Several weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. I was in my office on a conference call with an overseas client, and I noticed the lights flickering above my head. Moments later someone ran into my office to say they smelled smoke. I ended my call as politely as I could under the circumstances, and we began to evacuate the building, which was quickly filling with smoke as the fire spread. Everyone got out safely, and my colleagues and I are all so grateful.
In the process of scrambling to relocate our headquarters, I have been pondering the impact of this experience. Here are 5 lessons we learned when the unthinkable happened:
1. Focus on what matters. In an emergency, the only thing that counts is human lives. In the day to day, prioritize, and then act according to those priorities.
2. Don’t ignore warning signs. We would have been foolish to ignore the flickering lights and smoke, but isn’t that what we do in our businesses sometimes? We see the warning signs of trouble, but we choose to ignore them—either because we don’t recognize how threatening they are or because we don’t know how to fix the problem. Ignoring warnings only leads to bigger trouble.
3. Back up everything in the cloud. Backing up data should be one of your priorities; backups enable business to go on when the unexpected happens. Computers fail, and fires and natural disasters are always happening somewhere. What you think can’t happen to you may happen to you. There’s no excuse for no backup.
4. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts motto is one to live by. Our data was backed up. Fire extinguishers were in place and in working order, allowing us to contain the fire (for a bit) so we could safely evacuate. There are so many ways to be prepared in the day to day — whether it’s putting a disaster or emergency plan in place or just preparing for a meeting with a client. No one ever regrets being prepared.
5. Embrace the present. Don’t waste time with regrets from yesterday. Learn your lessons and move on. And don’t waste time worrying about tomorrow. You have no idea what’s coming down the road. Today is a gift. Truly. By living in the present, you won’t get sidetracked by regret or worry, and you’ll appreciate what is in front of you—which will also give you a clear vision of what you might need to change.
It’s human nature to look for lessons in adversity—and to share them. This fire has taught us a lot, and we hope you can benefit from some of the clarity it’s brought to us. We hope you’ll share this with your colleagues and your loved ones. I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.