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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.