Career::Fight to Survive

"Fight To Survive" from Fast Company Magazine
S U R V I V E =
S Size up the situation.
U Use all your senses.
R Remember where you are.
V Vanquish fear and panic.
I Improvise.
V Value living.
A Act like the natives.
L Live by your wits.

This is a great article on it's own about the training of special operations soldiers. The correlation the reader is supposed to draw is that of surviving in your career overall and/or surviving in the corporate environment in tough times.
There wasn't much in the way of reader commentary in the talkback forum. I would like to hear about other peoples application of this article to surviving in the business world.
Rule 1: Only the Mentally Strong Survive
I believe the biggest one is Attitude. "If you have a guy with all the survival training in the world and a negative attitude and another guy who doesn't have a clue but has a positive attitude, I guarantee you that the one with the positive attitude is coming out of the woods alive. Simple as that" - Gordon Smith Special Forces instructor. I've also heard someone say "90% of life is showing up, dressed and ready to play ball, and the other 10% is attitude." Of course this philosophy leaves some gaps - I'd put a bigger than 0% emphasis on training & execution - but the principle is the same. The training and execution also depend 100% on attitude as a prerequisite.
Rule 2: You can Condition Yourself to Stress
I found this section interesting and entertaining. However, in business, what stress are we supposed to put ourselves under to prepare for survival? What is our "possom crawling with maggots" that we have to make ourselves hungry enough to eat? Often mine is dealing with confrontation and adversity on the people side of the job. But I don't think my "training" ought to be jumping into the most hostile and confrontational circumstances I can find.... I do take this as motivation, though, to ease into more people situations I would have otherwise avoided to build up my Mental Strength in that area.
Rule 3: Keep your priorities straight (and simple.)
I believe this is true, however I believe it is much more blurred in business. Different people at various levels of management are interacting with different departments and most of the time they all have a different idea about what priorities are. This is due to a variety of reasons. Often politics and back channel relationships drastically affect the priority things take. In a "fight to survive" situation a business needs clear goals and priorities communicated to all levels of management. And they need a measurement and feedback system to know how long it is until they are dead -- or even if they already are dead! (and just twitching until all neural activity(cash/capitol) is spent .)
Rule 4: Survival takes practice
I think they covered this is #1. But again I also strain to apply it to a business situation. What is our fire that we take for granted but cannot live without and how can we practice it? What tools/materials can we prepare ourselves with for when the time comes for more primitive methods of "lighting the fire?"
Rule 5: You can live off the land
But it ain't always fun. And "before you are deployed to an area, you need to study the flora and fauna there." What's the nasty stuff that is found most everywhere that we can keep the business going on? I believe this speaks to #1-attitude and not being "too good" to dig in there and eat bugs you dig up under a log, but lerking in here is a good story or case study that is missing to *really* apply this to business. And, in business, we pick where we are deployed. Today it just happens there aren't too many choices out there. One of these days the economy will heat back up and there will be a serious bunch of IT (and other) people finding a new "land to live off of." Because they have been screwed by their present companies with economic cutbacks as the excuse. There *are* survival times for every business. But many of us swim in a pool of sharks that will take economic news and twist it into justification to pound staff into dust and run the infrastructure to ground -- and get a bigger bonus for "tightening their belts and meeting budget." To thrive, companies need to be diversified and well capitalized to take advantage of slowdowns and turn them into future growth. When operations is somewhat quiet is the best time to study where you want to go and make investements to get you there--positioned ahead of the "just barely survivers" when things pick back up. In an upturn, those companies with improved processes, modernized infrastructures, and motiviated staff will be taking the best talent away from their competition along with a bigger share of the market. Waiting for an upturn to make capital improvements at the same time as pushing to increase production with a team of people you've demoralized the past 3 years isn't going to cut it. Your old crappy plant run by the people you've beat down yet can't find greener pastures won't be good enough for first place, or even second place.
Rule 6: Survival Takes Imagination
This is definitely true. Many people stuck in the ruts of our corporate world stick themselves there by complaining that things don't go as planned, are not planned well enough, or they weren't given warning or some other excuse they can't or won't do their job. Some issues are indeed roadblocks out of the control of the workers' and require someone in authority to act to remove it. But in more situations than we admit, a creative, intelligent person could dig in and accomplish a lot even in the face of obstacles.
Another point here is that when you are in "survival mode" (which is often all the time in new companies, in IT organizations, Sales/customer service organizations, etc) there is a "good enough" point to planning and preparation past which it is a waste of time. By the end 1/2 of the plan is out the window due to either scope creep or other issues that crop up requiring imaginitive workaround. Being able to go with the flow and improvise is very important in IT and becoming more important for business people in general.
Rule 7: Survival is the Norm
That is really the truth. Yeah, "Get over it. Life has been hard for everybody for all eternity -- your mamma isn't going to bail you out." Dig in for the long haul. I thought the quote was inspiring "Ask McKay how long he could survive if he walked into the woods right now without supplies, and he doesn't hesitate: 'the rest of my life,' he says." (the cynical side of me says, "Yeah, that's true for us all, but how long will your life be compared with anybody else...") But seriously, it would be nice to have confidence to say that whatever comes, I can make my company survive - on bugs and boiled creek water if I have to.

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