My year should have stopped in March. I’d just returned from Social Media Marketing World, the giant, annual conference for social media marketers that takes place in San Diego every year. My agenda was filled with new opportunities, and my head was buzzing with new ideas. Before I could put those ideas to work though, I had another conference in Dubai. And in April, I was set for a big move: a relocation to Puerto Rico. 2020 was going to be another big, busy year.
As the pandemic took hold, the Dubai conference was canceled. The move to Puerto Rico? Perhaps I’ll get there one day, but needless to say it didn’t happen.
Once it became clear that the world was stopping, I realized I had a choice. I could batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to end. Or I could think like an entrepreneur. I could find a way to turn lemons into lemonade.
That’s what self-starters always do. They don’t sit and wait for the conditions to change. They don’t only build in good times. They find ways to build in challenging times too.
Together with Travis Wright, my partner at The Bad Crypto Podcast, we figured that conferences wouldn’t end entirely. People would still want to share knowledge. They still want to learn and network. And we now have the technology to present conferences online. So we decided to try to beat the big players in the blockchain space to the punch and organize a virtual conference.
Of course, we went big.
Virtual Blockchain Week would run every evening from April 26 to May 2. We’d pack in as many speakers from the blockchain world as we could find. Within 48 hours of deciding to do it, we had 23 speakers lined up and ready to participate. Sponsors followed soon after. Contributions would eventually come from people as big as John McAfee, Akon, and Changpeng Zhao. We were the first out of the gates, beating companies as big as Coindesk, which had cancelled its Bitcoin 2020 conference planned for May. We set the standard and we showed that even if Covid was keeping people at home, we could still work, network, and share the ideas that build businesses.
I didn’t stop at creating commercial opportunities in the time of Covid. With everything functioning slower than usual, this was also a good time to get other parts of life in order. We’re all usually too busy to look around and wonder how we can streamline our lives. We’re so busy doing that we don’t have time for thinking. We don’t get a moment to re-evaluate or plan. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to take a breath and look at where we stand.
For me, that meant downsizing. I couldn’t move to Puerto Rico just yet but I could declutter my life. So I took the opportunity to sell off my vintage software and comic book collections, creating more than 400 auctions on Ebay. And then I got to work on a new opportunity to offer a new kind of collectible: digital trading cards.
Travis Wright, myself and our two sons built Blockchain Heroes, a collectible series of superheroes inspired by personalities in the blockchain and cryptocurrency world. Created and sold on the WAX blockchain, the entire series sold out in 20 minutes. The success of the first series encouraged us to create an even more innovative second release.
From owning physical collections that were gathering dust and taking up space in my closet, I’d moved to a small apartment that contained everything I needed, and nothing more, and I was creating and selling digital collectibles that would last forever.
It’s tempting to see this year as an unwelcome break from normal activity, an insurmountable obstacle to growing a business and developing a life. We have to stop, wait for it to pass, then move forward again, perhaps when we’re able to stand closer than six feet apart.
But life doesn’t wait for anyone, and entrepreneurs understand that. In fact, when everyone else is standing still, they see an opportunity to race ahead.
We probably won’t see a pandemic again but we will see other lemon moments: a financial crash, a recession, who knows? The first thing to do when that happens is keep your business’s engine running. Look for ways to deliver what people want but can’t easily get. For us, that was a chance to bring people together even as they all sat at home. There will always be difficult times but even these times are good times to find golden opportunities as along as you’re prepared to look for them and make the most of them.
The second thing to do is to take the opportunity to look at your own life. You might not want to clean out your closets or move to a smaller apartment but those quiet moments are a chance to look at where you’re going and how you’re living, and decide if you’re moving in the direction you want to take. Is this the life you want to live? Is this where you want to go?
It’s much harder to make changes when business is good and customers are making demands, and you don’t need to do much to build on opportunities. It’s in those quiet, difficult moments that you have the chance to reassess and plan a new path. It’s also in those moments that you’re free enough from pressure to adjust and maneuver.
Life is full of lemons. They’re always going to be with us. Entrepreneurs know how to turn those lemons into lemonade, turn lemonade into champagne moments, and keep life moving even when everyone else has stopped.