The game of blackjack comes with concrete rules, advising what a player should do in nearly every scenario. In some cases you stay the course, keeping the cards you have, in others you ‘hit’ for more cards, split a hand into two or double down, investing more money in the process.
Typically, those are the moves most people are familiar with; stay, hit, split, or double down.
There is yet another underutilized strategy. One based on a risk assessment of the cards you have, and the one a dealer is showing, before taking more cards or staying put. It’s known as the surrender method, when used properly, it can keep you in the game long enough to win, or figure out if you should be at this particular table to begin with.
The surrender technique works like this; believing the dealer has a superior hand, and you having high odds of losing should you stay or draw more cards, you would surrender or fold, but keep half your wager. When the odds are stacked against you, sometimes it’s best to walk away with some funds and the ability to play another hand.
As a young associate, I worked for a high energy, owner/operator of a successful clinic, an investor in real estate, and other side ventures. While sitting in his office one afternoon, discussing our goals for the practice, he offered up this piece of advice. “Fear is just an acronym,” he said, “it stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Whether you remain working for me or go on to do your own thing, I want you to remember that.”
With that, he stood up, walked to the door, and left me momentarily to ponder those words. Prior to then, I’d never heard ‘fear’ framed in this manner.
Just when I thought the lesson was over, as I was prepared to exit the room, he turned around and added this, “Unless of course the building is on fire, in that case, Fuck Everything And Run.”
Fight or Flight
In preparing to face a perceived threat, humans activate a fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system response. The lecture I received basically boiled down to exercising one of two options, facing your fear, or running from it. Over the years, I’ve heard countless other acronyms used to minimize or diminish fear and encouraged me to be fearless regardless of the odds or difficulties ahead.
There is no shortage of life coaches or self-help gurus minimizing, or dismissing fear as it relates to life in general, or business specifically. Entrepreneurship, writing, or career success is rarely life or death. You have the ability to step back, evaluate and assess the situation, weigh risks and rewards, is the only way to decide which path is best.
In business, just as in gambling, there is an option other than fight or flight, the surrender method. Acknowledge the difficulties or dangers of your current situation, give up on a single game to play another, one where the odds may be better stacked in your favor. Surrendering can be a successful business or career strategy when utilized appropriately and properly.
No one likes to lose. No entrepreneur has ever gone into business thinking, “I’m going to lose it all!” It’s a prospect worth understanding, but by all means, move forward with confidence and certainty that it will not happen.
Before utilizing the surrender method, you should ask yourself a few honest questions. Are you working as hard as you should be? Would this business or task prove successful under someone else’s leadership? Answering just those two questions will tell you everything you need to know.
One method to stay in the game longer involves decreasing expenses or overhead. In difficult times, contact vendors or suppliers, ask for concessions or reduction in fees, or attempt to restructure agreements. Call anyone you pay for a service, you’d be surprised what many can do to keep your business.
Evaluate areas of redundancy or waste, streamlining and eliminating wherever possible. Structure your business, or career to where you can give up on a project, client, or revenue source without losing it all. Again, the idea here is to maintain enough funds, allowing for the continuation of the existing career or business plan, or shifting into a completely different field if necessary.
Like blackjack, folding in Poker accomplishes the same objective. Rather than playing the hand, investing more money, when the odds are not in your favor, fold and play the next hand. Where Poker differs has to do with the number of players, and a strategy whereby a weak hand can defeat a superior hand via bluffing or psychology. The financial aspect remains the same, only play or invest when the odds of winning are in your favor.
Many iconic companies have remained in business long enough to figure out a winning approach. Nokia, the Finish technology company, began as a paper mill in 1865. Over the years, they moved in and out of various industries, eventually manufacturing phones, to their current business model of 5G hardware and technology. Betting the house on paper, being fixated on a specific area or product, may have ended the company decades ago.
Nokia is by no means unique, 3M began as a mining and mineral company, Tiffany & Co. sold stationery, and Colgate manufactured soap, candles and starch. These companies have all been able to successfully transition into areas they would have never imagined upon beginning operations.
In business or life, should you find yourself in a difficult situation with fear taking over, remember, running for the door or betting the house are only two options. Call it consolidation and rebranding instead of surrender, the idea is the same. Maintain solvency, push forward, and stay in the game long enough to figure out if this game is for you, or if you need to find another game altogether.