Are you a victor or a victim?

Last week I was talking to two different business owners, both were in similar circumstances, but they told me very different stories.

Business Owner 1

This business owner runs a marketing firm that focuses on urban real estate companies. They had some terrible years in 2008 – 2012 — but the owner told a very positive story about that time. He told me about how the adversity of those times made him stronger as a leader. The agency was forced to branch out slightly from its prior target market. They started working with some for-profit student housing companies and found some REITs who were “flipping” apartment buildings that needed their help. Both of those sectors are going strong right now, and his agency is more profitable than ever!

Business Owner 2

A second owner runs a social media agency. She kept talking about the “good times” when everyone wanted to be on social, and she was beating clients back with a stick. Now she’s finding it much tougher to win clients. “It just seems like no one wants to do social media anymore…” She told me. We talked about the boom in Instagram, but she’s not “into video” and the ad platform wasn’t something she wanted to get into. She told me that Facebook Ads have been taken over “by experts”. Every adjacent avenue I picked she had some “reason” that it wasn’t right for her. 

Honestly, it was exhausting talking to her. One reason, er, excuse after another. What she really wanted was for “it to go back the way it was”. Sorry, I don’t see that happening!

What’s the difference?

Both leaders faced adversity. Both companies had a strong presence in a market that suddenly changed. But their reactions to it (so far) are very different.

One owner took stock of the situation and looked for some adjacent markets where his company’s skills were valuable. The other is yearning for a return to the way things were.

If I slowed the first owner down and asked him about how he felt during the market shutdown of ‘08/‘09 I’m sure he’d tell me about feeling fear and even panic. He’d tell me about times when he was asking why this was happening, and imaginations of a future where he and his family were living under a bridge somewhere. (I’ve lived in that fear more than once!) Those feelings, though they are powerful, didn’t paralyze him. Amid those feelings, he found a way to take action. He found the fortitude to go on in the face of that fear.

In any situation we are in there’s a way to tell our story as a victim (“The market’s declining, what can I do?”) or as a victor (“The market’s declining if I can find a way to survive I’ll have a huge advantage!”). Choosing to live the victor’s story gives you the power and the agency for it to become your story.

Where are you living in a victim story today? How can you reframe it so that you are on track to tell that same story as a victor?

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