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The world is unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen on a given day. Sometimes what has always worked stops working. When something happens that changes the game, it can cause fear, doubt, and worry. Change can be difficult, but there is no formula for success that does not include change. Instead of being afraid, a healthy way to see change is to view it as a pivot towards success.

What is a pivot?

In her book, Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next Oneauthor Jenny Blake defines a pivot as “to switch quickly and successfully from one trajectory to the next.” Pivot towards success means one is willing to face the fear of change and discover the opportunities that each new day brings.

Case study: Restaurant owner Nick Kokonas

One of the industries most impacted by the recent worldwide pandemic is food and hospitality. Owners of thriving restaurants were forced to close their doors. Restaurants went from operating at near capacity before the coronavirus to zero customers.

A case in point is the innovative leadership of entrepreneur Nick Kokonas. Nick is the founder of the phenomenally successful Alinea restaurant in Chicago. Alinea is world-renowned and has been awarded almost every accolade possible in the industry. Nick also built the best in class Tock application, a reservation management platform for restaurants.

According to an article published by Fast Company, he converted his restaurants in the Alinea group from elite dine-in experiences to high-quality carry-out services.

First, he adjusted the menu. A typical customer at Alinea was paying an average of $375 per person. The chefs found a creative way to prepare a carry-out meal that met their standard of excellence but could be sold at a price point for less than $40 per person. It was a savings of 90% for their customers.

Second, he leveraged the technology of the Tock application to facilitate carry-out orders instead of table reservations. Instead of having a crisis-reaction, Nick and his team approached the problem with creativity and innovation. Nick said, “It’s about making a bridge to the future and keeping our businesses viable so that they can reopen.”

What does that mean for me?

Nick is a restaurant owner that wanted to continue selling food. He had to find a new way to be successful because of changes that were beyond his control. You can do the same thing. If you embrace change, you can find new ways to be productive and successful.

Although no two situations are identical, there are basic elements that make up a successful pivot.

Here are three simple ways to embrace change and stay productive

1. Ask yourself clarifying questions

Not long ago, I left a company where I worked for more than twenty years. Everything normal for me was changing. I needed a clear direction for my future. As a productive person, I wanted to do something, but I knew that I needed to clarify my thoughts.

I took a simple inventory of my life. I asked myself what makes me happy. Next, I thought about my skills, my education, and my work experience. Finally, I realized that writing is my greatest passion. My love for writing is an unchanging constant in my life. It has always been the most meaningful part of my work. Once it was clear in my mind, I had the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to clarify your thinking

1. Learn from the past

  • What past accomplishments make you most proud?
  • What has my education and experience prepared me to do?
  • Name something that if you stopped doing it, you would not miss it.

2. Observe the present

  • What makes me happy?
  • List your top skills. What am I good at?
  • What is the most fulfilling part of my work?

3. Dream for the future

  • What does change make possible for me?
  • Where do I want to be in one year?
  • What is my ideal position?

For more great insights on clarifying questions, read this article on 5 Questions to Help You Discover Your Purpose.

2. Identify opportunities

I have a friend who owns a small café. It is a one-person operation, but no less a successful business than a large corporation like Alinea. My friend closed the doors to her cafe, like all other restaurants. The COVID-19 crisis forced her to make changes.

After some time to clarify her thoughts, she realized there was an opportunity to do something new. It was near Mother’s Day. She realized people want to give gifts to their mothers, but normal shopping was not possible because most of the retail stores were closed too. She used her resources to design some gift-baskets that could be delivered to a customer’s home. Not only was it a great success, but it was the genesis for a new business venture that will continue even when the cafe returns to regular operation.

A few weeks later, when businesses opened again, I was in a coffee shop talking with one of the employees while I waited on my order. I mentioned the new business selling gift baskets, and it immediately sparked a positive reaction. It was clear that there was an interest in this type of personalized delivery service in the city where I live. When the doors to the restaurant closed, the door of opportunity opened to sell gift baskets.

The discovery process made simple

The opportunities to pivot may look different in your city or within your company, but there is something new waiting for you to discover it. It may even be an idea you already have in your mind. Now is the time to make a move towards it.

At first, it may seem overwhelming. We know how you feel, and we can help you deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Making important decisions about your life, your education, or your career can be intimidating, but there is no need to be afraid. I promise you can do this. Don’t think about it as a mountain that is too high to climb. Instead, see it as a process with some simple steps. Each step takes you closer to your goal. When you arrive, you will feel so much relief. It will give you the confidence to move forward.

Here are some practical ways you can identify opportunities without being overwhelmed.

1. Idea generation

Make a list of all of those ideas you have had in the past about how things could improve or something you always wished you could do. You will be surprised how many great ideas are just waiting to surface when you make time for discovery. Many people are visual thinkers, and making a mind map can be a very effective way of collecting and organizing your ideas. For a better understanding of how effective mind-mapping can be for idea generation, read this great article on Effective Brainstorming Using Mind Maps.

2. Alignment

A great place to start is by recognizing how your knowledge and skills may be perfectly aligned with a new opportunity.

3. Network

Sit down with a trusted friend and brainstorm ways to innovate in your city or company. Saying things aloud is another excellent way to activate your creativity. Some of the best ideas are born in this kind of spontaneous moments. Creative thinking does not have to be hard. In fact, we have a great resource to help you unlock your creativity.

3. Define your next move

My friend, who is launching a new business selling gift baskets, proved the concept by selling them on Mother’s Day weekend. It was an experiment. She took a small step in the direction of her vision for the future. She started with an idea, but she found success because she made a move.

Successful people recognize that there is always a next move. When you do a deep dive into a subject like embracing change and making plans for your future, it can produce a lot of ideas. Ideas alone are not enough. You need to transform your ideas into actions. To help you move forward, the Asian Efficiency team has a resource that can assist you to Turn Notes Into Actionable Steps.

Next Steps

Embrace change in your life and stay productive by

  1. Asking yourself clarifying questions
  2. Identifying opportunities
  3. Defining your next move

Here’s how:

  • Focus on just one big change that you are facing in your life.
  • In a text editor or on a piece of paper, write down your answers to the clarifying questions from this article.
  • Follow the process for identifying opportunities.
  • Take your first step. Don’t be afraid to take small steps. Even small changes can have a big impact.

Are you currently working from home because of recent changes? Register here to join our FREE training on how to be productive working from home. The training will include apps, tools, and routines that you can use.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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