Even the very best Business Development can be as unpredictable as the weather. In one moment you’re relaxing in the sunshine, then suddenly you’re in the eye of the storm. So any philosophy that focuses on the sheer ability to endure will be invaluable.
It’s in this arena of grit and tenacity that the ancient, but practical, Greek philosophy of Stoicism finds its home. Put bluntly, Stoicism is hellbent on overcoming obstacles and becoming a better at things.
The philosophy had three famous proponents, who were pretty tough guys to say the least; sounding more like an ancient superhero team than a group of beardy scholars:
- Epictetus, a man born as a slave who worked his way to founding his own school of philosophy.
- Seneca, who rose through the ranks of Government, only to find himself exiled before working his way up again. Most importantly, Seneca still took all this misfortune with grace.
- Marcus Aurelius, considered by modern historians as one of the “5 good emperors of Rome”. Aurelius could have fallen prey to all the usual trappings of being one of the most powerful men in the world, but instead championed a philosophy of restraint, compassion and humility.
Their teachings, summarised in 3 key points, can help any professional weather the storms of business development:
1.) Keep thinking about that shipwreck!
While Seneca was a very rich man for most of his life, he made a strong habit of something called “practicing misfortune”. This is achieved by simulating the absolute worst case scenario in your head until you know it like a best friend. The outcome here is that nothing will ever phase you, because you’ve already prepared for the worst.
So, for example, if you don’t close that hot lead you’ve been working on for months, you’re now fully prepared and can move on with minimal fuss!
2.) But…what if that shipwreck makes you a better swimmer?
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Stoicism advises us to actively seek the positive in all negative events, going one step further than occssionaly “seeing the silver lining to every cloud”. This was a mental excercise they called “Turning the obstacle upside down”.
Essentially, the stoics believed that every “bad” thing was leading you towards new virtues and opportunities. For example, if a decision maker is not seeing the value in your product, this may allow you to learn more about your proposition and finely tune your target market.
3.) In the end, all storms pass
“We should act as we do in seafaring ‘What can I do?’ – choose the master, the crew, the day, the opportunity. Then comes a sudden storm. What matters it to me? My part has been fully done…For I am not Eternity, but a human being – a part of the whole, as an hour is part of the day. I must come like the hour, and like the hour must pass!” – Epictetus
This last point is surprisingly simple, but with big results: always remember how small you really are in the grand scheme of things.
If your having a rough month and having little success ask yourself how long that month is compared to the year, the decade, or indeed your lifespan and further? It’s this type of broad thinking that allows the Stoic to keep perspective, endure short-term storms, and eventually find the sunny weather.