To Escape Survival Mode Identify Your Trick Candles

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Hey Business Thinkers,

I am excited to cover another topic today to hopefully help you figure out some frameworks as you start thinking on your business more and more.

The 10 Million Dollar Question…

And today is kind of the 10 million dollar question and that is…

How do you start moving from being in this kind of survival mode into more of a proactive mode where you’re not in like panic day-to-day? How do you make that transition?

And this is the 10 million dollar question because this is what actually starts to separate a business from the person that’s just a drowning trying to make it all work into someone that’s sort of more conscious on building something that maybe eventually can run in a much smoother level. And every business has to figure this stage out.

So, in the early stages, you are drowning and you are having to scramble and you are having to panic. You will be in that state every single time and then you have to figure your way out of it because, if you don’t, you’re gonna get exhausted and when you get exhausted, eventually you’re too tired to think your way out of problems. And then you won’t think your way out of problems fast enough and you will run out of money. And when a business runs out of money, it, of course, disappears.

The Inflection Point

So this becomes this really unique inflection point.

In lots of areas of learning, the same thing happens.

What got you to one level won’t get you to the next.

So, what gets you through the first levels of a business is…

  • the ability to adapt
  • to work really really hard
  • just grind your face off right

Like, to be in that reactionary mode and run around putting out fires as fast as you can. That is what gets you to that level.

But it won’t get you further. And you realize that because “I’m working 60 hours a week at 95% as hard as I can and I could maybe make it all the way to a hundred percent but I can’t do 110 or120 so it seems that working harder at this and grinding harder isn’t actually gonna solve my problem”

So what will?

And that’s really at the heart of this question. We’re talking about moving from panic and survival mode into a more proactive way of being that’s at the root of it.

Fighting Fires In Your Business

And so the thing I think that’s most helpful for you is to help reframe exactly what’s happening and of course, I use an analogy because I love my analogies.

So we’ll look at this person that is in this reactive mode as someone that’s putting out fires.

Alright so, they have a fire pop up in their business and they’re running to put it out and another one pops up and they go put it out and then they run to put another one out. They’re running around doing that over and over again.

Of course that’s exhausting!

Because whenever you have a fire, that fire becomes an urgent problem.

And an urgent problem always takes priority over an important problem right? An urgent problem has a timeline surrounding it where it has to be taken care of. An important problem really needs to be handled, but it doesn’t have a timeline and so it’ll get bumped to the side.

In that way, it’s easy that you never get to work on any of the important stuff in your business because you’re always dealing with the urgent stuff.

And there are a few ways people try to navigate their way around that.

One is just to don’t do the urgent stuff either. That doesn’t tend to go very well. A lot of the urgent stuff, if not handled, only becomes more urgent and more dire. But that is no one approach people try. 🙁

Trick Candles

So, what should you do instead?

Well the thing to think about here is that these fires aren’t random.

The fires that happen are much more like trick candles than random strikes of lightning on a brush pile.

One of my first birthdays that I had trick candles they were lit and I blew them out like I had so many birthdays before. And I made my wish and of course my wish comes true because they’re all gone. But then they all light up again.

And I think that is kinda weird. That’s kind of a cool magic trick. I wonder how that really worked?

Let’s blow them out again. Maybe they’re just, you know, “two-times candles”? And so you blow them out again and then they pop up again and you blow them out again they pop up again.

That is how the fires and your business actually are. There are set to reignite over and over and over and over again.


When you understand this, the fires actually become a really really important indicator in your business!

The fires help show you where the trick candles are that need to be taken care of systematically. Now, when you get this, it is a giant game-changer.

Because actually, the problem for a business that has made it through this stage to the later stages is – they don’t have these fires to put out!

Decision making for them is super challenging. When you have no indicators coming back at you, how do you pick out to make this decision versus that decision?

You know you can compare that level of decision-making to the early survival stage. What to work on is really easy to pick then! It’s whatever makes you not die right?!? Whatever makes you not drown! Of course, you work on THAT.

You don’t have to think about it, you just have to like run and try to do as much of it as you can and then go to bed and then work on it again tomorrow. Because you never can get it all done.

It’s easy to know what to do next.

So thinking about fires as that indicator like that is something that an owner in the later stage of business almost doesn’t mind a fire popping up. Its almost a unique, novel thing like “Oh wait, a trick candle we haven’t solved yet? This is interesting! I wonder how this happened? What was the perfect storm that allowed this to get through? How can we fix that?”

So using these as trick candle indicators to figure out how to put out this fire FOREVER, that’s the key.

What Are The “Trick Candles” In Your Business?

And so now, you’ll start to realize, you know, what are the trick candles in your business?

What are the five 10-20 things that keep reoccurring?

You can actually make it a list and think about it. Actually mark stuff, and as you do that you’ll find out you have a few categories that are the root cause of pretty much all of these. And then you’ll start to problem-solve and figure them out you’ll try to solve them in easy to implement ways.

I would say that probably almost every business I’ve ever worked with has a trick candle that can be solved in less than five minutes. Implement the change instantaneously and it fixes it for forever.

Trick Candle Problem Solving Example

I’ll give you one of the most common examples is setting clear expectations – communicating clearly what someone should expect.

If a business isn’t doing that well, the amount of customer service problems on the back end are enormous!..

  • People aren’t happy about the service.
  • They feel that they paid too much.
  • They feel like it takes took too long.

If you communicate clearly on the front end and set those expectations, almost all of that goes away. It’s a super common example right?

So if all you do is change and whenever you do a service with someone, before you start you say “hey, by the way, this is going to take about an hour and you’re going to feel better for about the next three days and then you’ll come back and see me again…”

If you say that now, that problem is taken care of for all eternity. You might have people that didn’t notice it, so you decide OK I want to make that in writing now…

But you implemented that right away and you solved ten customer complaints a month by just changing the order in which you do things or the clarity with which you operate.

Focus On YOUR Forever Fixes

So focus on these trick candles. These are the indicators that tell you in your business where your business is not working. It’s your business yelling at you saying “hey I’m broken over here!”

And so go fix those areas of broken and think about it.

Getting A Foothold

You know, you have working “in” your business and you have working “on” your business right?

And this is the like allocation of energy.

You have a hundred percent allocation and then there’s a certain mix that you’re actively doing.

And so you’re probably working you know “in” your business 95% of the time, 99% of the time and working “on” your business like 1% of the time.

So the key here is that as you solve one of these trick candles, it probably gives you back some time. And I would really recommend, as that time it gives back to you, to put directly towards more working “on” your business time.

So, if it saves you two hours a month, don’t just put that two hours to working “in” because now you’re just you know still scrambling. Try to keep it to working “on” the business. And then that you can use those two hours to save you another two hours. Now you’ve got extra time and extra time.

This is how you start to get a foothold.

And what’s interesting is as you do this, you see you’re working “in” the business didn’t change at all right? You just reallocated the rest when it means you didn’t cut back that time.

And so if you were already cashflow positive doing your, you know, 50 hours a week right now you’re getting all that same 50 hours a week done, but you’re getting it done more efficiently (maybe in 45hours because of these systems that you’ve set in place).

And with that extra five hours, you’re spending it to make things better.

So you’re making the same money with less energy and it keeps on expanding in that way. That’s how you get a foothold and still be able to pay the bills day in and day out.

So, if you’re stuck in reactive mode and you’re trying to get to be a proactive person more in charge of the direction of the business, focus on the trick candles in your business.

So that when you put out a fire it doesn’t come back. A NEW fire can pop up but that one is solved.

A Chance To Learn The Nuances…

And if it’s not solved the good news is after those small information tweaks it’s probably better than it was. Or you had some slightly faulty assumptions. You can quickly tune those in.

Now you get a really easy experiment because you know “I usually get a complaint a week and if I implement this well now I’m just getting one complaint a month and so what’s the additional thing I can do to make it even better..”

So you’ll almost always be moving in the right direction.

It does take focused time and so I’d really recommend scheduling some time to sit down with yourself or another business professional like myself to talk about things. (But just with yourself on a piece of notepaper booked for 30 minutes or an hour of non-interrupted time can have amazing results if you actually close out the world sit down and focus on your business!)

So that that’s my advice to anyone trying to figure out that leap from proactive to reactive.

Focus on those trick candles. Put them out once and for all you’ll find your way.

Thanks have a great rest of your day!