Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Meltdowns and You

Last month we watched in awe and horror as Japan suffered one of the greatest catastrophes in modern times. It began with an earthquake of monumental proportions. Next came a tsunami that had warning sirens going off around the Pacific Rim. Finally, the two disasters compromised several nuclear reactors and the fear of meltdowns swept around the world. If you lived in Denver, you were safe from the first two, but the meltdown threatened to affect the entire planet.

Business leaders today face challenges unparalleled in history. With the speed of social media and practically everyone having access to news, information, statistics and feedback, business is moving at a pace that changes our outlook in a matter of seconds. Careers are destroyed with the click of a button. Notice how fast everyone got interested in Charlie Sheen‘s public rants…and how fast everyone got fed up with him after the premier of his “one man show” in Detroit recently.

To know how to react to economic and personal disasters takes an understanding of their severity and scope. Earthquakes cause different damages and changes than do tsunamis and meltdowns. You can’t change the circumstances, but you can understand their consequences and adjust your reactions.

Earthquakes shake the very foundations of your business and personal life. They tear down the old models and force you to rebuild or reinvent in a stronger incarnation. The publishing industry has taken a major hit with the advent of e-readers, Kindles, Nooks and tablet notebooks, like the iPad. Much the same way that the record industry took a tumble with the advent of file sharing through iTunes and Napster. 

Bill Clinton went through an earthquake two years into his presidency when the Republican Party took control of both houses of the US Congress. He reinvented his management style and cooperated more. Two years later he was re-elected to office easily. Will Barack Obama be able to do the same thing after facing his own earthquake in November 2010? It remains to be seen.
Tsunamis sweep across the land and change the terrain forever. Whole cities and coastal farmlands were wiped out by the tsunami last month. Rebuilding has to be done from the ground up.


In business, a tsunami occurs when the business changes so much you can’t continue at all in the same way you did before. Reinventing yourself has to be on a grand scale. The automobile industry has been forced to start producing cars based on new models to consumers who want more fuel efficient, more technologically advanced and more comfortable than ever before. The advent of the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius (which just passed one million in sales of models) and the Ford Focus is evident of this trend.

Tiger Woods recently faced a tsunami in his personal life. His on-going recovery is a reinvention of himself. He is concentrating on his golf game and making himself more “human” in the eyes of his fans and the public. Recently the traditionally reclusive athlete has appeared on late-night talk shows poking fun at himself. 

Meltdowns destroy everything in the area. Nothing, according to scientists and environmentalists can be rebuilt in the same location. Look at the area around the disastrous Chernobyl reactors. Ghost towns and uninhabitable conditions prevail even today. Business leaders who face meltdowns need to understand that they can’t fight this kind of change in the same way as the other disasters. has never recovered from the emergence and popularity of Facebook. Will Blackberry be able to adjust to the meltdown of Androids and iPhones? It remains to be seen. Most wireless stores carry Blackberries, but few are buying them.

Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen are facing meltdowns in their careers. Rather than reinventing themselves, they are fighting the “radioactive waste” they are causing in their own lives. Leaders need to see where they are miss-stepping and avoid the pitfalls of self-sabotage. Watch what they say and do and understand that everyone is watching. Or they will never recover.


Historically, Richard Nixon faced an earthquake when he was defeated in the presidential election of 1960 by John F. Kennedy. He faced a tsunami in California running for national office in 1962. He recovered and reinvented himself six years later to win the presidency against Hubert Humphrey. But he was brought down by the meltdown of Watergate in 1974. His own personal sabotage spiraled him out of office and into a life of self-seclusion and shame.


When you face change and catastrophe you can reinvent yourself and your business, but you must first determine what level the damage is, what you have to reassess and where you need to begin your reinvention. You can do it, but you must act differently to meet the new and different challenges.reinvention. You can do it, but you must act differently to meet the new and different challenges.


Jim Mathis, CSP is The Reinvention Strategist™ , an international Certified Speaking Professional and author of the soon to be released book, Reinvent Yourself – The Simple Steps to Dominate Your Market. To subscribe to his free personal and professional development newsletter, please send an email to: [email protected] with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how Jim and his programs can benefit your organisation or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his web site:

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