Finding your own stability in an unstable world

Natalia Bochan
5 min readApr 16, 2021

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Photo by KT on Unsplash

You can also read this article in Spanish here.

UNCERTAINTY

In my CMO role, I used to organize my team of 10 gathering in some place far from the offices, cities, and other limits. Somewhere in nature where we could speak openly, know each other better and plan where we want to go next.

I used those retreats to first and foremost motivate and inspire my team, to help them overcome the barriers they had in their careers and those we had as a team. And in the last few years one source of stress was especially relevant and difficult to solve — fear of uncertainty and constant change. It was blocking many initiatives, exhausting energies and caused refusal to propose goals and challenges outside of the daily ones.

And it was logical to see those reactions in people when the company strategy was changing so often. How can it not change if the technology advances at blazing speed? New players enter almost daily, and they come from spaces you don’t expect them to, from spaces that don’t seem to have anything to do with your industry. And yet they enter firmly and eat your lunch as soon as you get distracted for a second.

Did the hotels expect Airbnb to appear, with no buildings of their own, and steal the tourists from them? Did taxi companies envision that tech startups with no cars at all take their business away? I was working at a company that developed Contact Center software, pretty specialized and complex type of software, and their lunch is being eaten by CRMs and marketing software companies. Who would have thought?

(image source: https://arunsplace.com/2016/01/27/the-case-for-digital-moats)

And of course, all these non-stop changes re not easy to deal with. In one of those retreats, in 2019, I told my team that our biggest strength those days was

ADAPTABILITY

I told them, among other things, the following:

We talk a lot lately about robots, how they will or will not replace humans, what are the characteristics that we humans have and robots can’t learn. There are many, right? Empathy, authentic emotions and recognition of emotions, humor, sarcasm, love… But there is a very important one: adaptability.

In 1996 Gari Kasparov played chess with the Deep Blue and the machine lost. Next year, they played again, and the machine won. Why? In chess there is a fixed context (board with 64 squared, white and black), fixed start (the disposition of the figures on the board) and a fixed set of rules. The moment when the machine overcame the capacity of it’s rival to store all possible combinations and process them in the time which is acceptable for the game, it won.

What most people who know this story don’t know is that the machine required a lot of energy for that game, thousands of watts, while human brain is about 20. And the machine required a huge ventilation to avoid overheat from its computational activity, while Kasparov played at a normal temperature.

(image source: https://computerhistory.org/blog/ai-and-play-part-1-how-games-have-driven-two-schools-of-ai-research/)

But what if some sudden change had happened during the game? Something unexpected, which was not in the rules? Would the machine be able to reprogram itself and adapt to keep applying the algorithms quickly enough? And what if the context changed more than once?

This is our biggest strength today: adaptability.

Not the capacity of memorizing data, machines can do it for us. Not the capacity of doing things perfectly. The capacity of unlearn and re-learn.

Change is your best tool.

Experiment.

Learn.

Improve.

Get recognition.

Help others to improve.

And measure — to be able to learn and improve.

That’s what I told them in 2019. Before we all had to go through even bigger change and adaptation due to the cause that was external to our teams, companies and countries. Pandemic made us all to adapt on many different levels and not many options were presented.

Now, if capacity to adapt was our biggest strength already (and I am not any visionary, I was simply analyzing the environment and making my conclusions, just any other person was doing), what do we need today to keep our motivation, ability to grow and be happy?

STABILITY: LOOK FOR IT INSIDE OF YOURSELF

Sorry to disappoint you, I don´t have any data-based and 100% guarantee answers to this question. No one has. But I believe that to stand still and continue walking firmly we all have to go back to our values.

Go deep into your inner self and ask yourself:

  • What does really matter to me personally?
  • What I love and what I want?
  • What is inacceptable for me?

And try to forget about all the social concepts, imposed standards and principles. Think about yours. Ask yourself “why” again and again and again, like a little kid would do, until you figure our your real, your deepest why. That’s what the famous motivator Simon Sinek recommends to start always: with why?

(image source: https://www.geeknack.com/2019/04/20/simon-sinek-start-with-why)

What type of job you want to have? Why? How much are you willing to invest — time, effort, personal growth — to get it? Why are you choosing to complain instead of changing your destiny?

What kind of people you want your children to become? Why? Why is that important to you? What are you willing to do — or sacrifice — to make it happen?

What do you want to spend time on and what is waste of time for you? Why? How are you going to change what you’re doing now?

What lifestyle do you want to have? Why? And why don’t you? What are your red lines that is not acceptable for you to cross?

The honest answers to these questions and understanding of your real values will give you the stability you won’t find outside. And this inner stability will grant you an amazing flexibility and capacity to adapt — while keeping a steady path to whatever goals you set for yourself.

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