It’s 7 am on Monday morning last week; the sun is just breaking the horizon. I make my daily drive to the office. I park my car. Right before I open the front door, I notice something odd: a small stack of cardboard boxes leaning against our warehouse door.
Unusual? Yes, yet this is a warehouse roll-up door, so a couple of empty shipping boxes outside isn’t immediately troubling – just a mess, honestly.
So, as any proud business owner would do, I march over to clean it up.
What I uncover next is among the least-pleasant discoveries of my adult life. Behind this stack of boxes, I find a precision-cut hole in the steel warehouse door. A rectangle just big enough for a human to slide inside.
Now, the synapses fire at warp-speed. In less than half a second, the facts assemble in my mind: We were robbed.
I kneel to get a better look, and sure enough, the awful pit at the bottom of my stomach is completely justified. I peer through the hole and witness rows of empty warehouse shelves, in stark contrast with the full ones. In total, the unwelcome visitors left with six-figures’ worth of enterprise IT merchandise.
So, woe is me, right? I’m a victim and life is unfair and arggggg!!!
No. (Well, maybe for an hour or two.) Instead, a powerful quote enters my mind as I process the event:
Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Exactly. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. And it means we’re turning this thing upside-down. This violation of our property is a launching point. It’s a gift.
The launching point comes from perspective. We choose to see this as a constraint. A small and growing business that loses six-figures’ worth of inventory creates constraints. And constraints make us stronger.
This constraint forces us to be smarter with cash and working capital – immediately. We’ll double-down on replacing the right inventory. We’ll reinforce our security systems, protocols, and deterrents, so we’re not burgled again.
And this event serves as a powerful motivation to connect with our customers, drive new opportunities, and sell our way out of the losses.
In developing this perspective, two actions have served me well: (1) actively practicing gratitude and (2) finding some humor in the situation.
For gratitude, we still have plenty to be thankful for: Much of our inventory was still there, untouched. Zero customers were affected, and not a single order was delayed. We’ll set a company record for the number of customers onboarded this month.
As for humor – well, anyone that works with our team knows it’s a core tenant of our culture. Within hours of the event, witty remarks on our sales floor started, and by the afternoon, burglary jokes were dropping every few minutes.
To close, I’ll share resources below that taught me this approach. From them, you can learn the framework – and use it when your next unpleasant discovery shows up.
Embrace the constraints in your life. Often, they’re there for a reason, and they’re trying to teach you something.
1. Learn To Love Constraints. Surprisingly, more options don’t liberate us; they paralyze us. It is counterintuitive, but limitations, not options, are what liberate us. Link
2. Constraints Make You Better. This combination of factors—a tighter playing environment and a less bouncy ball—requires futsal players to develop more creative ball skills because they are constantly playing in crowded spaces. Link
3. Why Constraints Are Good For Innovation. Constraints provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes. Link