A Note From Andrew D. Kaufman:
This is the first post in a series of blog posts titled “Tolstoy Wisdom in Action – As Told by Readers”. These posts are written by readers of my book “Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom For Troubled Times”, and they will show personal & professional life lessons learned from the readers coming from many walks of life–entrepreneurs, psychologists, students, Christians, and others.
War and Peace is not only the world’s greatest novel, but it’s also one of the wisest guides to living ever written. From parenting to death, courage to romance, Tolstoy’s epic addresses the challenges we face every day, and shows us how to make better decisions, discover our authentic truths, and live fuller, more meaningful lives each moment. For those of us living through hard times, the novel can show us how to reframe our very understanding of what it means to live in troubled times and survive them. I hope you find this blog and those that follow valuable and thought-provoking.
Andrew D. Kaufman
Post Written by Zachary Long – Entrepreneur
Plans are an important element of most people’s lives. We generally plan for everything. The schools we attend, our career paths, weddings, parties, church, you name it. Tolstoy dives in to this topic quite a bit in War and Peace. The characters who come to recognize how little they know about what will happen, Tolstoy suggests, are actually the ones who know the most. I found this applies directly to my life as an entrepreneur, here’s how:
Control is An Illusion
Think way back to 2014. Remember the tough parts: maybe you lost someone you loved or you were laid off, or you were forced into a tough situation. The root of our fear or frustration in all of those situations seems to be, and Tolstoy would agree, in that which we have no control.
No matter the situation, had you had some level of control, you might have felt differently. But, as we all learn at one point in our lives, control is often out of our hands. Until we realize every situation is in more ways than one, out of our hands, we’re stuck seeing circumstances as consequences. We have to come to some middle ground, where we accept that very little in our lives can be expected. Some things are just far too random and chaotic. Especially in business. The turn of the market can make or break you, and it’s completely out of your control. We have to find ways to get creative, and use the ups and downs to our advantage.
You Can’t Plan for Chaos
Planning is limited. We can only hypothesize so many situations before that well runs dry. You may have noticed, even this past year, both good and bad things happen, and they happen on their own time. We can stand in front of a door all day imagining all the possible things on the other side. But when we swing open the door, and find anything outside of our predictions, we quickly revise our plan to fit the situation.
As an entrepreneur you have to move forward and understand you will face challenges. When those challenges arise you you have to be on your toes, and ready to take them on while not being discouraged and deterred from your business goals. It’s easy to give up and apply for a job somewhere, but it’s critical you stay true to your business goals! Those who stay with it through difficult times are the ones who find true success. They are the ones strong enough to take the energy of stress and turn it into positive action.
Adaptation is Survival
This goes hand in hand with my point above. As business owners we have to respond to drastic change as a hunter would. We are fighting for our own food, and need to adapt to our environment to survive. As our target consumer changes, we sometimes need to change our model in order to eat. What 21 year olds liked 5 years ago is completely different today. Andrew states it perfectly when he says our ability to address the new situation at hand is the difference between danger and safety, success and failure, joy and regret. Success will come when you take situations head on, with a positive attitude and focus.
Planning is Still Necessary
All that said, planning is still essential! The process of planning gives us direction, and something to look towards. Andrew reminds us in his book of a quote from General Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Tolstoy continually makes this point in War and Peace, and Andrew does an outstanding job breaking this down to help us apply this concept to our lives, both personal and professional.
So what is Tolstoy really suggesting when he portrays the characters who come to recognize how little they know about what will happen, are actually the ones who know the most? I think we all can interpret it differently, however for me as a business owner it means when we recognize we don’t 100% know what’s around the corner, we know that we have to be ready to survive. And that makes us know more than other business owners who think they know it all and drive themselves into the ground because they aren’t willing to adapt.
To understand these concepts in more depth, I highly encourage you to explore Andrew’s book, “Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times.”
Stay tuned for more blog posts like this from all walks of life. We’re looking forward to learning and growing together!