How to stay sane in the tumultuous year ahead
I used to mistake stability for a good thing. My immigrant parents instilled in young Bo the notion that stability and security are markers we should aspire to in life. Growing up, society reinforced that same sentiment - that achieving a constant in life is what we should all strive for. When you grow up, you marry, have 2.5 kids, buy a house. That’s the road to happiness, right?
Wrong. Nothing about life or 2016 is stable. 2016 was straight-up emotional and bipolar. According to the DSM-5, I would diagnose 2016 as Bipolar I, the more extreme version. In Bipolar I, one must have had at least one manic episode in their lifetime, plus major depressive episodes. One specifier of both I and II is called "with rapid cycling." We can all agree on that 2016 has been a rapid cycling of highs and lows.
2016 was the year of acquisitions, product changes, crushing election results, and big personal changes. Microsoft bought LinkedIn. Yahoo went up for sale for pennies. Gone are the days of huge IPOs - in this “winter is coming” market, acquisitions are the only way to survive. Classpass canceled their unlimited tier option to many a workout aficionado's chagrin. Airbnb introduced trips. #blacklivesmatter took Twitter and social movement by storm. Our first female presidential candidate, the most qualified candidate to have ever run for president, lost. The polls and Five Thirty Eight were wrong. #thefutureisfemale became the most famous t-shirt on the internet. #imwithher turned into #imstillwithher.
In 2016, I ended a long-term relationship, quit my job, published a tell-all post about my experience at Facebook, and moved across the country to New York. For me, 2016 has been best described as bipolar: the highs have been so high and the lows so low this year.
I've dealt with change in 2016 by reframing change as an equilibrium. Instead of resisting change, we should see it as something necessary until a balance is achieved.
In a chemical reaction, an equilibrium is not achieved until all the reactants and products have no further need to change. Reactants are converted to products and products are converted to reactants vice versa until they’ve reached an equilibrium.
Change is really a state of reactants and products reacting until there is nothing to react to.
As much as we push for stability, it can only be achieved organically. As humans, we get attached to the current state, and often resist any change that pushes us away from that. If a product works, we think there's no need for radical changes, preferring to make small iterations over time. Feeling complacent in your current product market standing creates blind spots for small players to come in and eventually sets the scene for the innovator's dilemma. It’s normal - we cling onto current success, status quo, relationships because we don't want to let them go.
However, life and the marketplace is anything but stable. Change is a fact of life. We will inevitably encounter forces and unexpected events in all areas of life that will yield chemical reactions and catalyze change. These catalysts typically come about after a moment of crisis: a failed product launch, an unexpected political loss, or surprising breakup--devastating losses despite rosy predictions.
We must learn to weather the ebb and flows of political, economic, and social instability. If your product doesn’t get any traction, you need to re-evaluate and reconsider what’s working and what isn't. If your political candidate loses, you need to analyze how that could have happened, see the other side, and think what you’ll do to ensure future success. Be sad, be angry, be scared, but most importantly, don't give up taking action for change. Everyone has a role to play in the next four years.
Architecting a good life and growing an organization comes in waves. We need to evolve or we will stagnate and die a slow death as individuals, organizations, and a country. A study about Romanian orphans from the 1990s really resonated with me regarding the mentality of embracing resilience in the face of change. Despite early years of abject neglect, most of the children in this study were able to recover and live normal lives. We have a great deal to learn from their example.
“Resilience, in psychology, is a person’s individual ability to cope with stress and adversity, and bouncing back to a previous state of normal functioning after trauma.”
Innovation and creativity are very difficult processes. What people often miss is not a lack of creativity but resilience to persist after many setbacks. Most people don’t have a master plan for success and know exactly what they have to do to. I certainly don’t - when I build products or write a piece, it doesn’t happen all in one go. Rather, my process with most things is iterative with many points for reflection and reassessment after each setback. When challenges inevitably happen, I try to face those moments and devise ways to get past them.
Perhaps as we grow as adults, in pursuit of stability, we forget how resilient we once were.
When it comes to the the next year in 2017, I hope that we frame change as an equilibrium and attack problems with resilience. We’ll certainly need it.
ORiginally posted on Linked IN by:Bo Ren
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