What the Christchurch earthquake teaches us about business.

Safety is not the objective.

We were in Auckland when it happened. Everyone there knows someone in Christchurch and felt the impact, if only emotionally. Among the business owners there was a single thread: life is full of risk and we’ll all just have to get back on the horse as quickly as we can. I think there’s something else in this tragedy for business owners as well.

In the early 1980’s, a mentor of mine was recounting to me his best friend’s journey to find the safest place on earth to retire. He told of how his friend and his wife researched and traveled the world for over two years and were overjoyed when they found a remote and bucolic set of islands off the coast of South America that seemed to fit everything they were looking for. They had no record of volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, pestilence, poverty, or even hard crime. It was indeed the safest place on earth.

They moved in and six months later the British invaded their paradise from the beaches on one side and the Argentinean’s invaded from the other. Over 900 people died in the Falklands war, and their dream of finding the safest place on earth was crushed.

Business owners should take heed.

Two things happen when we focus on the big three distractions from a remarkable life – 1)safety, 2)security and 3)stability.

First, no matter how much energy you put into avoiding problems and building walls around your business, you will never achieve safety, security and stability. It’s not in your hands to do so. In response to the earthquake, one New Zealander said: “There’s no guarantees. You could get run over walking across the street.”

Second, when we live to achieve the big three distractions, we ensure only one thing – nothing remarkable will happen.

The lesson from the New Zealand business owners I talked to? Fear the probable, not the possible. There are hundreds of bad things that COULD happen if you take a risk to build a business that works when you’re not. But our job is to figure out those very few things that are LIKELY to happen, and then plan for those while we take the appropriate risks to create success.

Want a business that makes it? Stop focusing on how to keep bad things from happening and be willing to take the measured risks to do something remarkable.

Fear the probable, not the possible. Get back on the horse. Take risks. It’s the only shot you’ve got.