Obstacles Becoming Opportunities

We wanted to share a special post from our CEO and Founder, Steve Deitz:

As the CEO of 900lbs, I have been reflecting on how our company has successfully navigated uncertainty over the last 10 years. When my former co-founder and I started 900lbs, we saw an opportunity to transform the way businesses speak to audiences through large-scale visual storytelling. From the very beginning, the undercurrent of uncertainty was the exciting feeling that drove our best creative work. We thrived during the challenges of the journey. We are adventurers and explorers, we relish in the excitement of discovering and learning new things. 

However, not to understate what it felt like to push through—there were some overwhelming obstacles. Now, more than ever, it’s important to share how I learned to see these obstacles as opportunities.  

In late 2015, my father passed away. A few months later, my business partner (former co-founder) wanted out of the company. Around that same time, my wife got sick for several months. I faced these overwhelming obstacles. 

I needed a chance to reflect and deal with the weight, so I disconnected. I took a trip to remote areas of Italy where I stayed present in thought through reading and writing. 

I relied on books to help me with perspective. I’ve always loved history and philosophy, and I’ll share a few of the ones that influenced me during this trip, I revisited one of my favorites, “Meditations” by Markus Aurelius—collection of his journals. Also, “The Obstacle Is the Way,” by Ryan Holiday, which expands on Aurelius’s teachings about embracing challenges with a modern lens.

Both of these books take us back to AD170. Markus Aurelius was the Emperor of the Roman Empire and he was the most powerful man in the world. In his famous journals, he gave himself actionable advice on how to make good on his responsibilities dealing with change and his obligations to people. 

“We cannot control what happens to us. We do control how we respond to what happens to us.”

“We can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

These books taught me that there is no such thing as a setback or a problem or an obstacle. There is simply an opportunity to do something different. That was the reinforcing jolt that helped me understand that I had an opportunity to accept things and use them as extreme inspiration to push myself and our business forward to new heights. I always recommend that colleagues go back and listen to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford called “Connecting The Dots Backward.” He says that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

The global impact of COVID-19 is one of those times that we are reminded of the importance of pausing to reflect for motivation moving forward. At 900lbs, we always drive hard but this has inspired us with a new sense of urgency to innovate. History always reminds us that times of crisis have spawned many of our world’s greatest inventions and innovations. 

(You could spend hours on Google learning about how inventions we now take for granted were actually created on accident. I recommend you search “How the microwave was invented by a radar engineer who accidentally cooked a candy bar in his pocket.” Crazy right?)

I thought Jesse Nieminen distilled down a practical strategy for this quite well in a recent article in Innovation Excellence called “When tough times are ahead, you should double down on innovation”:

  1. Use the crisis to create a sense of urgency
  2. If needed, find ways to use innovation to cut down on costs to provide the cash flow needed for future investments
  3. Proceed to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the rapidly changing landscape, typically with adjacent or breakthrough innovation focused on the low-end of the market.

I’m hoping that by sharing these lessons now, we can connect and ideate with other business leaders who are seeing obstacles as a way ahead. At this point in our new COVID-19 lifestyle, we are beginning to understand that business will never be the same again. Together, we are learning how to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty. At 900lbs, we thrive in the fast-paced evolution of technology and innovation.

Times like this are nothing new for us because we continue to focus on the things we know we can control. 

Our Clients and those in our creative community instill trust in us as thought leaders and digital pioneers to help them in times of transformation. We’d like to leave you with 3 execution strategies we have taken to heart at 900lbs:

  1. Alternative digital/virtual applications will complement every face-to-face physical experience moving forward. Many tools for interactivity require physical touch. Now, there will be more opportunities to leverage the broad range of tools in our arsenal that do not.
  2. Web-based streaming interactives are being developed and tested by our team to engage multiple users simultaneously through desktop interfaces. These initiatives complement our onsite engagements and continue to connect people with interactive business objectives.
  3. Adaptability and trust are our two of our most important core values in a time like this. Our new remote office culture seems like it has actually brought our team closer together.

The above strategies are hopeful points of inspiration that people and businesses will change because of COVID-19. All throughout history, we are reminded of the resilience of humankind and how people turned times of challenges into great opportunity. As we reimagine some layers of our businesses together in AD2020, we will champion the art of the possible and harness this new wave of creative inspiration in amazing ways.

We are thankful for having you in our community, and I hope that this reflection has offered some value and positive energy.

Steve Deitz