If I Hear the Word “Pivot” One More Time . . .

I was chatting with an acquaintance yesterday, and she asked how my business was doing during the pandemic. I said it’s been hit pretty hard, but I’m hanging in there. She admitted her business has been affected to, and then said, “But I swear if I hear the word “pivot” one more time . . .”

I asked if she remembered the scene in the TV show Friends in which Ross, Chandler, and Rachel are trying to move a couch up a flight of stairs and Ross keeps shouting, “pivot, pivot, pivot.”  To which Chandler replies, “shut up, shut up, shut up!”

At the start of the lockdown, I watched as many of my colleagues (myself included) threw themselves into pivots. Many of them took their standard offerings and found new ways to deliver them virtually. And that worked well for a while until people got Zoom fatigue. Others shut down to “wait things out.” I tried this for a bit too. But as time dragged on, that got more and more stressful and disappointing. Some of us pivoted by dropping a few of our products or services and beefing up others, and achieved enough success to at least keep our doors open.

But I have another group of friends who’ve taken this opportunity to sort of blow up their businesses and move in totally new directions. These are the people who seem the most passionate and excited. You could argue that it’s risky to move away from what we know best at this time, but with everything changing, does it really make sense for us to stay the same?

When I hear the word “pivot,” the image that comes to mind is that of a basketball player with one foot fixed on the floor and the other moving in a jerky fashion as she looks frantically from side to side assessing her next move. That image feels so restrictive right now, and I keep wondering what would happen if we all just broke the rules, picked up that planted foot, and moved more freely in whatever direction we choose.

I’m not suggesting you up and leave a job you adore for something else. If your business is still your baby, it might make sense to keep one foot firmly planted to best protect and preserve the thing you love. But if you’ve been feeling a disconnect from your current job, skills set, business model, or whatever, maybe trying to find a new way to hold onto those tired old things is not going to serve you best in the long run. Maybe it’s better to take a hit now in order to figure out where you really want to be two years from now.

Of course, I know not everyone can walk away entirely from their current business models. After all, there’s a recession on and there are bills to pay. So maybe you start by just lifting that foot up a little each day. Remove one or two things that no longer bring you passion, sign up to learn a new skill, read, brainstorm, discuss, dabble. We can’t all afford to blow up our businesses and start over, but many of us can afford to tighten our belts a little in order to free up the time and energy to explore our options.

Pivoting can be a useful tool. Ask any basketball player. I’m enjoying watching how some of my friends in industries like the arts, education, food service, and retail are coming up with new ways to serve. But if someone is suggesting a legitimate pivot to you, and all you hear in your head is, “shut up, shut up, shut up,” it might be time to ask yourself if this is the game you still want to be playing.

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