It was perfect running weather. It was early morning, with not a cloud in the sky and just enough chill in the air to make your legs pump a bit faster. I took off into the hills and felt as if I could run forever. As I took a slight curve in the road, there was a sudden break in the trees. Out of the corner of my eye, an image leaped out in front of me. I thought it was a bear. I jumped off the road, my heart pounding.
I scanned the area. But there was no rabid animal or hungry bear. Standing in front of me was my own long, outstretched shadow. Nothing else.
I laughed at myself and on somewhat shaky legs, took off again. As I ran, my shadow kept perfect pace with me. I laughed even harder. Oh man, I couldn’t believe I was so terrified of my own shadow!
In life, on a run, and in business, things have a way of jumping out at us at unexpected times. We may not always know what to do when that happens, but still, we have to be prepared. As we navigate our businesses, we scan the road for dangers that lie ahead. Some are more expected. We know it’s not if they will occur, but when they will occur. The economy is a perfect example. Nothing goes up forever; we all know that eventually there will be economic downturns or falling housing markets that will affect our service markets and businesses. We can prepare for them in advance.
Many times, the anticipation of an impending event is much worse than the damage it really creates. When news comes of new taxes, regulations, or insurance requirements, many of us become convinced that this will be the downfall of our business. Several years ago, some restaurants were convinced raises in minimum wage and tip credits would put them all out of business. Instead, they found themselves with happier, more dedicated employees.
Sometimes what jumps out at you is not your harmless shadow, but something evil and scary that you never even imagined was possible, and we could never fully prepare for. September 11, 2001, was a beautiful morning similar to my recent early morning run. No one was prepared for the devastation that followed.
For many of us, 2020 was going to be the start of a new decade to reshape ourselves and our businesses. But then the coronavirus pandemic leaped out of nowhere and immediately transformed our businesses and the communities we live in. We may not know what is going to jump out in front of us down the road, but being prepared for something to unexpectedly appear is half the battle.
I wasn’t ready the morning my shadow scared me. I’d forgotten what to do if a bear was in my path. But before I ran again, I made sure to research what to do. For those wondering, stop and back away slowly while making loud noises. The more prepared we are, the more our natural instincts kick in when faced with a crisis.
When the coronavirus jumped out at us, our industry did not run away scared. We stood strong and united ourselves as an industry. We adapted service protocols and safety protections. We proved that our services are essential.
Keep your eyes on the road, but hopefully, shadows will be the only things jumping out at us.
Have a great run!