March 20th, 2020, I was on a flight back from New York when the economic gravity of what was about to hit us consumed my thoughts. Twelve months of business strategy, planning and execution were awash with uncertainty.
The night before I was standing in an empty Times Square, which would typically be crushed with thousands of people rushing along the sidewalks and selfie captures everywhere. It was deeply unnerving that no more than 100 people occupied this space. It felt apocalyptic. Yet, in the brisk evening in a mostly deserted Times Square was The Naked Cowboy and Spiderman, working their usual hustle. On better days, you can see hundreds of characters wanting a slice of your wallet, but on that evening there was just two. As I walked past The Naked Cowboy, I asked him ( I paid for the privilege of asking and I was happy to) why he bothered coming out here naked when Time's Square was as dead as it was. He said, "well you're here, and Times Square is a spectacle right now". Looking around, I tried to see what he saw, a place that is known for its noise, chaos and intensity, only to see a spectacular light show accompanied by silence. The Naked Cowboy was right. Times Square felt profoundly different, almost magical in its emptiness.
It wasn't until I was on the flight home the day after our encounter, with a sinking feeling growing in my gut. What was waiting for me back home? How as a business would we recalibrate to the uncertainty of an economic crisis like this? Then strangely and coincidently, I thought of the Naked Cowboy, he was able to see clarity in the darkness of what was around him, but most importantly, he had the hustle to keep going, and he lifted his animation to attract attention. That's exactly what will get us and any business through this!
Taking inspiration from The Naked Cowboy, I got off the plane with a positive mindset and challenged myself to look at everything in the business world through a different lens. Refocus, rather than fear-based leadership was my main priority and leading my team to a new level of intensity. I changed our marketing to reflect the times, actioned new product offerings (Coming Soon) and most importantly kept our team informed and supported. We all hustled every day, working harder and our creativity as a business flourished. Take a leaf out of The Naked Cowboy’s book, in changing times, change the lens you view the world around you.
Considering what The Naked Cowboy inspired, it makes me wish I had spoken to Spiderman too.