Hunger was a good discipline!
“Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it.”
In “A Moveable Feast”, Ernest Hemingway recalls his time in Paris as a young writer struggling to make ends meet. “There you could go to the Luxembourg Museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful when you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry.” Hemmingway concluded that he wrote better when he was hungry.
Tough times bring out the best in us and can bring out the best in your business. The pressure to maintain levels of performance, increased market pressure, stiff competition and reduced resources might seem tough, but it may well give you a platform, an opportunity, for radical improvement.
The thing about hunger is it forces you to remove everything but the basics. It brings you back to the very essence of success and what you are trying to achieve. It asks you to answer fundamental questions.
1. Why am I doing this?
Now it is not actually the answer to this question that is important, it is your response to why. If you are not getting a visceral response, something that really means something at a deep and personal level the chances are you will not have the physical and emotional strength to make it successfully through tough times. Difficult times can help you reconnect with what you are doing and why?
2. Do I have a Team that “buys in”?
You don’t get through tough times without a tough team. Adversity often reveals the true nature of a team collectively and individual team members. It tests commitment, levels of trust and most of all the level of ‘buy in’ to the vision of the enterprise. They too, might need to reconnect with why and what it means for them personally. At the heart of it, is a team that believes they can win.
3. Will this help us win?
Reconnecting everyone with a valuable purpose is critical for one simple reason you are going to have to do more with less. Things are not going to be as easy.
BUT, there is nothing more beautiful more exciting than stripping everything back to the very essence of its reason for being. Taking limited resources and focusing them only on things that really matter. It can bring a level of energy and focus that in easy times just isn’t possible.
There is a fundamental question to ask about how you spend your time, effort and resources. It is simply…will this help us win?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, do it with all the energy and effort you can muster. If the answer is ‘no’ get rid of it.
4. Can we get Creative?
Finally, hunger at it’s very heart, has this wonderful way of spawning creativity. You are forced to challenge even your most basic assumptions.
For example, when you are confronted with, “that’s the way we have always done it.” Then simply ask “Why?” Or, if we have done this before, “How can it be changed or improved?”
And the real kicker, if it hasn't ever been done before, then “why couldn’t it be done?”
These were questions you probably asked when you started out but somehow lost along the way.
A FINAL POINT
Now you might say, that these are questions we should always be asking in any enterprise, regardless of our situation. It shouldn’t take difficult times…hunger…to bring them to the surface.
Well, you would be absolutely correct.