Flexibility to pivot

I have always been fascinated with learning why some businesses succeed while others fail. I believe that a key to success is being flexible enough to pivot, which is defined as “the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product - in which you've invested significant time, money and energy – is no longer the correct path to follow.”

Many companies have pivoted successfully. For example, Odeo originally provided services for people to find and subscribe to podcasts but once iTunes began dominating the podcast market, Odeo's management decided to pivot and Odeo became Twitter. Another example is Flickr, a photo-sharing company that was acquired by Yahoo. Flickr initially started as an online role-playing game that included a photo-sharing tool, one of the game's most popular features. The company pivoted to Flickr, to monopolize on the photo-sharing tool's popularity.

Some business leaders, however, fail to pivot - even when it's in their best interest to do so. Rather than focus on their objectives, which likely includes having the most successful company possible, they fixate on their initial investment to a certain idea (all the time and energy already spent) and remain stuck on maintaining that their original pathway is still optimal.

Many of us tend to do this in our personal lives as well. We may hold onto a certain path that no longer serves our highest good (please feel free to replace “path” with job, friend, significant other, thought pattern, mindset, habit, or whatever else may apply).

That begs the question - why do we sometimes pivot when appropriate while other times remain stuck to the original path we have set upon? 

1)  Fear of change and the unknown. It definitely feels easier to stay on the same path we are already on. But often times, you may feel compelled to change direction because you know, deep down, that your current path is not working for you. One of the greatest tips on how to live life is, get comfortable with change and feel free to explore what else is available to you to help you grow and find your greatest joy. Stretch yourself out beyond your boundaries and enjoy feeling more flexible after the stretch. As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Life is all about getting comfortable with changing and growing. 
2)  Confusion on your inner guidance.  I often felt confused distinguishing my desire to run away from my current problems / situation with my intuition that I should pivot. One way to gain clarity on this is to meditate. Spend a few minutes each day with yourself, connecting. See how it feels. Begin testing on smaller decisions how it feels to trust your intuition and see how that turns out. While you also can ask your trusted confidants, remember that they cannot see into your heart and all you are feeling, so take what they say with a grain of salt. Though it's great to get others' perspective, empower *yourself* to set the direction of your life.

3)  Ego.  We may convince ourselves that a certain path is still the best one for us because we identity with the path we carefully chose and personally decided to follow. But we need to let go of our ego to be open to change. We must remember that the world is changing rapidly, and we must adjust and adapt accordingly. Plus, we can ask ourselves:  What is your aim in life, to support your ego or live the most awesome life possible? As the Chinese philosopher and military strategist, Sun Tzu, stated, "The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."

4)  Holding onto the past.  In economics, there's a term called "sunk cost," which refers to a cost that has already incurred and cannot be recovered. That sunk cost is money already spent and, thus, should not be calculated in decisions made now. We, however, get stuck in the "sunk cost fallacy," where we give weight to sunk costs and let that distort what is best for us. For example, we stay in a relationship / friendship that we no longer enjoy nor want because we fixate on how much we have invested in that relationship. We, however, need to let go of the past and focus on what is best for us now. Try it - you will find it freeing!


It’s always great to be in a supportive environment when stretching yourself and becoming more flexible to pivot. It's my aim to provide such an environment and additional tools to assist in your personal growth. Please email me atsera@serahwang.com  if you're interested in learning more. =)


Here's a story that relates to flexibility to pivot (or changing course)

One day, shortly after dark, the lookout on a battleship reported to the Captain that there was a light in front of them from another ship, and that ship was not moving. They were on a collision course with the other ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."

Back came the reply, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."

The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."

"I am a seaman second class" came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees."

By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees."

Back came the reply, "I'm a lighthouse."

The Captain changed course.

This is reason I used a picture of the lighthouse. =) Plus, I wish I were in Maine (where picture was taken) enjoying a fresh lobster roll! =)