What The Wizard of Oz Got Right About Business

POST DATE Jan 06, 2017

AUTHOR Udo Jahn

I read an article yesterday that listed all the famous people who passed away in 2016. I couldn’t believe how many talented people we lost, and that I knew of each person on the list. It was mind numbing. What I really didn’t understand was some of the comments left on the article by my favourite kind of people: random strangers on the internet. The comments said things like, “They lived a hard life,” or “It was amazing they lasted this long.”

Why do people feel the need to make comments like this instead of just keeping their thoughts to themselves? I can only guess that some people are only accustomed to utilizing the space between their ears to hold onto sentences they plan to say out loud later on. 

As I was thinking about the enormous list, I drove by a building I often pass. I knew the person who built it. It’s a beautifully designed and constructed building that will last a long time, far longer than any human lifespan. The only problem I have with the building is who occupies it now. The company that it was originally built for – a competitor of mine – went out of business, and now that magnificent building is being repurposed for another company.

I thought about the competitor who used to own the building. They were truly a leader in our industry, and a real driving force of innovation that left an imprint on me, and my business. They were juggernauts of their day; the only problem being, they’re no longer in business.

How can an outwardly successful, innovative company go out of business? That question leads me to two answers, split out ahead like a fork in the road: 

What to do in business.

and

What not to do in business.

I know all of you have read tons of business books written by much smarter, or supposedly smarter, people than me. I see a whole bunch of them on the shelves at my local bookstore. Well, I used to see them there, until my local Chapters Books closed awhile back. It’s either a sign of the times of our digital culture, or the consequences of publishing of bad books.

Anyway, most business books take a look at every single aspect of a business. By this I mean that they peek under a business’ couch cushions, looking for anything they can make a dollar writing about. It’s my opinion that very few writers write for the pure enjoyment of helping others. Financial motives aside, much of what these writers say often makes great sense. However, I can’t help but think that to implement everything they advise in just one book seems an impossible, daunting task. 

For my contribution to the business world today, I’ll answer my two statements above as simply and plainly as possible. Then you can figure out what to do to implement this advice in your own business. After all, shouldn’t you be the expert?

Here goes.

What To Do In Business

This one is quite simple because everything you need to know is in The Wizard of Oz. If only your business had…

Courage

Stop letting your fear dictate your decisions! I made up a saying years ago, an “Udo-ism” if you will: “Fear is just stuff you make up in your own mind.” And it’s true. 

We humans are naturally fearful of predators, like any other mammal. I learned this from my Zoology studies many years ago (yes, really). You need to accept that reacting with fear is natural, and will likely be your first instinct. So realize that, then overcome it! Overcoming your fear will become the best thing you’ve ever done.

Fearful things we see on TV, like living on an island for months or jumping from a plane, fascinate us because it appeals to our fearful instinct. The same goes for successful people. We are fascinated by them too. The reason? Their COURAGE!

Just remember that there’s a difference between courage and arrogance. Courage is a great guide, but arrogance isn’t.

A Heart

You’ve heard all the sayings about successful people putting their ‘heart into their work’. What that really means is that they remained focused on what they were trying to achieve. 

In contrast, I’ve heard many businesspeople talk about their hobbies at great length, as opposed to their work. So their heart is in their hobby, and their hobby is not their work. What do you think is going to happen with that scenario? Is that person going to be successful in their work? No!

There is nothing more annoying than people who are failing because they are focusing on the wrong thing, something that isn’t even related to their work. You may speculate on why they’re doing this but to me, the real reason is that they don’t have the drive to succeed. Success takes a lot of heart, and if their heart isn't in it, they’re never going to get there.

There’s still a difference between letting your heart guide you and arrogance. Be mindful of the latter. 

A Brain

What can I say here? No brain, no go. I think we can all agree that’s fairly straightforward. No one has cornered the market on stupidity yet, no matter how diligently millions of people try to every day. 

The brain’s main asset to your success is by making sure your courage and your heart don’t go in the wrong direction. When you start to veer off course, this is usually driven by arrogance, though not in all cases. Your brain needs to make sure this isn’t happening for you.

The brain allows us to plan out strategies. Courage and heart allows us to execute those strategies. All the planning in the world does nothing unless you execute it. 

There’s a (somewhat ironic) saying in the military I believe: “Execute or die!” How many companies do you know of that died because they failed to execute?

Of course there are many more things you should do in business, but I think I’ll leave those to your imagination. On to the second statement.

What Not to Do in Business

This one is easy, so I’ll keep it short. There is a saying out there in the world that if you should find yourself in a hole with a shovel, stop digging!

Many people can be stubborn and will keep digging until they can’t dig anymore. Which on childhood playgrounds meant popping out the other side of the world, but for a business means death. 

If you have ever found yourself in a real awful hole with a shovel, did it ever occur to you that you might want to start a better hole somewhere else, or try a different way of getting out of the hole? Or, in the words of a 1960s British comedy troupe, “Now For Something Completely Different!”

It makes sense, though. If something is not working, stop doing it that way! Businesses in danger should seriously think about the way they are doing things.

No matter what you do in business, it’s up to you to make a change if something is not working.

If you have courage, heart and brains in the right amounts at the right times, you will probably be on your way to a very successful destination. 

Just a final word of warning: don’t let arrogance disguise itself as courage, heart or brains. It can be sneaky, just like your fear. Don’t let it in.

What is your top advice for what to do, and what not to do, in business? Share it with me in the comments.

Author: Udo Jahn

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