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by Mike Paton

Decision-Making, Entrepreneur, Growth, Leadership


“When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-form — or a species — will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”
― Eckhart Tolle

Grow or Die?

Though Tolle said it more eloquently (and many years ago, before anyone had heard of COVID-19), that is the choice we all face right now. The realm of nature has changed. The human race is at war with a new enemy we don’t yet understand and therefore cannot defeat with one mighty stroke of the sword.

Let’s choose “Grow.”

Let’s choose to fight, to unite as a species — and as entrepreneurs — to evolve in a way that helps us survive this crisis as we’ve survived so many others in humanity’s very brief history.

What Does That Mean for Each of Us?


A simple word that under normal circumstances, most entrepreneurs would say they embrace and embody. And yet, as this crisis has unfolded, most of us have discovered just how set in our ways we’ve become. We like things “just so.” My personal inventory of things I’ve resisted for years despite growing evidence that it would help me, or my family, or my clients; well, it’s huge.

Now, I’m not saying all change is good. I’m just saying Newton’s Second Law is absolutely true: “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” And we as leaders all need to recognize that our businesses — individual life-forms in their own right — tend to justify the status quo and fight change unless it’s absolutely necessary.

A Story of Good Change

One of the Visionaries I spoke with last week had been driving his organization to embrace technological and cultural change for years. This is in an industry in which about 80% of the billable work can be done by a single person and reviewed by a second person who is not in the same building. And yet, they still allowed very few people to work from home (and frankly did even that reluctantly). Just about every member of the team could think of one reason or another why the sky would fall if they extended that “luxury” to everyone.

Enter COVID-19.

In two weeks, 100% of the company’s team members are able to work from home. This organization is an “essential business,” so they’re able to come to the office if they choose, but they don’t. And my client — who also happens to be a friend — reported that they plan to be FAR more liberal with work from home (WFH) flexibility in the future, regardless of health concerns.

It’s Time to Act

After hearing dozens of similar stories from clients, entrepreneurs, and longtime friends these last three weeks, I decided to act. Here’s what I did (and I hope this helps you, too):

  • I reviewed my V/TOs™ (one for my business, one for my family) to stay clear on my “Core.” This is the stuff that should only evolve if absolutely necessary to ensure your survival. It’s who you are and why you’re able to help and deliver value to those you love most. It’s your Core Values, Core Focus™, 10-Year Target™ and — for my business — Marketing Strategy. This exercise confirmed to me they’re all still rock solid and right.
  • Next, I compiled a list of things I’ve resisted changing in my life and business, prioritized the things I must change now, and set 3 Rocks to evolve NOW.
  • Everything else went to my V/TO Issues List, because I want to continue evolving regularly long after this crisis has passed. My hope is that — even when a crisis no longer forces urgency — I can maintain this level of intensity and discipline.

This is what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras called “Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress” in the 1994 classic Built to Last. The value of evolution is timeless and has long been the key to successful businesses, entrepreneurs, and leaders (and all humans) surviving the test of time. A crisis doesn’t CREATE the need to evolve and change, it simply intensifies it.

So please… let’s all choose “Grow.” And if you’re not sure where to begin, please contact Mike Gruley for help.

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