“Please don’t talk to me about 2024. It’s all so miserable, I don’t think I want to know.” This was the view of a colleague last week. It probably sums up the way a lot of us feel. It’s grim out there and getting grimmer. Cost of living. War. Weather. Dark evenings. Politics. Stretched budgets. A right mess. Utterly hopeless. Don’t even try to talk to me about it.
And yet the year ahead is full of opportunity. What?! I know, I know. Stop with the incredulity. Yes. Opportunity. Let me explain. We live in a world of supply and demand. At the moment, there’s a huge opportunity for leadership. The scarcest commodity in the world at present is not a mineral or money, it’s optimism.
Positivity really matters, precisely because there’s not much of it about. The problem is that as humans, we’re pretty much herd animals. It’s really difficult to zig when everyone else is zagging. It feels wrong. It feels lonely. It feels stupid. Can’t you see that everything’s going to pot? Everybody can see it. Yes. No one likes a misplaced optimist. No one likes mindless Micawberism. It looks like they don’t have the empathy to read the room.
Demonstrate Your Ability
There is, however, room to be constructive and thankful. It’s almost as if America recognised the mood change at the onset of winter. It’s when they have Thanksgiving Day. You don’t have to be grinning like running fool. You can just be thankful for the small things. It takes courage to be cheerful and upbeat.
These are exactly the times when you can show your ability. Let’s face it, anyone can cope with the summer months and the better economic times. But you’re not going to stand out much then. So times like these are also full of opportunity. Why? Because opportunity always shows up in disguise. You just have to be able to spot it. Success in any career is always built upon your attitude to failure. Ask any athlete or inventor or scientist or designer. How you behave and act during failure is much more a leading indicator of your potential than any other skill or ability.
This was highlighted by some original research performed by my colleagues over the last few months. The Marketing Engagement Tracker (MET) scored the world’s most successful companies across a series of metrics. This year, they had one thing in common. They were all increasing their activities even though times were tough. There may not be the sales revenue, but there are still opportunities to win trust and reassurance. And this is what makes people stay loyal to a brand or to a company. It’s the ability to think long-term. It’s the brands that are with them through thick and thin. In sickness and in health. In bad times, you can stick by your customers.
So many companies are providing their customers with much more third-party information. It’s a well-known phenomenon that customers always seek more information when faced with uncertainty. In so doing, many companies’ digital security has been lowered.
Politics, Politics, Politics
Apart from what’s going on inside a company, there’s a lot going on outside. Another unusual feature of the year ahead is elections: over 400 of them. There are elections in the US, Russia, Taiwan and probably the UK. The choices are quite stark for instance in the US and Taiwan. These are highly consequential and add to the uncertainty. Nobody likes uncertainty. It all adds to the nervous feeling in the crowd.
It makes it all the harder to make sense of it. The skills of the independent thinker are easy to mistake for those of the idiot. They look stubborn, obsessive, even stupid. Most people think that the struggle to deal with artificial intelligence is nothing compared to what you face with real stupidity. One thing is for sure in these downbeat times: the loudest voice is never the largest. The former may be attention-getting and self-centred. The latter is probably just quietly getting on with it, despite everything.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Of course, it’s really difficult when times are tough because we’re all up against it. What chance have we got to help others, when we’re so busy dealing with own problems? We can’t give anyone else our attention but we must. No one feels better concentrating on their own problems.
The message? Don’t curse the dark. Light a candle. Or to put it another way, keep calm and carry on. It’s not as if we have much alternative. If it’s the end of the world, well it doesn’t matter. If not, then the only risk is being too early for the recovery. Which in itself is way better than being late. Still don’t want to talk about it?