A few years ago, I attended a two-day conference for business owners discussing the importance…
Harry Potter and Your Defence Against the Dark Arts in Business
What’s your defence against the dark arts in business?
Ever had a bad day at the office? Ever had a tough week? Perhaps the last two years in business haven’t been what you hoped for.
Harry Potter can relate.
J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is arguably one of the most influential stories of our times. And with a brand value of over $25 Billion, its commercial success has in many ways shaped a generation. While providing a happy escape to a fictional wizarding world, its characters and their struggles and motivations mirror many of our own.
We watch spellbound by the consequences of hard decisions other people are asked to make. And we usually find ourselves becoming invested in their anticipated success.
Harry Potter’s most memorable battles will be with the Dementors – dark shadowy spectres that naturally consume human happiness. They create an atmosphere of cold darkness, misery and despair. They have an innate power to drain happiness and hope from people. And these depression inducing beings are assigned as prison guards at Azkaban. This is where their simple dark presence prevents the prisoners from ever forming the will or ability to escape.
There is only one defence against these hooded wraiths.
A defence against their mastery at sucking the light and happiness out of wherever they are. And that is by creating the very difficult Patronus spell. This is done through summoning a singular bright and happy memory of personal significance. Its luminous presence counters the quenching darkness and paralysis of a depressed mind. Of course, summoning such a memory while in the throes of crisis and the pain of decision, is in itself a mastery of personal ability.
“That’s very, very advanced magic …” — Hermione Granger on the difficulty and complexity of the charm.
Your defence against the dark arts in business.
A more commercial example may be, when wading through the volumes of paperwork of a tax audit, facing the soul-sucking agony of failing suppliers, dealing with a recalcitrant customer or managing yet another round of changes to HR legislation.
Your power to call to memory a happier occasion is not just nice to have; it’s a commercial imperative. It’s a strong reminder of your first purpose, leadership, compassion, legacy or even just a ‘screw you. Calling up this memory is an ‘I’m doing this anyway’ motivation. Your ability to call upon this memory will also sustain you during dark times.
The degree of your grasp of the importance of this personnel origin story will decide your level of success against these dark creatures and moods that afflict us all in many ways.
We all share the same humanity
Of course at its core the story of Harry Potter is a fantasy tale dealing with intrinsically very human qualities and people facing the question; when do you play it safe and when should you take a calculated risk?
In business, it won’t be long before you’re presented with this same question. This question will require you to choose between two equally bleak and risky choices, (usually with ever-increasing levels of risks and responsibility). These constant assaults to your strength of character, tenacity and adaptability can feel very personal. Especially when you sense the confidence questioning drain of your own Dementor.
The limited choices available are usually made more disturbingly human with the growing awareness that nobody is coming to save you from your problem.
Eventually, you will have to make a fundamental choice between two potentially (and commercially) threatening realities:
- Do you play it safe and minimise the potential for loss OR
- Do you take a strategic risk and maximise your potential for improvement and success?
And no, there’s no third option here; I have looked for one many times.
When there is no risk-free choice.
The hardest choices we face are those that all contain struggle. Faced with yet another business decision, the question comes;
- will you play it safe and ration money and supplies in the hope of lasting as long as possible, until an outside force intervenes and saves you from this unfortunate situation?
- are you prepared to face your fear of embarrassment and pain of loss and learn through trial and error?
- Are you going to figure out a way through,
- are you going to just go back to basics, refusing to take action for fear of making the situation worse, and hope for rescue?
Why this choice demands an answer today, and not tomorrow
The more you delay making this fundamental choice, between these two unpalatable options, the more opportunities you will waste. Delaying your answer can both imprison you through inaction and prevent you from forming the will or ability even to escape.
Good news: evolution is on your side.
The good news is our innate evolutionary development has primed us to be on the lookout for risks and threats and to find ways to adapt. This skill has kept us safe for centuries. These same elements of threat recognition, fight or flight still lie within us all, constantly scanning for danger (we may even buy an insurance policy for it).
Every professional was once an amateur. Persistence is part of our continued learning. We also share the ability to constantly learn, refine our skills and use our tenacity to find a way through and bring order to this new chaos; it just hurts like hell and really sucks if you’re honest. We all prefer to avoid difficult conversations.
Protect your environment.
Protect your potential, and what you know you’re capable of. Otherwise, you will run out of stamina while attempting to fulfil your dreams.
Ultimately the numbers don’t matter as much as your approach. We all have to fortify ourselves against the dark arts in business and this usually involves drastically changing our environment.
Everything external shapes your internal experience in some way; amateurish ways of thinking, victimhood talk and complaining, dementors and other toxic points of view: all distract us from making the fundamental decisions we all need to make.
Protect your culture.
Our western culture is constantly advertising you’re not your best, could never become your best and are forever cursed to be missing something; (that you can also buy from them) – selling the dream but sucking the hope and soul out of you with whatever fear is currently on sale.
Find your Patronus charm.
If you’re not emotionally engaged with your business, you will reduce the effort you exert in finding solutions and pushing through difficult decisions. Spend time to find out how to become your best. And remember, every time we commit to being our best, we drag a group of people along with us too.
Hope and rescue is not a valid business strategy.
If you do have the good fortune to be rescued from your current commercial challenge, remember: you will not have changed who you are, you will not have any new skill, knowledge or character development, and unfortunately there’s never only one challenge.
While knowing how to create more value for our customer will always be our first line of defence against the dark arts in business life, our futures will ultimately be crafted by how we answer this question:
Should you play it safe and minimise the potential for loss OR
Do you take a strategic risk and maximise your potential for improvement and success?
It’s time to talk it through.
Perhaps it’s time for small business owners to talk more about what we go through with generosity so others can connect with us.
It’s time to share your passions, the reasons why you chose to rise above your fears. To tell the story of how purpose drives profits. Or how you made your choices, paid your price — they can all form part of your brand’s story. And they can be your protective Patronus spell for when the dark moods, the dark arts in business, come to steal your joy and your risk of success.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” – Dumbledore – Harry Potters The Goblet of Fire movie.
And you know what? It just might work like a charm. Expecto Patronum!
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