Confession: I'm a fan of sports metaphors as life lessons. So when I saw the title of Chip Conley's Wisdom Well blog post a few months ago, Punt on a "Pivot" – well, I recognized a kindred spirit! His focus is mostly on the ways and reasons a business might choose to pivot. As an example he links to an article parsing out eight distinct types of pivot: customer problem; market segment; technology; product feature; revenue model; sales channel; product versus services; and major competitor pivots.
He notes that "in crazy times like this" – yeah, we're lookin' at you, 2020 – it's not just big companies and Silicon Valley startups, but all companies that must ponder whether it's time for a pivot.
Personal and Professional Pivots, too!
That got me thinking about how the same applies to individuals.
And I don't just mean to your personal life. The need for and value of pivoting applies to your job, career, or entrepreneurial roles, as well.
"Change is the only constant," the saying goes, and changes come from both outside events and our own progression through life. Some change is expected, almost pre-programmed for us by our culture. Around five years old, school starts in earnest for most. After graduation (with whatever degrees we've accumulated), work. We choose a home. Perhaps along in there, we've found a life partner.
Then, change . . .
- We discover a new curiosity. Should we go back to school? Read books? Write a book? (you'll see why I mention this)
- We grow complacent, bored, dissatisfied with our work. Should we seek a promotion? Change jobs? Start our own business?
- A natural – or human – disaster destroys our house, our neighborhood, our country. Should we repair? Rebuild? Relocate?
- We realize our life partnership is in trouble; or lost due to a death or a leaving. Recommit? Make an ending? Rekindle another relationship? Start anew?
As these examples indicate, change will happen regardless of whether, when, or how we react to it. Often, such changes are underway long before we become aware, leaving us feeling stuck without knowing why.
Why "now" is the perfect time to pivot
Yvonne and I appeared yesterday on Margo Lovett's podcast, Her Business, Her Voice, Her Conversation, [for the recording; will update the link when she publishes our episode]. Among the topics she raised was why "in crazy times like this" it may be the perfect time for you to write a book.
Margo's point was a powerful one: many people who thought a year ago that they would get around to writing a book have not survived the pandemic. Their voices, their knowledge, experience, wisdom, are lost to us.
As we talked, the scope of this lesson broadened. We talked about how being on lock-down, along with the collateral consequences of lost jobs, closed businesses, and the many other challenges 2020 keeps throwing at us (hurricanes, fires, political upheaval, and more) can also be seen as opportunity to be seized: unstructured time.
Time for reflection, for learning, and (within the confines of responsible activity during a pandemic) for doing.
That's where we circled back to writing that book you've got inside. I reminded that the writing process involves all three. Reflection, of course, in choosing a topic and the words to express your ideas. (Reflection might also lead you to surprising discoveries around what has you stuck, what you need to let go of to make room for your next stage.)
Learning, absolutely. For in sharing what you know, you'll also be confronted with what you don't (yet) know, and granted the opportunity to learn. In fact, we all agreed that even if you think you don't know nearly enough about your topic to write a book, start writing and you'll never find a better way to learn what you need to finish the book!
And the writing becomes a doing, right?
And a pivot, too, since you'd become "the author of" as Yvonne likes to say.
Of course, writing a book isn't the only form of pivot that could grow out of this "perfect time" for reflection and learning.
Zigging and zagging in business and life
We also talked about how many pivots we've made, just in the 17+ years since Yvonne and I blended our lives together. Just a taste: we've both been through divorce after lengthy marriages and kids; owned six different houses in two states, NY(2) → CO(3) → NY(1); and built multiple solo, two-person, and larger businesses together.
As business blogging consultants, we've always told clients – and practiced what we preached – that whatever you start out thinking your business is, your clients/customers will tell you what it actually should be. If you're willing to pay attention.
If there's one thing that I can point to as keeping us happily together and hungry for our "next" it's that we've been alert for the signs and ready to pivot.
The secret is: it's always the perfect time!
During the interview, Yvonne recited the sage advice, "If not now, when? If not you, who?"
It might be argued, for the reasons mentioned above, that 2020 is an even more perfect time. But it you're reading this after we've survived this crazy year, don't worry. Most of the reasoning still applies. Always will.
You've likely heard this one:
Q: When is the best time to plant a tree?
A: Twenty years ago.
Q: When is the second best time?
Here's another quote I used in my new ebook, Pivot: Learning Why, When, and How to Change Course with Purpose:
"The important thing is this:
to be able at any moment
to sacrifice what we are
for what we could become."
— Charles DuBos
Is this your moment to pivot?