“An oak and a reed were arguing about their strength. When a strong wind came up, the reed avoided being uprooted by bending and leaning with the gusts of wind. But the oak stood firm and was torn up by the roots.”
The Oak and the Reed is one of Aesop's Fables and it deals with the contrasting behaviour of the oak, which trusts in its strength to withstand the storm and is blown over, and the reed that 'bends with the wind' and so survives. Most people think of it as a parable about pride and humility, along with advice on how to survive in turbulent times.
Being amidst a global pandemic, COVID-19, I believe there are lessons we can learn from it. Although some of us will have lived through mild influenza pandemics in the 21st and 20th century, COVID-19, thanks to travel and globalisation, is a pandemic like no other.
For years I’ve written and presented on how the way we work and do business will change things, but COVID-19 will go one step further. It’s going to accelerate everything. And although we’ve not technically hit a recession yet – typically you need two consecutive quarters of economic decline, as reflected by GDP in conjunction with monthly indicators like employment (so we’re in a financial crisis) – one is coming.
Now, while this will hit many businesses hard, every cloud has a silver lining. If you think about what’s happened since the last recession – in the the late 2000s and early 2010s – we’ve created more wealth, educated more people, got more people out of poverty, developed more technologies, and seen more female leaders running or starting businesses than ever before.
Our business models have been adjusting – steadily moving from scarcity to abundancy. And, it’s why I believe during this period; we’re going to be greater than we’ve ever been and why I want to encourage you to see what’s happening now as an opportunity rather than a disaster.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for growth and transformation. It presents us with an opportunity to reset, to unify and come together as a community. It’s a time for healing destructive behaviour and repairing a lot of the division that’s going on in the world.
Sure, COVID-19 is a time of death, and it’s tragic to lose a loved one. Please don’t think I’m downplaying it. But, it’s also a time of joy and birth.
In the next few weeks, months and years, we’re going to see a new paradigm emerge, and as leaders, it’s really important you get to a place of good thinking as soon as you can. I’m talking about expansive thinking rather than limited thinking, the latter of which comes from a place of fear. During the past week, I’ve had many conversations with leaders who’ve been overwhelmed. Some have even been in tears.
I get this. But a contracted thought only attracts more contraction. And, scarcity feeds scarcity. But, no matter what stage you’re at in your business – launch, growth, shake-out, maturity –as an entrepreneur, who is to thrive during these times, you can’t afford to act in this way.
So, here’s what I want you to do.
I want you to access your three brains that live in your head, heart and gut. I want you to think of your three brains like an orchestra, with billions of neurons cooperating to produce a harmonic symphony. Let’s look at them now.
Your head brain – during times of danger, your body will work on autopilot to keep you safe. Its automatic response is going to be fight, flight or freeze, commonly known as F3. To ensure a successful outcome from COVID-19, you can’t let that happen. You must ensure you’re making sound decisions and not triggering the part of your brain that will result in the F3 response.
Although neuroscience has never really embraced the American physician and neuroscientist, Paul MacLean’s, infamous Triune Brain theory, whose basic idea is that every human brain contains three independent competing minds – the reptile, the early mammal and the modern primate – I believe there’s merit in looking at it.
McLean argued that there are three areas in our brain, the:
- Reptilian complex or primal brain (survival, sensations, impulses and instinct).
- Paleo-mammalian complex or monkey brain – limbic brain (emotions, feelings, memory and drama).
- Neo-mammalian complex or rational brain – the neocortex (processing information, reasoning, self-awareness, verbal expression, language and visioneering).
Quick scribble to illustrate this
The first two areas of the brain work at speed and the third works more slowly.
With this in mind, now is a great time for you to become more mindful and one of the best ways for you to do this is by practicing mindfulness. All that means is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. When you practice mindfulness, your thoughts tune into what you're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future, which can trigger depression or anxiety.
Meditating, taking a walk in nature, dancing, listening to music, taking a relaxing bath, cooking, gardening, or doing anything that’s creative or physical can also help you tune into your neocortex so you can get more centred and more able to make better decisions.
As an entrepreneur, this is a great time to look at your mission, your why, and your values. It’s a great time to revisit your pitch as you’ll most likely need a different message. It’s a great time to innovate and think about new products, services or ways of executing in your business. And, it’s a great time to decide who you are and how you want to show up in the world because...
“How you do anything is the way you do everything, and therefore, how you show up in the world is the way life shows up for you.”
Your heart brain – when you’re faced with a challenge, when you have to walk through the fires, or weather a storm, you can do so in an open or close hearted manner. If you’re close hearted, then you’re going to close down, block, protect and be rigid – like the oak. In cyber, this way comes very naturally to us. It’s our default setting. But, if you’re going to be open hearted, then you’re going to need to be expansive, to bend and lean like the reed. It may feel wrong, especially right now as many of us are having to self-isolate, limit our travel, reorganise meetings so they’re online, or to work from home away from others. However, you must find a way to build community and unify, as the only way we’re going to get through these troubled times is with other people.
Your gut brain – this is where your intuition lives and whenever you have awareness, inner knowing, or feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, elation and so on – then you’ll feel it in your stomach. The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to emotion, so if something doesn't feel right, listen to your gut.
So just before I give you a checklist of the five things all cybersecurity entrepreneurs need to do to weather the COVID-19 storm, I want to tell you a story. It’s looks to nature for its inspiration, and it involves the caterpillar and the transformation it goes through in order to turn into a butterfly.
Most of you will remember being taught about this lifecycle as children. But, I’m curious to know whether you remember being told about the miracle that actually occurs at chrysalis. I don’t, so if you’re like me, let me enlighten you.
As soon as a caterpillar reaches its full size, it stops eating and forms a chrysalis. At this state of the metamorphosis, the caterpillar is unable to move and dissolves itself into an organic goop. Tiny dormant cells, known as imaginal cells, begin a process of creating a new form and structure. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells. They carry different information, vibrate to a different frequency – the frequency of the emerging butterfly – and operate independently as single-cell organisms.
Yet, the imaginal cells are the parts of a caterpillar that hold the information of the butterfly. They’re latent within the cell until it’s time for them to grow. Even though they’re regarded as threats and are attacked by the caterpillar’s immune system, they persist, multiply, and connect with each other. Eventually, the imaginal cells form clusters and clumps, begin resonating at the same frequency and passing information back and forth until they hit a tipping point. They begin acting not as discrete individual cells anymore, but as a multi-cell organism. And that’s when the butterfly is born.
So, the lesson here is this. Don’t let your energy – your vibrations – or your monkey brain, govern. This time of crisis is about transformation, leading and getting ahead. Like the cells of the butterfly that hold the vision for the future and their chosen way of being, it’s about having a clear vision for your future and coming together. It’s about resetting and removing things (people, processes and tools) that aren’t serving you. It’s about re-awakenings, too and laying out new ideas, creating new ways, and, contributing to our evolution.
So, the choice is yours. You can be like the caterpillar and adhere to the old ways that are unsustainable, or you can be like the butterfly and advance.
As a successful cybersecurity entrepreneur, I hope you choose to be like the butterfly, for this time has never been better for business. You know adversaries don’t slow down. Just like any other time a major news story breaks, or there’s a world event, or even a regular national event (like tax submission season), they seize an opportunity to launch attacks against unsuspecting victims.
Right now, cybercriminals are exploiting people’s fears around COVID-19. Seeing opportunities during times of crisis, they’re targeting everyone and when it comes to businesses, they’ve started with hospitals. Most are mounting effective phishing campaigns, launching malware and infecting systems with ransomware. And, whilst some businesses might be postponing on-site tests or training, the vast majority will be needing extra people-power on account of sickness, gearing up, putting their plans into action, or seeking help to develop them because they know they’ll be next. COVID-19 highlights just how ill prepared so many businesses are.
With this fresh perspective, please think about what you need to do, say and feel right now so you can get back into alignment.
Here’s a checklist of five things to help you...
- Look after your mind and health. Cast away negative thoughts, heavy energies or people. Be open minded and hearted. Clear, sort, let go of, and simplify as much as you can.
- Feel your feelings. Relax into your fears. Go there. You’re allowed to. Have a cry, get angry, scream and shout if you need to. You don’t need to splurge on social media. Just move through your feelings. Shake them out of your body, literally.
- Ask for help from your future self, from peers in business (who’ve done what you want to do) or invest in a coach (I'm available ). Think about how you want to be, how you want your business to be, how hard you want to work, and how you want to live your life. Know or remember that you’re a lifeforce, a creator, and have the ability to manifest and action what you want. You are the solution to so many problems, so shake off the fear and power up!
- Be available for the miracles and the gold on your path. Trust in the process. All is well.
- Give thanks for your blessings and all those that are to come. See them and feel them. You are living a truly blessed life, so share your gratitude.
Now I want to hear from you…
- Tell me what insights you have on COVID-19 and how you're weathering the storm in cybersecurity.
And, if you’d like to know more about my IN Profit Mastermind that's been designed for high performing leaders (entrepreneurs, VPs, MDs, Partners, Heads of, CISOs, CSOs, CIOs) message me now or sign up here - http://bit.ly/INProfitMastermind
PS. I've got less than 10 places available and places are filling up fast. This is a high value programme, for leaders who are committed to transformation and willing to invest in terms of time, energy and finances.