Smart people need to pay attention, especially now
The ability to listen. Really listen. It’s a rare skill right now. Most of us are only hearing what we want to hear.
But are we really listening?
I’ve been trying. I haven’t written much until now. But scary events occur on a daily basis. At some point whatever we are full of has to come out.
Our time of projected comfort has shortened. Most people have entered a desert for the first time, where survival for a day is a victory, and tomorrow is no guarantee.
Smart people always need to pay attention, but especially now.
Once we become confident in survival, then we can look for opportunities.
I am looking. Are you?
There is no question that life has changed for everyone. And when life resets, we all move back to the same starting line. The race won’t stay even for long, however.
The people who learn the fastest — who truly listen — and then act, will find the opportunities in the new normal.
Here’s what I’m noticing. This is where I’ll be placing my bets in the future.
As Wayne Gretzky said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.”
1. Dependence on a physical location or in-person contact is going to be marginalized
I know this is obvious, but these questions are more important than ever.
Can a business survive without a physical location? We are finding out in real-time. But what does the future look like? What is the risk to an organization if it does require physical space and in-person interaction? Everyone has to answer these questions.
One of my goals has been to be location-independent. I don’t want to leave where I am, necessarily, but I do want the ability to move quickly if needed. Security and safety sometimes require quick moves.
Anyone who clings to the disruptable are going to be marginalized.
2. Ready Player One is no longer a destination
I am still amazed when I think about the movie Ready Player One. As I watched, I thought that I was watching the future.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s set in the year 2045 and involves a giant virtual reality world that nearly everyone in the world participates in called the Oasis. You can do nearly anything in the Oasis, with few limitations. It’s a giant game. Or a place to connect with loved ones. Or a place to conduct business. And it’s all hyper-real, like a video game that you can’t distinguish from real life.
Previously, technology has pulled us towards a real Oasis, a four-dimensional world where we can be entertained.
Now, market, political, and natural forces are demanding that this virtual world not only exist, but become a way of life.
The technology is moving faster than I thought. Disney released a video about the making of the second season of the Mandalorian, which you can check out here. It revealed a technology that projects photo-real images onto a screen on a soundstage. Storytellers can shoot complicated scenes in real-time. We can go anywhere even faster now. We don’t need green screens and months of advanced work. Backgrounds can change on the fly. You can be in a desert in one moment, and with the push of a button you can be on the top of a mountain. It’s not whether consumers will have access to this technology, it’s when.
A few weeks ago, I put on a set of virtual reality goggles. The graphics reminded me of an old video game — but it was virtual reality. It was incredible.
I am convinced.
We are moving towards Ready Player One and the Oasis. But it is no longer a destination. It is a stepping stone.
3. Disruption is wise if done before you need it — Disney Plus was genius
Speaking of Disney, how thankful do you think its shareholders are that it built a streaming platform?
I just read Bob Iger’s book about his time as Disney’s CEO. I also watched Iger’s MasterClass. In both he discusses how challenging and important Disney Plus was to the company. It is a streaming service that allows subscription revenue. It is exactly what a business needs right now: (1) a business that provides recurring revenue, and (2) a system that delivers content directly to a consumer’s home.
It was also a complete disruption of a part of Disney’s business model. Iger describes more in his book and course, but there was potential to harm Disney’s movie ticket sales and other revenue streams.
Iger pushed forward anyway. And I would bet that Disney is glad that it did.
I’m not just trying to highlight Disney here. But it is admirable that it moved quickly and was willing to disrupt its own business — before it needed to.
I am thinking about how to apply this to my own business and investments.
What can be disrupted?
How can I move to a subscription model and have recurring revenue?
How can I deliver directly to clients and customers?
What industries will grow faster now?
Which will grow slower?
Disrupt your own model before something else does.
4. If you have small margins then you need to be over capitalized
One of the biggest problems with the startups that I work with as a lawyer and investor is under-capitalization. Access to capital is more important than ever. The more you depend on someone else for capital, the less control you have over your life, business, and organization.
Any business with small margins needs to compensate by having more access to money. My future investments and advice are all going to keep this observation in mind.
5. Social media is still powerful, but be the influencer not necessarily the influenced
I realize this is obvious. But it’s importance can’t be overstated. How are most organizations communicating right now? I receive more emails than ever. Social media works because people are inherently social and crave connection. There is no better way to communicate when we can’t meet in person.
My social life has quickly morphed, as well. I just had a virtual game night, which was unexpectedly simple and fun. My wife had a virtual girls’ night. So much of this is just beginning.
Social media is powerful, but it can also be dangerous. Certainly there are privacy issues that haven’t been settled yet. Nefarious actors can use it for evil purposes as well. Moreover, there are people who influence others and also people who are influenced. There is power in being someone who has the ability to influence others. Think of the best communicators — on any platform. They have power because there are people who listen to them.
There is certainly uncertainty in the world and marketplace right now. But there will be ongoing value in being an influencer. I am not talking only about social media “influencers” as an occupation. I mean people who speak, write, create, and act in a way that causes other people to act.
I realized this not long ago when I started a Facebook group to seek help in marketing the children’s book I’m writing. I was amazed at how many people were genuinely interested in the project. All of us came together in an online group, united by a single project and connected through social technology.
There is massive value in online influence. I am going to bet that it will increase.
6. Security planning is more than just money
Many people give financial advice: have a nest egg, put money in a retirement plan, etc. But few people provide true security planning advice. We are discovering that security planning is more than just having money. Security means more than just having money in an account. It is being ready to protect yourself and your family, without dependence on others for a period of time.
This will only increase going forward.
7. We need humor during tense moments
People can get really funny during tense moments. And we need those people. I am still laughing at some of the memes and posts online. I am grateful that some people can find humor in the desert.
Even when people can’t leave their homes, we will need storytellers, creatives, and entertainers — maybe more so. Great storytelling will not go away, even if the delivery mediums change.
8. Leaders can’t prepare for every problem — but they can do at least one thing
Without assigning blame, many leaders were not prepared for everything that is happening right now. I am okay when leaders are not completely prepared for every contingency. Prioritization is required at every level. I don’t like to second guess every single decision, and I think that giving the benefit of the doubt is healthy. However, leaders need to react appropriately during times of crisis.
The only way to react quickly and correctly is to have vetted experts available before a problem occurs. In my law practice, I counsel clients to develop a team of trusted advisors. This is the first priority of an entrepreneur and business owner. Building the team is always the biggest priority.
If you don’t have a team of trusted advisors now, that should be priority one.
9. Invest, not retreat
Many people are catching up on television and movies. Others are taking time to relax. I admit I have done some of those things.
But some people are hustling. Some people are serving. Some people are investing. Some people have developed new routines and disciplines.
I love what my friend Richie Norton has said: now is the time to invest, not retreat.
The biggest barrier to reinvention has been removed for most people: time. Most people have a gap of time that will either disappear or multiply.
Some will play. Some will completely reinvent.
There is no better time to reinvent than now. And people need help doing it.
10. The best time to plant a tree
I am reminded of the old adage: when’s the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago.
When’s the second best time to plant a tree? Now.
The principle still applies. Some people are planning for the next disruption. Some people are strategizing for the coming weeks, months, and year.
A strategy devised in solitude can affect the outcome of a battle a thousand miles away.
I am looking for the people who are thinking strategically about the future. I hope you are too.
11. No ordinary moments
I often end my emails with a phrase that I heard from author and speaker Dan Millman: “no ordinary moments.”
There are no ordinary moments. Moments like these remind us of that.
Spring is usually a fun time of year for me. March Madness. Warmer weather. Easter. Family events. I miss all of them. I took them all for granted, even as close as a month ago.
The truth is that no moment is ordinary. I now appreciate even more the moments, memories, and laughter that I probably took for granted.
There are no ordinary moments. I hope I never forget that.
12. The wisest person rarely speaks first
Sometimes silence is valuable. Sometimes we need our bearings before we can chart a course. Sometimes we need to listen first, and then respond much later. There is wisdom in listening, then observing, and then acting — in that order.
I am listening now more than ever.
To my family.
To my clients.
To my friends.
To the people in my community who are struggling.
To our leaders.
To people I have never spoken with.
For people who have hope and for people who don’t.
I am listening for people who need help.
I hope you are listening, too.
Thanks to Bryan Collins.