[PODCAST] How Your Mindset Navigates Crisis, Spots Opportunity

An Interview with Mike Smith

By Ira S Wolfe and Keith Campagna

For the time being (and very likely from now to forever), uncertainty is the new normal. It seems that overnight the lines between science fiction and reality blurred, pushing governance and infrastructure to their limits, and testing the resilience and determination of humanity. For some of you, this uncertainty sends chills up and down your spine. It creates mental paralysis. For others, it serves as an adrenaline boost. Doors to opportunity and growth fly open right before our eyes. 

What’s the difference between these two responses to crisis? Mindset. That’s the focus of this episode of Geeks Geezers and Googlization.

How can a mindset shift save your career, grow your business, help you prosper in the new normal? Let’s start with this example.  You’re the owner of a convenience store. Traffic has dwindled. Gas sales are down. Store traffic slowed to a crawl. Instead of focusing on convenience, the owner shifted his mindset to necessity. Instead of convenience, he was now selling essential items like milk, take-out-foods, and Tylenol.

Throughout the world, there is a rapidly growing list of both unknowns and opportunities. People everywhere are asking “when will life get back to normal?” The candid and difficult-to-hear answer is “never.” Life is forever changing even under normal circumstances. Just watch this!  We can never go back but we can adapt to life in a new normal.

Of course, wars, pandemics, and even economic depressions have always produced changes that massively disrupted our norms, conventions, and assumptions. But Covid-19 is different. It’s creating even greater uncertainty and angst. The speed and breadth of its evolution are unprecedented. It has abruptly taken the concept of an “exponential curve” from the classroom into your work, your community, and even your home. Exponential change is no longer just an example of how technology disrupts that academia and thought leaders ponder, but an emotional experience that even toddlers and young children can understand and appreciate.

So what must leaders and individuals do to adapt to this new normal? How can you help clarify what’s next? What are the tools we need to survive the crisis and thrive after we receive the “all-clear.” That’s exactly the topic we tackled in this week’s Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization podcast, The New Normal Survival Kit, Shift Your Mindset. We were fortunate enough to have Michael Smith, Founder and CEO of Hiring Stage, as our guest.  

“Our mindset impacts outcomes.”

Mike has spent his career helping business leaders and individuals identity and leverage their internal strength in good times and in bad. Mike shared, “when a crisis appears, there is a natural reaction to feel overwhelmed and unprepared.” As odd as it seems, anxiety and stress is normal; it’s our constant in a sea of abnormal. But it’s normal only up to a point. By allowing our response to become fear and obsession, we become victims. We can’t control the event but we can control how we respond. “What happens next will be dictated by your mindset.” Mike told our listeners. “Our mindset impacts outcomes.”

Prepare for a New Normal

There is no quick fix to this pandemic. Powering forward to new normal will take time. It’s improbable there will be a universal all-clear signal. Going back to work will look different in every company, in different industries, for each of us. There are, however, well-documented steps people can take to prepare, to get ready, and to transform challenges into opportunities. 

The first step you need to take is actually a step-back to understand how stress impacts your mindset. It begins with our brain. 

Our brain is an incredible organ. Every 60 seconds, 86 million electrical signals are sent out by our brain and 600 million bits of visual information are received and sent to our brain. But not all parts of our brain process information the same. The primary role of our “old-brain”, the amygdala, is to identify and protect us from danger, providing us with our “flight or fight” instinct. Ironically, this survival instinct comes with a significant downside when it comes to adaptation to a new normal. It’s called the “amygdala hijack.” When we’re operating in stress mode, the brain redirects resources and directs our attention away from creativity, empathy, and patience toward find the enemy, real or perceived.  While protecting us from danger, it also makes it much harder to find solutions to the very problems we’re trying to solve. 

To defuse the hijack, we need to clear our mind. Mike offered a simple and free technique, meditation. Grab a chair. Sit down with your feet resting on the floor. Close your eyes. Take a slow, deep breath. Hold it a few seconds. Feel the air fill your nostrils and airways. Now let it out slowly, feeling the air exit your body. Repeat it a few times. It works, it really does!

Neuroscience suggests that one of the most significant impediments to change is our assumption that worked in the past will work as well in the future. That worked in a linear growth age but living on the exponential curve is a whole new ball game. The past is no longer a reliable guide. Status quo is over. Adaptability and agility are essential.

 To make this leap, Mike framed adaptability in terms of Carol Dweck’s model of growth and fixed mindset. A fixed mindset gets stuck in the present. It fears failure. It avoid challenges. A growth mindset looks forward. It embraces change and chases challenge. During the podcast, Mike revealed how crucial it is to understand the differences between growth and fixed mindset to see your way out of this crisis and others.

To frame this current challenge for the best possible outcome, Mike suggested “spending this time to identify the skills you have (or need to acquire) to create your very own ‘value proposition.’ Ask yourself ‘what problem can you solve within an organization (or for your customer or vender or team?)’” 

But not everyone is equipped or prepared to do that such as one caller who asked “how can I make money in this situation.”  Mike’s advice: you might have to take a job you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Understand the job won’t define you for life but it will be an important part of your process to recovery.  

Today’s reality is no picnic for anyone. Covid-19 is impacting rich and poor, black and white. People on every continent are affected. But new trends are already emerging, showing signs of opportunity and growth. Technology is being reengineered, redesigned, and adapted to make work-from-home a productive for many, delivering healthcare in ways never imagined, and opening up access to learning for all. There’s even an huge uptick in healthy living videos and app, especially for yoga and meditation. An obsession with too much screen time is 

The Covid-19 crisis is unquestionably scary and disruptive. That is fact. You can’t change it other than protecting yourself throught social distancing, which is societally uncomfortable. But how you respond to all these pressures and fears are under your complete control. Shift your mindset. Begin with this question, “How do I turn this  current situation into an opportunity?” What does that look like for you? Start here. Shift your mindset. Tune in to CEO Michael Smith on this week’s Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization podcast.  

Connect with Mike Smith

Company Website: Hiring Stage

LinkedIn: Connect Here

Twitter: @msmithy888