For centuries, prolonged service at sea resulted in ancient mariners contracting a malady called scurvy. Those so afflicted bruised easily, had joint pain, gum disease, tooth loss – you get the picture.
By the 18th-century, researchers discovered that eating citrus fruit, like lemons and limes, would prevent scurvy. Of course, you already know the active ingredient in this “remedy” is vitamin C, found in the ascorbic acid delivered by eating those fruits. But I betcha didn’t know ascorbic is Latin for “no scurvy.”
An unfortunate reality that small business mariners experience on their marketplace voyage is a condition I’ve named professional scurvy. This malady doesn’t cause your teeth to fall out, but it does produce symptoms like high levels of negative energy, low levels of performance, and an easily bruised ego resulting in an unfortunately high rate of professional shipwrecks.
The good news is, similar to the clinical kind, professional scurvy can be cured with a supplement I call Professional Vitamin C. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’ve identified four of these. And you should be pleased to learn that, like limes and lemons, these marketplace nutrients are low-hanging fruit. Here are the four Professional Vitamin Cs, followed by a bonus nutrient.
A wise explorer once said that courage is being brave after you’ve had time to think about it. The good news is most challenges in the marketplace allow enough time to think about them and apply a healthy dose of Vitamin Courage. But those challenges won’t wait long, and even small ones left ignored and/or denied have the potential to wash you up on the island of failure.
As the backbone of leadership, arguably the most powerful intangible force in a professional life, Vitamin Courage is an essential nutrient. Demonstrating leadership purifies Vitamin Courage and holds you hard by to your values – what you really stand for – causing employees to follow you and customers to come back.
When asked to comment on the thousands of failures his experiments produced on the way to becoming arguably the greatest inventor of useful things, Thomas Edison’s response was, essentially, that each failure was valuable because it successfully identified what didn’t work.
Undiluted success tends to inflate the ego, which in high concentration can be professionally dangerous. But success alloyed with failure forges confidence, which is essential for any successful voyage.
Vitamin Confidence manifests as faith in your ability to sail through present and future danger, experiencing failure and success, and converting both into opportunities that lead to the next discovery.
Novelist James Lane Allen is credited with saying, “adversity doesn’t create character, it reveals it.”
Contracts are the transactional laws of the marketplace. But when an adverse wind blows against you, more than the words or signatures on paper, it’s the character of captain and crew that ultimately delivers the cargo successfully to the destination.
Marketplace storms don’t create Vitamin Character, they reveal it – like doing the right thing even if the contract doesn’t require it – which creates more customers you can’t run off and a fearless crew that will fight the kraken for you.
This vitamin is arguably the nexus of the others because courage without capability is the definition of foolhardy; confidence without resources is what Texans call “all hat and no cattle;” and character without knowledge is a well-intentioned commitment that probably can’t be kept.
All the best intentions won’t result in a successful voyage without adequate levels of Vitamin Credential — education, skill, experience, and resources — that can back up your business plan and commitment to deliver.
And now, that bonus nutrient.
Vitamin R – Reinvention
Every ancient mariner to ever set sail for parts unknown understood that they’d encounter circumstances requiring unplanned adjustments in their course and possibly even the original purpose of their journey. Even if their ship’s store stocked plenty of limes.
If you ask a modern marketplace mariner who’s old enough to have more than a few entries in the ship’s log of their career, they’ll report that somewhere along their professional journey, circumstances required unplanned adjustments in their course and possibly even the original purpose of their journey.
What both of these explorers have in common is Vitamin R – they had to reinvent themselves. Even if they prepared as best they could and didn’t do anything wrong, they had to make adjustments while under sail. And as Edison taught us, sometimes a shift that begins looking like a shipwreck turns into discovering gold. In my long career, reinvention has been required more than once.
Today, as we transition our journey from mid-pandemic survival to post-pandemic recovery, each of us will deal with some level of reinvention. In this case, not because we wanted something different, like a new career direction, or because we did something wrong and got fired. But because an invisible kraken changed the world in front of our eyes.
Consequently, for those who deliver products and services to the marketplace, the pandemic reset reality will require varying doses of Vitamin R. To meet the resulting marketplace shifts and evolving customer expectations, we’ll have to do what every ancient mariner who lived to tell their story had to do: adjust our course for some level of reinvention.
Write this on a rock … Steer around storms and defeat the krakens with the application of all the professional vitamins.