2 Modes of Operating - Survive and Thrive

By: Brent Neal

When many people hear the word “survive”, they treat it as something good. Business is full of ups and downs, hardships, loss, and problems that must be overcome. So, to survive, one would typically perceive this as something good. Well, yes… and no. To the extent where you survived some tragic automobile accident, the answer is “yes”, but when it comes to companies, their existence, and their purpose… my answer is “no”. To survive is NOT something good.  

The word “survive” is defined by the Oxford Living Dictionary as to “continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship”. The word conjures up an image of confinement, one where business persons, particularly those who are operationally-focused, have a hard time seeing beyond the day-to-day grind. The longer people are in business, they experience burn out, become stressed, and even a little jaded, because of monotony and a “just get by” type of attitude. Survival mode causes every part of the business’s existence to be centered around living another day. Instead of envisioning a greater future, striving for progress, and accomplishing great things, these organizations become unsuccessful and oftentimes meaningless. The people in leadership become ineffective, worry about daily challenges, and are too afraid to take on new opportunities.

What are a few obvious characteristics of someone in survival mode?

  1. They worry and become too afraid to move forward, always thinking about the hardships they previously faced.
  2. They have no growth, movement, or momentum and have become stagnant.
  3. They say things like “we cannot afford this” or often have buyer’s remorse after purchasing something.
  4. They have apathy towards problems, especially about employee performance and attendance. They have a “just get by” attitude.
  5. And, everyone around them is operating in survival mode as well. Employees who work for companies in survival mode are afraid to fix problems or take on new ventures. You often hear comments such as “we don’t have the money to do that” or “that’s too expensive”. These individuals exhibit odd hiring habits that include asking candidates what salary they can live with because they worry about affording someone with the type of talent who will have higher salary requirements. They ask the employee to do the work for them while settling for less compensation, essentially asking them to survive just as they do.

The word “thrive” means to grow vigorously or to prosper and flourish. Thriving is growth, it is momentum, and it is future oriented. It produces prosperity and breeds success. If your company is thriving, everything from the business operations, to the leadership, to the personnel are functioning in a mode of operation that is centered on success. Thriving is realizing your full potential and vigorously striving forward. It is leaving behind “fear” and the obstacles it creates by accepting the challenges ahead and concentrating on progress.

To overcome, you must completely change your mindset. You must welcome uncertainty, and in a sense, expect the unexpected and even embrace it. Hardships will happen, but you need to focus on moving forward and not on what holds you back. Problems will occur, but when your attention is on the future, you determine ways to overcome obstacles because you desire something greater. As such, thriving implies the recognition of opportunity. Businesses must continually be looking for new opportunities and seize them the moment they are revealed.

Thriving is a mode of operation that every business, leader, and personnel must have to build a successful company. Thriving is realizing your full potential and vigorously striving forward.

I challenge you to step out of survival mode and into a mindset focused on improvement and success. I challenge you to thrive.