A good word from Jim Collins, written during the economic recession of 2001-2002 but always applicable (and to many arenas of life), on being one who creates rather than one who merely reacts:
Here’s the essential truth of our current situation: The real problem has stayed the same, regardless of the direction of the market. First we went through a spiraling-up phase, and people lost their bearings as they got caught up in the great melee of opportunity. Now we’re in a downward spiral, and people have lost their bearings in a scramble of uncertainty. It’s the exact same pattern in reverse: people merely reacting to circumstances, rather than doing anything fundamentally creative.
The distinction isn’t between a market that’s going up and a market that’s going down. It’s between people who are fundamentally creators and people who are only reactors, who take their cues from the outside world.
If you did a word search across my research materials on the greatest company builders of the past 100 years, you would find almost no mention of “competitive strategy.” Not that those builders had no strategy; they clearly did. But they did not craft their strategies principally in reaction to the competitive landscape or in response to external conditions and shocks. Without question, they kept a wary eye on the brutal facts.The fundamental drive to transform and build their companies was internal and creative. It didn’t matter whether they faced a crisis (as did Thomas J. Watson Sr. at IBM, who never resorted to layoffs in the Great Depression) or whether they faced calm (as did Walt Disney when he conceived of Disneyland). The leaders who built enduring great companies showed a creative inside-out approach rather than a reactive outside-in approach. In contrast, the mediocre company leaders displayed a pattern of lurching and thrashing, running about in frantic reaction to threats and opportunities.
If I could bring all of my students back into the classroom, I would remind them of David Packard’s admonition that in the long run, “more companies die of indigestion than starvation.” If a company focuses on making creative contributions that fall in the middle of three intersecting circles—what it is passionate about, what it can be the best in the world at, and what best drives a sustained profitable economic engine—then growth will likely follow.