Making Lemonades from Lemons
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the way we live has been disrupted as we observe various precautions like social distancing, use of nose masks and face shields to curb the spread. In addition, almost all day to day activities have moved from physical engagements to digital interactions; things like remote working, e-commerce, e-learning, e-gaming have become our new norm. We have even resorted to Video communication to stay in touch with loved ones, colleagues or even classmates while isolated at home. Arguably, most of us have learnt to use various video conferencing apps especially the Zoom Video communication platform. Somehow, these platforms are helping us to make lemonades out of the “lemon–type” situations this pandemic has brought us into.
Oh, I believe you have heard the saying; “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
That’s exactly what Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom Video communication did. Born in China, Yuan obtained his first and second degrees from Shandong University of Science and Technology, and China University of Mining and Technology respectively. In 1987, as a first-year university student, he got frustrated taking 10-hour train rides to visit his girlfriend (who is now his wife) and envisioned a videotelephony software for an easier way to “visit” her. That was the first seed of the video conferencing idea in his mind. Having worked in Japan for 4 years after graduation, he was inspired to move to Silicon Valley when he listened to Bill Gates in 1994 – speaking about the “dot.com” Internet boom. Unfortunately, his application for an American visa was rejected 8 times before he eventually got it at the ninth attempt.
Upon arriving in the country, Yuan joined WebEx, a videoconferencing startup which was later acquired by Cisco Systems in 2007 – at that time, he became vice president of engineering. In 2011, Yuan pitched the idea of a new smartphone-friendly video conferencing system to Cisco management but was rejected. Convinced about his idea, he left Cisco to establish his own company, Zoom Video Communications – which became a public company in 2019. That made Yuan a billionaire owning 22% of the company’s shares.
You see, Yuan somehow has known how to turn around seemingly frustrating experiences to success stories.
That’s what the statement “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” means. It is usually used to motivate people to maintain an optimistic and positive attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. This is exactly what I encourage you to do this period. Things might be looking gloomy at the moment but, as I frequently say, you don’t just sit back and let life happen to you. You can take advantage of this period and come out better off on the other side. Here are 3 things you should do;
- Expand Your Mind
Your mind is your greatest asset. Everything we see around us is a product of someone’s mind. To make the best of this period, it’s necessary to improve your mind especially as the demand of the labour market is changing. Experts had observed that even before the current crisis, changing technologies and new ways of working were already disrupting jobs and the skills employees need. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem. That’s a gap you can fill if you upgrade your knowledge. I encourage you to start that book you’ve always wanted to read, take a new course or learn a new skill. That way, your mind is enlarged to take on new opportunities.
- Identify Problems Around You
Like Yuan, whose initial idea of the Zoom Video conferencing was inspired by the difficulty of staying in touch with a loved one, he knew first-hand the challenges people face and could envision an easy-to-use solution to it. Certainly, the disruption caused by this crisis is opening up new opportunities disguised in challenges relatively new to us. As you expand your mind, you will be able to identify gaps and problems around you and the world. Like an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra – Duke Ellington said; “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Making the best of today involves having an eye to spot problems around you.
This is important. Most times, crises seem to make people give up on their goals and vision but you don’t have to. James A. Owen aptly captures this thought saying; “Sometimes, a catastrophe is simply a course correction.” While adjustments are necessary because of the changing socio-economic realities in the world, you must be deliberate not to lose focus of your vision. You should find creative ways to realign your models and strategies with current realities. It’s a good idea to take this time to reflect and restrategize. Take a cue from Zoom Video Conferencing App. Before Covid19, the app only had about 10 million users. By the end of April 2020, users of Zoom’s video conferencing app surged to over 300 million users. Though in crisis, Zoom has gotten better, restrategizing to accommodate more users. You can also get better.
Remember, You Have Only One Life to Live; MAKE IT COUNT!