fire breathing dragon at Harry Potters Diagon Alley

What's your defense against the dark arts, in business?

Ever had a bad day at the office? Ever had a tough week?

Maybe the last 2 years in business haven’t been what you hoped for.

Perhaps Harry Potter and his mates can relate.

In this article

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is arguably one of the most influential stories of our times and with a brand value of over $25 Billion, its commercial success has in many ways shaped a generation.

While providing a happy escape to a fictional wizarding world, its characters, their struggles, and motivations mirror many of our own. As we watch spellbound by the consequences of hard decisions other people are asked to make, we usually find ourselves becoming invested in their anticipated success.

Harry Potter's most memorable battles will be with the Dementors – dark shadowy specters that naturally consume human happiness, creating an atmosphere of cold darkness, misery and despair. Because of their innate power to drain happiness and hope from people, these depression-inducing beings are assigned as prison guards at Azkaban, where their simple dark presence prevents the prisoners from ever forming the will or ability to escape.

The only defense against these hooded wraiths and their mastery at sucking the light and happiness out of wherever they are is by creating the very difficult Patronus spell. This is done by summoning a singularly bright and happy memory of such personal significance, that its luminous presence counters the quenching darkness and paralysis of a depressed mind.

Of course, summoning such a memory while in the throes of crisis and the pain of decision, is in itself a mastery of personal ability.

Fact or fiction - or a little of both?

It is no surprise some Modern Small Business Owners will begin to notice a disturbing similarity between fiction and the fact of their small business life today.

"That's very, very advanced magic ... Hermione Granger, on the difficulty and complexity of the patronus charm

A more obvious commercial example may be, when wading through the volumes of paperwork of a tax audit, facing the soul-sucking agony of failing suppliers, dealing with a recalcitrant customer, or managing yet another round of changes to HR legislation (or COVID19 public health lockdown orders).

Your power to call to memory a happier occasion — a strong reminder of your first purpose, leadership, compassion, legacy, or even just a ‘screw you, I’m doing this anyway’ motivation — your ability to call upon this memory to sustain you during dark times, is not just nice to have it’s a commercial imperative.

The degree of your grasp of the importance of this personal origin story will decide your level of success against these dark creatures and moods that afflict us all in many ways. Drew Browne

We all share the same humanity

Of course at its core the story of Harry Potter is a fantasy tale dealing with intrinsically very human qualities and people facing the question; when do you play it safe and when should you take a calculated risk?

In business, it won't be long before you’re presented with this same question - requiring you to choose between two equally bleak and risky choices, (usually with ever-increasing levels of risks and responsibility). These constant assaults to your strength of character, tenacity, and adaptability can feel very personal, especially when you sense the confidence-questioning drain of your own Dementor.

The limited choices available are usually made more disturbingly human with the growing awareness that nobody is coming to save you from your problem.

We all face the same question

Eventually, you will have to make a fundamental choice between two potentially (and commercially) threatening realities:

  1. Do you play it safe and minimise the potential for loss OR
  2. Do you take a strategic risk and maximise your potential for improvement and success?

And no, there’s no third option here; I have looked for one many times.

When there is no risk-free choice

The hardest choices we face are those that all contain struggle.

Faced with yet another business decision the question comes;

  • will you play it safe and ration money and supplies in the hope of lasting as long as possible, until an outside force intervenes and saves you from this unfortunate situation? OR
  • are you prepared to face your fear of embarrassment and pain of loss and learn through trial and error?

Put another way;

  • Are you going to figure out a way through, OR
  • are you going to just go back to basics, refusing to take action for fear of making the situation worse, and hope for rescue?

Why this choice demands an answer today, and not tomorrow

The more you delay making this fundamental choice, between these two unpalatable options, the more opportunities you will waste.

Delaying your answer can both imprison you through inaction and prevent you from forming the will or ability to even escape.

Good news: evolution is on your side

The good news is our innate evolutionary development has primed us to be on the lookout for risks and threats and to find ways to adapt.

This skill has kept us safe for centuries. These same elements of threat recognition, fight or flight still lie within us all, constantly scanning for danger (we may even buy an insurance policy for it).

Remember, every professional was once an amateur

Persistence is part of our continued learning.

We also share the ability to constantly learn, refine our skills and use our tenacity to find a way through and bring order to this new chaos; it just hurts like hell (and really sucks if you're honest). We all prefer to avoid difficult conversations.

Protect your environment

Protect your potential and what you know you’re capable of, otherwise, you will run out of stamina while attempting to fulfill your dreams.

Ultimately the numbers don't matter as much as your approach. We all have to fortify ourselves against the dark arts and this usually involves drastically changing our environment.

Everything external shapes your internal experience in some way; amateurish ways of thinking, victimhood talk and complaining, dementors, and other toxic points of view: all distract us from making the fundamental decisions we all need to make.

Protect your culture

Our Western Culture is constantly advertising you're not your best, could never become your best, and are forever cursed to be missing something; (that you can also conveniently buy from them) - selling the dream but sucking the hope and soul out of you with whatever fear is currently on sale.

Find your Patronus Charm

If you’re not emotionally engaged with your business, you will reduce the effort you exert in finding solutions and pushing through difficult decisions.

Spend time to find out how to become your best. And remember, every time we commit to being our best, we drag a group of people along with us too.

Hope for rescue is not a valid business strategy

If you do have the good fortune to be rescued from your current commercial challenge, remember: you will not have changed who you are, you will not have any new skill, knowledge, or character development, and unfortunately there’s never only one challenge.

While knowing how to create more value for our customers will always be our first line of defense against the dark arts in business life, our futures will ultimately be crafted by how we answer this question:

  • Should you play it safe and minimise the potential for loss OR
  • Do you take a strategic risk and maximise your potential for improvement and success?

Perhaps it's time for modern small business owners to talk more about what we go through with generosity so others can connect with us.

Your passions, the reasons why you chose to rise above your fears — to tell the story of how purpose drives profits or how you made your choices, paid your price — they can all form part of your brand's story, and your protective Patronus spell for when the dark moods come to steal your joy and your risk of success.

The last word

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” - Dumbledore - Harry Potter's The Goblet of Fire movie.

And you know what? It just might work like a charm.

Expecto Patronum!

Drew Browne Modern Small Business thought-provocateur
Enjoyed what you've read and want to work together?
You can contact me here or connect with me through LinkedIn.
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