Posted on January 10, 2021  
by Noel Guilford

There are a lot of good things to say about 2020, although I suspect that when its history is written most of them will have been forgotten.

Like the meteor that wiped out dinosaurs, 2020 will be blamed for many ills, whereas in fact issues such as the decline in ‘old’ retail and advances in technology have been trending for years. Some were exacerbated by the lockdown but were going to happen anyway.

Add to which a significant number of businesses, including many in retail, have survived and even prospered by embracing new technology, doing something different and figuring out how to sell online. They just don’t make the headlines like a good business closure and loss of jobs. The most successful survivors figured out high-end selling secrets while the now-extinct hung on to the old ‘safe’ way of doing things.

It was ever thus; Blockbuster and HMV didn’t have a pandemic on which to blame their lack of foresight. (Blockbuster’s board actually had the opportunity to acquire Netflix before it became well known but rejected it because 12% of Blockbuster’s revenue came from late fees, on which it relied and didn’t believe the video rental model was viable without them).

But it is generally from the positives that we learn and grow. We should remind ourselves that obstacles aren’t there to stop us but to challenge us to find ways through, over and round them to leave the world a better place than when we found it.

Because, while many of us have learned to cope well with adversity, we need different techniques to exploit the opportunities that are arriving such as how to leverage the inadequacies of past strategies, how to permanently engage in remote work and motivate remote teams, how to acquire business without being present, and how to create new, innovative offerings.

But not everyone embraces innovation, and so they fail to realise their vision because they are afraid of the journey. They’re not certain how to get there or, if they are, they’re afraid that the risks are too great. They play it safe and need assurances and guarantees which, of course, are not to be had in any great journey. You must travel the road yourself.

So as you prepare for the new year don’t let the fear of failure (or any other fear) hold you back. The most successful people take risks and are willing to fail.

In fact this is the best time in history to take risks and innovate. Last weekend the Chancellor pledged to “reward risk-takers and entrepreneurs”. The Prime Minister said that “big changes” were coming and that his core aim was to “spread opportunity”. It is to be hoped that these sentiments lead to credible policies.

To do so they must encourage imagination, invention and innovation. But you don’t need the Government to tell you that; what is needed is self-leadership (the ability to take risks and the resiliency to recover from setbacks). Your destiny is really in your own hands, but the challenge is to be willing to be bold about your journey and steadfast in your goals. Otherwise, other people are creating their own futures which simply involve you.

Richard Koch, the author of Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It suggests that “success does not require genius, consistency, all-round ability, a safe pair of hands or even basic competence”, but instead having “self-belief, Olympian expectations and thriving on setbacks.”

We learned that in 2020; the development of vaccines against Covid-19 in record time was a triumph of innovation and experimentation and a departure from the overbearing application of caution.

Embracing a regulatory framework where new ideas can flourish and prosper – and failure is accepted as normal – would be a start to delivering the future the Prime Minister and Chancellor claim to desire.

So as another new year unfolds take the ‘bravery pill’, pursue your dream and step out of your comfort zone. There may never be a better time.


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Noel Guilford

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