Finding Opportunities Amidst Uphill Struggles: Lessons from Running and the Hard Market

August 30, 2023 Aubie Knight, CIC, CRM

Last week, Joe Stewart and I hosted a “Hard Market Town Hall” for IIANC’s members. It was well attended, and agents were able to share with us their frustrations with dealing with the current market conditions, as well as suggest some actions that IIANC could take to perhaps provide some relief.

As I listened to the (very legitimate) concerns of our members, I was reminded of two things; 1) a cartoon from the early 90’s; and 2) a run that I had recently taken on an unfamiliar trail.

The Cartoon

I entered the insurance business in the early 1990’s as the industry was just coming out of a very hard market cycle.  In the hallway of the office that I worked in (or was it the restroom?), there hung a cartoon that had been clipped from one of the trade publications.  The cartoon depicted an insurance agent sitting behind a desk completely cluttered with paperwork.  The agent had his arms raised to the heavens, and the speech bubble depicted him saying the following prayer: “Dear Lord, please let there be another hard market. I promise that I won’t squander it next time.” (I wish I could find this image, but no such luck. Perhaps once this hard market cycle is over, we can ask one of the AI apps to recreate it for us.)

The Run

A few days before the town hall, I ran on a new trail on the Apex Greenway, running an "out and back." On my way out, I couldn’t wait to get to the turnaround, because the second half of the run was going to be mostly downhill… or so I thought! Strangely enough, the trail seemed uphill both ways!

On my way back, there were long uphill stretches that I completely failed to notice (as being downhill) on my way out. This observation served as a reminder about how running can be such a great analogy for life and business (and maybe even the hard market.)

The Uphill Struggle: A Runner’s Dilemma                                                                               

As I ran the trail, I found myself continuously aware of the uphill struggles, hardly noticing the downhill stretches. Was I so consumed by the challenges that I failed to appreciate the ease and opportunities hidden in the downhill sections? This experience parallels many aspects of life and business, where we tend to focus on the hurdles rather than the opportunities.

The Uphill Focus: Challenges in the Present

In business, just like on the trail, we often find ourselves concentrating on the immediate uphill stretches. The current challenges absorb our attention, energy, and resources. While this focus is necessary to overcome obstacles, it can blind us to the downhill stretches that offer relief and opportunities.

The Looming Uphill: Fearing the Future

While running, I also found myself dreading the next uphill section even before reaching it. Similarly, in business, we can become preoccupied with future challenges, causing unnecessary stress and diverting our attention from current opportunities.

Embracing the Downhill: The Unnoticed Opportunities

The downhill stretches in life, like those on a running trail, can go unnoticed if we only look for the uphill struggles. These smoother paths are often filled with opportunities, possibilities, and even joy that can provide momentum for the next challenge.

Running with Perspective

The next time that I ran the same stretch, I tried to be very intentional about enjoying and appreciating the downhill sections. And it was STILL HARD to do. It is as though my brain is designed to recognize the threats and challenges. Seems that is perhaps how we have evolved. However, by being very intentional about looking for the opportunities, I was able to at least see and appreciate some of them. Yes, you are facing challenges, but are you also being intentional about looking for the flat and downhill periods? Try to recognize the downhill stretches and the opportunities those present. You may find that it's not all uphill, and that there are opportunities just waiting to be discovered.