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Six words. I say them all the time, and sometimes even think them in my sleep: "Focus on what you can control."
It's a shorthand reminder to not worry about what I can't control. Even though I picked it up playing sports as a kid--initially from a Little League baseball coach, and later reinforced by four years of college athletics--I've found that it's now applicable in just about every workplace situation.
And it immediately popped into my head upon reading business research firm Conference Board's most recent Measure of CEO Confidence report, published Tuesday. The quarterly survey tracks the ongoing shifts in attitude and expectations of approximately 100 CEOs across a variety of industries. According to the newest installment, business leaders are starting 2020 feeling optimistic.
Actually, less pessimistic might be more accurate. Of those surveyed, 12 percent anticipate economic conditions will improve over the next six months--up from 4 percent last quarter. Meanwhile, 44 percent expect that economic conditions will worsen--down from 67 percent last quarter.
Those numbers aren't great. But, hey, it's progress.
Chalk up the figures--and their large swings over the past few months--to a notable amount of uncertainty around issues like trade, a potential recession, climate change, and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. "Business leaders are like normal people," Bart van Ark, the Conference Board's chief economist, told the Wall Street Journal last Thursday. "We just don't quite understand where this all will be going."
And yet you need to plan your next 12 months of business strategy. Having a roadmap is vital to startup success, and these kinds of uncertainties can paralyze even the most astute decision-makers. On the other hand, if the giants in your industry are waiting to see how the year unfolds, you might be agile enough to take action anyway--and still be able to shift course as your unknowns become clearer.
So, you need to relentlessly attack your short-term prospects. You also need to keep an eye on your long-term growth. And you need to do both without getting too distracted by factors you can't do anything about. It's a lot to think about.
Luckily, there's a good six-word mantra for that.