Did 9/11 Change How You Look at Your Life and Business?

Like everyone, I remember the events of 9/11 vividly.  The visions of those buildings coming down and the tremendous loss of life associated with it still brings a tear to my eye.  

The following day, September 12, 2001, I was supposed to board a plane to Bermuda to speak for a cocoa trade group.  The gig got cancelled. 

For several days after 9/11 planes were grounded.  I was aboard one of the first flights back in service.  It was a TWA flight.  There were two other passengers and me on a full-size jet. The pilots and flight attendants thanked us profusely. 

The purpose of terror is to terrify your enemy.  It worked.  Americans were terrified to fly, terrified to be in big buildings, and terrified to attend events.  Not good if your business is flying to and speaking at large gatherings of people in big buildings.  

Worse yet, my business back then was political comedy. When your country is under attack and nearly 3,000 innocent citizens have been killed, current event comedy is a tough sell.  

For about a year, nothing was funny — political satire or otherwise.  The nation was in a somber mood, understandably.  

For several months the only calls I received were from meeting planners cancelling their conferences.  The meetings industry and my business suffered greatly.  It was a tough time for a lot of people. 

It’s important to find the positive in so much negative.  

Here then are the lessons of 9/11 with the benefit of 18 years of reflection:  

  1. Never take your business for granted. Things might be good today but there is no guarantee it’ll stay that way. What’s your next step? What are you doing to ReInvent? Change will come — hopefully not via tragedy— but it will come nonetheless.

  2. Save, Invest, and Diversify.  Because we had invested in a variety of places, my wife and I weathered what became a five year storm of bad business following 9/11.  In hindsight, I still wasn’t liquid enough, nor did we have enough diversification. Can your savings and investments sustain you through five years of business downturn?

  3. Create multiple income streams.  When your primary business goes south, what will you do for revenue?  18 years ago, I had one source of income.  You’ve heard the fable about having one’s eggs all in one basket, right?  Even though things might be amazingly good for your one revenue source, establish other streams of income for the inevitable downturn.  

  4. Be prepared.  When catastrophe strikes, what actions will you take? What expense will you cut? What relationships will you leverage? What lifestyle and business adjustments will you make?  These things happen fast. Are you prepared?  

  5. Be grateful for the life and business you have. 2,977 people were killed the morning of 9/11.  Another 6,000 were injured.  Like you and me, they were just going to work doing what they do.  Thousands more first responders are sick and dying today because of what they were exposed to doing their jobs.  Your life isn’t perfect. Your business has its struggles (they all do!).  But please put things in perspective and appreciate what you have.  

Unfortunately, we can’t always predict or prevent catastrophic events. But we can learn from catastrophe to make ourselves and our businesses better.  

Damian Mason is a businessman, speaker, podcaster, farm owner, and author.  His latest book, Do Business Better, released Spring 2019.  Find him at www.damianmason.com 

Angie Carel