I was playing chess with my son, Nathan and he had me cornered, it looked like I had no options. I stayed with the problem, I zoomed out my perspective and considered every angle, and then I saw it, an opportunity to not only get unstuck but to change the game.
An option is the power or liberty to choose. Often, we don’t see our choices because of our framing or conditioning. Certainly, circumstances can restrict our liberty to choose, and yet we always have a choice.
Viktor Frankl, the author of the book, Man's Search for Meaning, a Jewish prisoner of the Nazi death camps destined for the gas chamber, realized…
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
This power to choose one’s own intentions and actions are at the core of self-leadership. It is summed up in the poem Invictus that inspired another prisoner, Nelson Mandela.
“It matters not how straight the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
The French word, ‘entreprendre’ means to undertake and it used to mean to undertake the risk of a journey. The French economist Jean Baptiste Say coined the term Entrepreneur to mean, undertaking the risk of business.
Recently, I was speaking to a cohort of entrepreneurs being developed by a global early-stage venture capital company. I shared learnings from my interviews with entrepreneurs from Singapore, Silicon Valley, and Sweden. I shared how entrepreneurs, like good chess players, keep their options open. The CV of a successful entrepreneur usually shows several businesses started before the right opportunity is found.
Do you know the meaning of the word opportunity?
It means a favorable wind. It comes from the Latin phrase ‘ob portum veniens’ - coming toward a port.
During the height of the pandemic, I was coaching a CEO who was struggling with limited options to grow his company. We explored the metaphor of a sailing ship’s captain when stuck in the doldrums (an area of little or no wind around the equator).
A good captain will set his crew to clean the boat and fix the sails, so that when the wind returns everyone, and everything is ready to maximize the opportunity.
My CEO client took this metaphor and ensured his company was ‘ship shape’ so that he could ‘hoist the sails’ when opportunities returned. The result was two record-breaking quarters!
“Self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling, and actions towards your objectives” – Bryant and Kazan 2012
Self-leadership is owning your options and maximizing opportunities, which is why self-leadership is an essential practice for entrepreneurs, and for anyone who wants to remain relevant.
Research by the McKinsey Global Institute has looked at the kind of jobs that will be lost, as well as those that will be created, as automation, AI, and robotics take hold. And it has inferred the type of high-level skills that will become increasingly important as a result.
Digital fluency is not a surprise, but did you realize how important self-leadership is to the future of work?
So, are you constantly considering your options, and are you ready to hoist your sails and take the opportunities when they arise?
And finally, here's a Haiku I wrote to sum up this post.
15 Minute Masterclass for Senior Executives & Managers
Presenter: Andrew Bryant, Global Authority on Self-Leadership & Executive Presence.