainers are required to achieve a certain number of CEU’s each year for recertification, and this has long been an expensive and annoying problem).
The problem was stressful but led to opportunity. Now we can stand out and attract more trainers. We will grow faster and achieve our 10 Million Transformation Mission sooner. We needed this sand in our oyster in order to create a pearl. The problem could have made us bitter, but it’s made us better.
Without a problem forcing us into action, we stagnate in our comfort zones. How can you use this mindset to become a better individual, more valuable employee, more successful business owner, or healthier person?
It’s a simple 3-step system.
Step #1 – Identify the problem as specific as possible.
Fourteen years ago, a 28-year old woman bought a pair of unlined cream-colored pants, which cost $89, a sizeable investment for someone making their living selling fax machines door to door. The pants infuriated her: every undergarment showed through; the thick waistband caused a ripple; and the legs made a rumple. The woman was Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx. Blakely’s frustration inspired her. She created the first prototype of her billion-dollar product, Spanx, by cutting off the feet from a pair of traditional pantyhose.
Blakely’s solution was a hit with millions of women that shared her frustrations. Her plain-talk marketing spoke to her audience viscerally and sales exploded. “It makes your butt look better,” she said, and women everywhere agreed. Blakely turned a problem into an opportunity.
Step #2 – Reflect on the opportunities.
When a problem comes your way, get up, get out, and get thinking. Research shows that we generate big ideas away from our regular workspace. Your A-Ha! Moment will often come while in the shower or while walking the dog or exercising. It’s vital that you give yourself space and time to think big, to patiently reflect, and even to sleep on the problem.
As the story goes, Napolean Hill had just three hours to come up with a name for his book. It was tentatively titled, Use Your Noodle to Get the Boodle. Can you imagine how many fewer copies it would have sold and lives it would have impacted had the name, Think and Grow Rich, not come to his subconscious while he slept?
Here’s another example of how an entrepreneur turned adversity into opportunity through the power of quiet reflection.
“As a kid, I watched Julia Child and Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, on television while my friends were watching cartoons,” Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, said in an article in Fortune magazine. “During high school in Boulder I started throwing dinner parties and collecting cookbooks. After college I went to the Culinary Institute of America [in Hyde Park, N.Y.] and then to San Francisco to work at Stars restaurant. I aspired to have my own restaurant, but quickly realized I didn’t know the economics of full-scale restaurants.”
When Ells quickly realized how costly it was to open a high-end restaurant, he was forced to reflect – and think of solutions. His big idea came to him away from his kitchen.
“One day, while sitting in a taqueria called Zona Rosa close to my house, I watched how the line crew took care of people in very short order. I took out a napkin and jotted down what I thought the average check was and how many people were going through the line, and I timed it. I thought, Wow, this thing makes a lot of money – It could be a little cash cow that could fund my real restaurant.”
Ells opened his first Chipotle in Denver in 1993. This year Chipotle recorded first quarter sales over $1 billion. One more reason to say, “Thank goodness for tacos.” They can inspire you to big ideas.
Step #3 – Take action on the opportunity and take advantage of the problem.
In 2008, Travis Kalanick was already a rich man, having sold a technology company for $23 million dollars. But he’s a great example of an entrepreneur for ways to turn problems into opportunity. While attending a technology conference with digital media stars Gary Vaynerchuk and Garret Camp, he first had the idea for Uber.
“That’s where he first heard the idea for Uber. One New Year’s not long before, Camp and a few friends had spent $800 hiring a private driver. While Camp had made a fortune selling StumbleUpon, he still felt nearly a grand was too steep a price for one night of convenience. He had been mulling over ways to bring down the cost of black car services ever since.
According to an article on Business Insider, “He (Kalanick) realized that splitting the cost with a lot of people — say a few dozen elite users in Silicon Valley — could make it affordable. The idea morphed into Uber, essentially the equivalent of nightclub bottle service for the taxi industry, a premium service for more high-end customers.”
Morphed is an important word. Your first solution might not be the best solution. But you have to take action and try out a solution before you can get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Don’t give up if your first attempt doesn’t work perfectly. “If we’re spending our time and effort focusing on a return to normal, sometimes we miss the opportunity that’s right in front of us.” said Seth Godin.
If Kalanick didn’t take action, he would have never been in the position to take advantage of Uber or have had the confidence to pull the trigger on such a big idea.
Here’s the best advice I can give you in life, and this goes for anything, from losing weight, to starting a business, to finding a spouse, to supporting a charity, or writing a book.
Whenever you are just getting started, simply start small. Get your idea out there. Build some momentum. Ask for feedback. Make it better. Do it again. Don’t wait. Just start now. Please, please, please, just start now. We are all running out of time.
When a problem comes up in life, use the opportunity to learn from your mentors, build new skills, and add value to the world. Put in time, energy and love on your journey to becoming better and solving problems. That is how you make your mark in the world.
You might not create the next billion-dollar start up because of a small problem in your life. Or you just might. You never know until you take the bitter and make it better. Embrace your hardships. At the very least they will make you stronger. And they could make you very rich.