Operating in Unknown Times
February 22, 2023 | Guest writer, Jimmy Sansone, Founder of The Normal Brand
Operating in Unknown Times

One of our goals is to share perspectives from people we feel are exceptional examples of success and thoughtfulness. Jimmy has become a good friend of our brand, and his family focused clothing brand has navigated these uncertain times as well as anyone. Here's a few great tips from Jimmy for anyone out there building a business or simply trying to excel in these tough times.


There are a lot of cool things about our business. We get to make the clothes we have dreamed about since we were kids in our dad’s closet. We get to go to fun places and take pretty pictures. We get to work with people we truly love.

One of the worst things about our business is we have to predict the future. They give a lot of fancy names to it – forecasting, demand planning, merchandise strategy. But when it comes down to it, we have to be fortune tellers. Because it takes a while to make clothes, we order inventory six to nine months early. It’s obvious we live in unpredictable times right now. Depending on the week and how the media wants us to feel, we may have the great recession 2.0, pending World War III, sky high inflation, attacking UFOs, or riots on the street. That sort of cycle makes it difficult to know how many hoodies John Smith may want next Christmas. Will he be dining with aliens this Holiday season? What size do they wear? Who knows.

Our business is not unique in the fact that we have to make important decisions with incomplete information. Our business certainly isn’t unique in the fact that we have to make important decisions in a world with more questions than answers. My brothers and I have tried to distill how we handle times like this into three pillars. Three always seems like the right number and they’re easier to remember when we start getting overwhelmed. Before we get too far down the road of a guy-who-sells-shirts giving philosophical advice, let me first acknowledge that there is no bigger tool than the best man who’s been married a few years giving the new couple advice. It’s possible I’m about to be that tool, but here is how we operate in unknown times.

Number 1.
Control what you can control and forget everything else. It’s a fool’s errand to torture yourself about the debt levels of the United States. There is literally nothing I can do about that. I can’t force Jerome Powell to lower interest rates. I hardly even know what they do. We really try to focus our energy on what we can control. We can make the best clothes possible. We can focus on creating engaging content to give our customers an idea of what we are about. We can make sure that within four steps of walking into one of our stores, you are greeted with a warm hello and offered a drink. We are half Greek and one of the smartest Greeks ever, Epictetus said “Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.” If we focus on things we can’t control, we feel powerless which directly leads to anxiety. Take control of what you can and forget the rest.

Number 2.
Be confident. Our mom and dad instilled the value of hard work in us from the time we were little kids. We started our first business when we were 12 years old because we wanted a bike, and our dad said “Ok? Get a job.” By getting up early every morning and putting in your time, you slowly build confidence. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by stringing some good days together in a row, you start to build confidence. When times get tough, you can remember when you went through a difficult problem, worked through and overcame it, so why couldn’t you do it again? When the world around you seems to be going insane, you can be confident that you will be ok. That stillness isn’t ego. It’s confidence, and it’s earned.

Number 3.
Pray. The guy who sells shirts going too deep? We grew up going to Church, still do, and it’s important to us, but you don’t need to be religious to get value from it. Our grandpa was the most successful man we’ve ever met. He built a business from nothing that’s now been around for over 60 years. He was a living legend to us and we miss him every day. Each night he got on his knees before his bedside and prayed. That is a sign of ultimate humility and trusting in something bigger than yourself. Culture seems to be telling us that we are all gods, and yet we’ve never felt more alone. Believing in a higher power provides a north star. It gives your suffering meaning - even if you can’t explain it. It puts your ego in check. I’m not that important. There are things in the world bigger than me. As a sometimes ego driven “designer,” these are important things for me to remember. For us, prayer gives life more depth and anchors us to something constant, that’s always there, and doesn’t change with the news cycle. Ok that may have been a lot to take in when it started off about how many henleys should we order, but hopefully you got some value from it. Thanks for reading!