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Author's profile photo Jason Cao

Coach’s Corner – How to Personally Weather Great Change

Do you know Aesop’s fable about the oak tree and the reed? The oak tree was mature and solid, standing tall and proudly in the same spot for many decades. He smiled and laughed at the reed standing by his feet, “You’re so small and weak that you won’t survive very long.” Indeed, the reed was thin and shivered every time a breeze blew by. One day, a wind storm swept across the land, and blew over the tall and rigid oak tree. The reed also suffered through the storm and was bent back and forth for many hours, but in the end, stood undamaged.

There are several lessons we can learn from this fable, from not underestimating others that may look smaller and weaker, to the actualization of karma. From a career and self-development perspective, the biggest lesson is that oak’s quality of resilience and the reed’s agility are both desirable qualities to help us weather changes that come our way.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, their combined characteristics of resilience and agility make a winning combination that is particularly applicable to business and our personal lives.

To me, resilience is the ability to not be affected by change; to be steadfast as the oak in commitment to achieving our goals and ambitions no matter the adversity or circumstances. Agility is the ability to act and to react on change. Like the reed, this requires some abilities to bend and flex with external forces. The best display of both elements together is the entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurs are extremely focused on their end goals and have a vision of that end-state in mind. Yet, they almost expect setbacks along the way, and are ready to go to “Plan B” or pick up new skills to succeed.

In these times of great change, I encourage adopting an entrepreneurial mindset where we stay focused on our long-term goals, while we take courage and give ourselves allowance to make adjustments. The closest and most public example of entrepreneurial mindset to me is SAP’s CEO Christian KLEIN . Keeping SAP’s goal and vision on the Cloud, Christian took the courageous step to apply a different strategy and also announced updated margin-targets because of the longer than expected impact the global pandemic has on businesses around the world.

Here are some simple strategies and intentional micro-steps we can take to develop our entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. Know your strengths – skills, competencies, domain knowledge, or whatever you want to call it. These are the things that will serve you through times of change, and make you resilient.
  2. Know your weaknesses. These are the areas where you’ll need to manage and protect through times of change. This takes self-awareness and preparation. Note that although preparation is the best way to mitigate risks, most of the time we don’t know what is changing and we’re usually reacting to situations as they occur.
  3. Surround yourself with smart people, like mentors, coaches, and subject matter experts. You can trust their expertise, but don’t just blindly rely on their expertise because no one is responsible for your decisions but yourself. Instead learn from them.
  4. Take care of your health! Entrepreneurs make trade-offs, and once in a while may need to move back home to stay with their parents, but this is (usually) a short-term plan. Your physical, emotional and mental health are the foundations for developing the skills and mindsets required to adapt and succeed through change.


What other tips can you share?

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

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      Author's profile photo Svea Becker
      Svea Becker

      Hi Jason Cao Thanks for sharing your post. I agree to your points and wanted to add one thing:

      In one of my coaching lessons I have been reminded that live is always an up and down, like there is light and shadow, day and night and falling and rising tide. The only thing is: you should accept it, say "yes" to it and live your life with consciousness. Then it's much easier to handle these ups and downs. And as you wrote, health as well as mental health, are two very important requirements to achieve this.

      Best, Svea

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Svea for adding your reminder about acceptance! Yes, there are many changes in our lives that are outside of our control (pandemic, economic situation, and maybe final election results(?)), and the sooner we realize and accept these as reality, and move on, the sooner we can focus on the future - as well as move forward with the things we can control.

      Author's profile photo Minerva Chavez
      Minerva Chavez

      Hi Jason,

      Great insight! When I was reading your post,  it comes to my mind, the vision about the bird.

      The Bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on it's own wings.  Always believe in yourself...

      Trust and move forward for your dreams...

      Best Regards,


      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for sharing this Minerva! I love that! 🙂 The belief in one's own capabilities epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit, and should be a constant for everyone!

      Author's profile photo Jayne Phillips
      Jayne Phillips

      Always great to read your writings Jason Cao !  "In the face of adversity we have a choice.  We can be bitter or we can be better."

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Jayne! I love that quote, and completely agree - we can gain so much more by choosing to be better!

      Author's profile photo Mehryar ENTEZARI
      Mehryar ENTEZARI

      Thanks Jason!  Timely!  Great principles and thought structure to refresh ourselves in the new year and prepare for the next normal!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Mehryar! I love the term "next normal!"

      Yes, having an entrepreneurial mindset that incorporates agility and resilience is an ongoing practice of balance (something we should do regardless of whether change is on the horizon). 😉

      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      Reading this made me remember a favorite poem of  mine.   The road not taken by Robert Frost:

      "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference."
      Know the path you want to follow and then steer around all the boulders.
      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Love that poem Michelle! Its good to be a Maverick when the opportunity presents itself! 🙂