Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Quicksand Problems 1

It’s common knowledge. The best thing to do when you’re stuck in quicksand is nothing. Don’t struggle. Anything you do except nothing makes it worse. You sink deeper and faster.

This I know because somebody told me, and then somebody else, and then it was in a movie. Like I said, common knowledge.

But seriously, do nothing? What are we hoping for? Rescue. I guess it’s obvious, but seriously, we’re supposed to sink gradually into the quicksand without struggling. What discipline that would take.

Maybe you touch bottom while you can still breathe. Maybe you’re rescued. And maybe not.

Quicksand isn’t the only quicksand problem. You find quicksand problems in business, in family, in relationships, in life.

Definition of a quicksand problem: you can make it worse, but not better. You have to have the presence of mind to not struggle, hope for rescue, or maybe touching bottom before you drown.

Examples?  Yeah, that would make sense, make this post easier. It’s tough, though, because some of the examples are hard to put into writing.

I think I see personal examples around the problems of giving and taking advice. What do you do when you see someone you care about making (what you think is) a serious mistake? That’s especially dangerous quicksand when it’s contentious. Can you give advice like a gift, and not take offense if it isn’t followed?

There’s a line in an Emmylou Harris song, Boulder to Birmingham, that references standing on a mountain while the canyon is burning. “And I watched it burn.” Can you do that? And do you have a choice?

In a business context, there are a lot of quicksand problems related to dealing with people as employees. Misunderstandings. Do you tell her (whatever), or does it make it worse? Do you try to explain, or does that make it worse? Do you clarify an error and make it that much more glaring?

And how about the angry customer who’s actually mistaken? Say it wasn’t your software, they actually bought a pirated copy with a bad serial number that can’t be activated; but they’re mad at you, not the pirate. Do you help them out, which validates the pirate business? Or politely decline, which leaves them blaming you? Or the unanswered email that prompted the scathing review which had been sent to a bad return email address, and so, never received? Add a new comment on the review site and you only look worse.

The quicksand problems are there waiting. You just hope you recognize them when you find yourself immersed in them.

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  • http://maximumcustomerexperience.typepad.com Kelly

    Tim,

    The dread "picking your battles." You can't fight them all, or help with everything, or struggle all the time. It diminishes your own good feelings (nobody likes to feel like a nag) and it doesn't always work, anyway!

    The real trick I guess is to figure out the difference between mud and quicksand by treading lightly. Some problems will find you; those you have to face. Some are so relevant, you should. The rest, will drain your energy and drown you. Do your best to step around.

    Easier said than done…

    Regards,

    Kelly