How Hurricane Irma Defined My Minimum Viable Life

By Davide Frau, an EO South Florida member

I recently survived Hurricane Irma as she unleashed all the fury of a Category 5 storm on South Florida. Despite the mandatory evacuation order, I chose to stay through the storm, riding it out on the 9th floor of my Miami condominium building. I made it through better off than many of my fellow Floridians. While the catastrophe brought epic destruction in our state, it also brought clarity to me in unexpected ways. I’d like to share some of my insights.

In the days preceding the storm’s landfall, instead of preparing my presentation for an upcoming EO South Florida chapter event, I focused on preparing for Irma—a hurricane that was expected to be among the strongest and most destructive in U.S. history. Hysteria hit the streets, as the number of people looking for fuel, water, food and shelter seemed countless.

By around 11 p.m. on Sunday, 10 September, there was no power or water in my building and the wind was whipping at almost 100 mph. I was in as safe a place as could be found, and I had put all of my affairs in order for any worst-case scenario. I should’ve felt extremely anxious about the outcome of Hurricane Irma.

However, while looking at the candle that provided the only light in my room, I started to feel a sense of great calm, contentment and happiness. I had a sudden epiphany: Despite the sense of urgency, stress and drama that led to this moment, I realized that Hurricane Irma—by threatening my very life—had brought more clarity to my journey than I had felt in the last 12 months altogether.

This catastrophic event helped me clarify and understand what I later decided to call my “Minimum Viable Life.”

As entrepreneurs, we are all too familiar with stressful and potentially business-ending threats and situations. At the inception of our entrepreneurial journey or in overwhelming moments, we focus on our “Minimum Viable Product.”

We ask ourselves simple questions: What will keep us going if everything falls apart? What are the minimum features necessary to satisfy our customers’ needs? What matters most to our core customers? What’s superfluous and an over-complication in our business model?

Sometimes we forget to slow down and use this practical advice as a metaphor for a fulfilling life. We strive to create simple enterprises while we build overcomplicated lives. But when my life was threatened, I suddenly realized the opportunity it provided for me to find ultimate clarity.

The days before and after Irma, I felt a sense of fulfillment. I noticed people caring for each other and witnessed a community coming together. It was a great feeling, but as an entrepreneur, I know you don’t create change just by feeling good.

I have decided to unpack the experience and make it into a simple go-to model: The Minimum Viable Life, which highlights the positive aspects of stressful situations or can help anyone who is lost and wondering about their life. I have identified five main areas that impact your life positively during a catastrophic event.

1. CLARITY

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. We live in a society where the noise level is very high, we live on the run and stress about catching up. The hurricane forced me to slow down and focus on the present moment, because the present was all that mattered. What is your “Hurricane Moment?” What is your equivalent to a life-threatening storm to declutter your thoughts and allow a sense of clarity, presence and full consciousness?

2. SELF-CARE

Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others with a full cup. EO changed my life; it showed me the path and the way to self-care. However, we do sometimes develop superhero syndrome, always thinking about others as we focus on “People, strategy, execution and cash.” Simple things like climbing 24 flights of stairs because the elevator isn’t working, or living without air conditioning and other luxuries can quickly reveal our cracks. It brings awareness about the weaknesses that we hide so well during EO meetings. What does your fitness level tell you? Are you taking care of yourself? Would you be able to live without electricity for one week? How about two weeks?

3. ADDED VALUE

Big problems present great opportunities to help others. We started our businesses with a clear market need in mind. When people are in danger, they discover their real needs and look for people who can fulfill these needs. When it comes to ourselves, without employees or any other business asset, it’s a moment to shine. It’s the opportunity to realize how people see our contribution in their lives despite our business aspirations. What’s your input? What do people request of you? Do they reach out to you for something you love to share? What do people thank you for? Recognizing what people thank you for is often the easiest way to understand where people find value in your contribution.

4. CORE TEAM

You are the average of the five people you share the most time with. I’m a people person. Seeing the community coming together and selflessly helping each other filled my heart with joy. Without even asking for help, I was approached by people who wanted to help—telling me where I could park my car safely, asking me if had enough food or checking if I needed shelter. Sometimes we focus so much on networking that we forget about “netgiving.” Facing a common problem together can help us rediscover our community and core team. Whom did you get in touch with before the hurricane? Whom did you share the love with when you realized there was a chance you would never see them again? Who was there to help? Find your core team.

5. ENTERPRISE

If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough. We embark on entrepreneurship with a big dream to change the world. We have quite a long bucket list. Our enterprise is at times a lens on our dreams and how we see the world. During the hurricane, some of us risked losing it all. While that’s a horrifying thought, it is also an incredible reality check that can reveal whether we still have that romanticism about our dreams, or if we’ve lost our love for them.

Are you still living your dream? Or are you living someone else’s life? Are you still in love with your enterprise? What’s on your bucket list?

Don’t wait for a hurricane to define your Minimum Viable Life. Start living it now!

Davide Frau is an EO South Florida member and founder of Start Up Your Passion, a talent-coaching agency that provides entrepreneurs with guidance to find balance and direction in every aspect of their lives through a network of passionate experts.

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