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Posted: November 06, 2012

How to get rid of a headache

You can't just sit there

Todd Ordal

I bent over to fill the cat bowl last night and vaguely remember slipping on a rug. The next thing I remember is waking up with my wife holding my head and my brain doing flip-flops. I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but am sure—based upon my head pain—that I smacked my noggin pretty good on the tile floor and perhaps on the table on the way down as it was now three feet away from its usual position. (Not my head, the table.)

A fitful night’s sleep left me feeling… about the same. I remember my Social Security number, can do math and even tried a round of a brain training app on my iPad and did O.K. so don’t think that I’m any dumber than I was before. However, I feel just a bit off and don’t trust my thought process.

I have a client who is going through the same experience. He didn’t hit his head, but his world is getting turned upside down and he doesn’t trust his judgment. A very successful guy, he has executed his strategy brilliantly for about 10 years. He could do it in his sleep (and probably after a couple of concussions).

However, his world is changing. As so often happens in today’s world a combination of technological changes and some new innovative business models (driven in part by the economic downturn) are starting to erode his market. The demand is still there, but it is being addressed and delivered differently.

When you’ve been successful doing something one way for an extended period, your natural response when you hit a speed bump is to keep doing it—or do it even harder! It is easy to deny the new evidence that things are changing. “Its just a fluke,” you say. “Our methods are proven and will carry us through.” Perhaps.

My best course of action after smacking my noggin was to sit out a day—though here I am writing! I have kids who played sports and after concussions they were told by doctors to rest and avoid even mental activity. Not so easy to do! Try it for a few minutes: Just sit there.

When you’re a CEO with a headache, you can’t get away with just sitting there; waiting for the situation to improve. Rash action is foolish, but lack of mental activity is not the answer! When you start to get evidence that the world is changing around you, you darn well better start to think through options. Methodically and evidence-based, sure, but with some enthusiasm and speed as well.

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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