In the Midst of Turmoil — Control What You Can

International political turmoil, out of control costs, no Olympic Village accommodation, and stark competition facilities: all challenges facing the Olympic athletes heading to Rio this August, right?

Actually, these were just some of the conditions the athletes confronted at the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece, in April 1896. (The more things change…)

Yet, those first Olympians persevered in the face of adverse circumstances and started a legacy, so that now, 120 years later, we are looking forward to the colorful stories, new heroes, and crop of fresh household names that will come from the 2016 Olympic Games.

Olympic athletes have continued to face circumstances beyond their control, on personal to global scales. One of the most dramatic stories from my own Olympic experiences came in the spring of 1984 when I was with a swim team of world record holders and Olympic hopefuls in Southern California. One day, suddenly our complex was swarming with media, and we didn’t know what was happening. We were told to immediately stop our workout and then were quickly herded into the gym, where the doors were locked as soon as we were all inside.

Choking back the emotion that threatened to overtake him, our coach broke the news that the Soviet Union had just announced they would boycott the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, happening just a few months later. His announcement was met with gasps, shock, and sadness – after the 1980 boycott by Western countries, yet another Olympics would be marred by politics, and the competition for world titles would remain unresolved because half of the contenders would be absent.

We were faced with a choice. We could start imagining the compounding issues and follow the disappointment those would generate, allowing our emotions to control our thoughts and destroy our concentration. Or, we could recognize the circumstances, make necessary adjustments, and focus on moving forward with the same drive, attitude, and enthusiasm that enabled us to be the best we could at what we did.

At times, all of us, whether Olympic athletes or advisors, face challenging circumstances beyond our control. However, you can control your own attitude and reactions in the face of your circumstances. The best athletes and the best advisors consciously choose how they will think and respond, regardless of what others around them are saying or doing.

What current challenges are tempting you to pay more attention to the problem rather than to finding a solution?

Robo-advisors, the new DOL ruling, and constant market volatility are just a few of the most recent challenges impacting our industry. Where are you choosing to put your focus? Are you going to add to the negative noise regarding these “hindrances” and allow yourself to get mentally and emotionally sidetracked? Or, are you going to concentrate on a solution, deciding what next best steps you need to take to most quickly and successfully navigate this change in circumstances?

Are you fixated on the swirl around you instead of taking new trials in stride? Don’t allow immediate challenging circumstances to distract you from focusing on your longer-term objectives.

When you encounter trials or unexpected changes:

  • Take time to unemotionally study the situation. What exactly is happening, and how are you potentially impacted? What are the best and worst potential consequences of this scenario?
  • Set quality time to consider appropriate next steps. What is the best strategy for navigating through or around this obstacle? Do you need to work on plainly articulating the situation and the solution so you can then clearly explain it to clients, if asked?
  • Decide what changes you need to make. What do you need to anticipate to maximize the opportunities these new circumstances may bring? Is this a timely occasion to make changes in your business?
  • Take action to make those needed changes. Waiting or worrying will not make issues go away. Choose your course of action and move forward.
  • Being a professional means absorbing, accommodating, and ultimately adapting to changes over which you have no control.

    Resist reacting hastily and think clearly. Once you’ve identified how best to navigate a challenge, move ahead confidently.

    Aim like an Olympian: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger)!