I was marching forward, approaching a future I thought my business was moving toward. I was developing courses for climbers, veterans, and businesses, as well as creating a global network of trainers and training locations to offer them.

Then this pandemic happened.

My forward marching was halted. All courses were cancelled, a significant source of revenue ended that was needed to run the business. What was I to do? I’m certain you’re in a similar predicament. 

Marching forward toward a goal creates tunnel vision. This is necessary for achieving anything in life. We need to narrow our focus so we make decisions and take actions that move us in that direction. But when crises happen that halt forward movement, we need to take time to stop and look around, rather than fight with the reality of the situation. Stopping allows us to broaden our focus, to look around to assess the situation, and take new action. 

In his book, The Code of the Warrior, Rick Fields says

“Times of crisis call forth the warrior.”

We each need to find the warrior within us to rise to this crisis. What do we do? “Calling forth the warrior” asks us to think differently, as warriors do. A great way to think differently is using a tool we call PCO (Problem, Challenge, Opportunity). We frame the situation by asking three questions. Our answers reveal how we think and what actions we can begin to take. Let me use my own situation to show you this tool. 

  1. First, I ask: “What’s the biggest problem this pandemic is presenting to my business?” The biggest problem is a lack of revenue due to course cancellations.
  2. Second, I ask: “What’s the biggest challenge this pandemic is presenting to my business?” The biggest challenge is how to maintain revenue streams to fund the business.
  3. Third, I ask: “What’s the biggest opportunity this pandemic is presenting to my business?” The biggest opportunity is seeking new revenue streams that aren’t dependent on teaching in person, such as remote coaching.

What do you notice about these questions? Is it really the same question, asked three times? Well, yes and no. Yes, they’re basically the same question, and no, the answers we get from them are very different. When I frame the question as a problem, I focus on what I don’t have: revenue. I think passively: courses are cancelled, which diminishes my revenue. I focus on how the pandemic interferes with how I’ve been doing business. That can prompt me to think about how to get the situation back to normal, back to how I’ve normally been generating revenue

When I frame the question as a challenge, I begin thinking more actively and my attention shifts toward how to maintain revenue streams. The “how” is action-oriented and begins to open my mind to options different than the old way of doing business. 

Finally, when I frame the question as an opportunity, I think actively about new revenue streams to fund the business, such as remote coaching. My thinking shifts toward willingly, even eagerly, engaging the crisis situation. I think about how to create a new normal, not reconstructing the old one. 

This shift from problem to opportunity is what distinguishes warriors from victims. Warriors are trained to move toward the threat, the stress, the crisis. They are the protectors of society, to serve a larger purpose than themselves. “Opportunity” helps you think as warriors do, so you can move toward this crisis, draw out the learning lessons, and create a new normal. 

Additionally, we serve something larger than ourselves. Businesses need to serve the world through the products and services they create and provide. It’s easy to lose sight of that when courses are selling and sales are increasing. We focus on selling and how to make more profit. If that selling/profit stream is broken, then we have a problem. Crises remind us that we’re in business primarily to serve and secondarily to make sales/profit. Serving others gives us a reason to exist. If we lose sight of service, then we lose our reason to exist. 

As an individual, you too serve something larger than yourself. What is it? How about the relationships, climbing community, and the world that you’re a part of? How could this pandemic help you get back in contact with service, instead of how you’ve lived your life thus far? 

Maybe things will get back to the old normal, but likely there’ll be a new normal we need to adapt to. What will that new normal be? Thinking as warriors do, who frame crises as opportunities, will help you find out. 

Practice tip: What’s the Opportunity in the Problem?

Think as warriors do by seeking the opportunity. Ask these three questions and see how your thinking changes toward more active engagement. You’ll find yourself moving toward the pandemic crisis to create a new normal for you. 

  1. P: “What’s the biggest problem this pandemic is presenting to me?” 
  2. C: “What’s the biggest challenge this pandemic is presenting to me?” 
  3. O: “What’s the biggest opportunity this pandemic is presenting to me?”

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Phil Kernan

    I want to call this blog brilliant and inspiring.!

    I am almost 75 and do not climb mountains but read these blogs because my roommate climbs.

    My life has completely changed in the same ways that Arno mentions here. I think all of us at any age have to ask these three questions and rethink our lives. I, also, would like to ask people to take a look at the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti which follow totally along the lines of what in depth thinkers have said over the ages, and he too challenged one to live in the moment and constantly be ready for changes in their lives in every moment.

    1. Arno

      Thanks for the post Phil. I’ve read some of Krishnamurti but have a few more books on the waiting stack. We continue on the journey…

  2. David Lloyd

    Great lesson Arno!

  3. Robby

    I like the three questions process, it’s easy for me to remember: problem, challenge, opportunity. It took me less than 1 minute to work out what opportunities I have by working remotely from home which my job does not translate to very easily. It reminds me of the Quote by Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” The key word for me is “looks.” At first, I didn’t know how I was going to get things accomplished from home. However, it turns out I have less interruptions, and that allows me to be totally focused on each assignment. Thanks Arno!

    1. Arno

      Thanks for your comments Robby. You been doing ok? Been a while, hasn’t it? Arno

  4. Greg Leach

    Just bumped into this apt quote from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche after reading your insightful and remarkably helpful offering this week:
    “A true warrior is never at war with the world. And it takes this understanding to begin a revolution with oneself.”
    Thank you Arno. Travel well.

    1. Arno

      Yes Greg, a revolution with oneself. That seems to be our task, to look inside, to dig deeper, to find who we really are. In that digging, I think, we’re better able to know who we are and how we integrate into the larger world. Thanks for sharing. Arno

  5. Christine Bessiere

    Thanks Arno for your inspiration and your precise words , even so I am not an English native tong speaker . Soon in your virtual classes when our climbing gym will reopen in France . For the moment we stay home .. tidy up our ideas.

    1. Arno

      Bonjour Christine, You can also post in French. I can translate with google to understand. We also have virtual classes, via our Free Mind coaching, done with phone, WhatsApp, or Skype. We’re connected. Remember also that our trainer in Switzerland, Vincent Hentsch, translates our lessons into French. Sign up for our email list to receive them. Merci, Arno

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