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Stop Hoping for the Best and Start Preparing for the Worst

The three-step process to adopting an immigrant mindset.

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"Immigrants: We get the job done." That's what Lin Manuel Miranda, as founding father Alexander Hamilton, and Daveed Diggs, as Marquis de Lafayette, tell the audience in the Broadway play, Hamilton.

Through my experience, I’m persuaded immigrants can get the job done, so to speak, because they are more likely than their native-born counterparts to prepare for the worst. Their life experiences build such a mindset into them. Every parent of kids preschool-aged or older knows how maddening it is when they refuse to listen to advice. You’ve checked the forecast and know rain or snow is coming, but the children refuse to put on a coat because all they see is the clear sky overhead.

If you’re seeing blue business skies overhead now, it’s a perfect time to prepare and make a plan for when the storm clouds roll in. If you want to thrive under any circumstances, adopt an immigrant mindset, and be prepared for the worst.

Below are three steps to adopt an immigrant mindset and be ready for anything that may come:

1. Consider potential challenges.

Make a list of circumstances that could derail your business. This is not an exercise in gloom and doom. It’s one to prevent doom and gloom. Maybe your top producers quit or retire or the market has a downturn -- it is cyclical, after all, and we are due for one anytime now. Maybe your competitors offer a better work environment and start stealing away your top talent -- particularly .

2. Make a plan.

Making a plan under duress is a recipe for failure. But, if we make a plan while our heads are clear, the plan should run smoothly -- or at least make sense. Let’s take the last potential challenge -- if a competitor starts stealing the top millennial talent -- for example. Thinks about whether your company has what millennials are looking for. If not, make a plan to bring them in. Consider what you are going to do to adapt and create a place where employees want to stay. Write a detailed plan with steps to get there.

3. Execute the plan.

In business, we sometimes wait until the middle of the storm -- when our brain stops working -- to try to make a plan. People tend to have one of three reactions in a tough situation. They fight and get aggressive, flee the situation completely or freeze. Having a plan ahead of time allows you to skip the panic of trying to figure it out in the middle of the stress. Instead, when it gets rough, you can just execute the existing plan rationally and calmly. 

Preparing for the worst allows leaders to maintain certainty, commitment and courage, which is important for the whole team. It’s dangerous for your team to see you losing your cool. Having a plan and executing it amid the chaos gives you an edge. It’s time to think like an immigrant. You can still hope for the best -- I am all for optimism -- just be sure to also prepare for the worst of times. 

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