Aggghhh 2022. How has it been for you?
Or somewhere in between?
When life is challenging it’s easy to sit there wishing that things were easier. We all want to win and succeed and to have things materialise just as we envisaged. Yet the source of maximum fulfilment is not ease. It’s struggle.
Your biggest successes to date probably didn’t come from what I’ll call ‘straight-line-success’. You know…
- You had an idea.
- You took action
- And everything worked out just as you thought
No. That type of experience is exceedingly rare, and if it has ever happened to you I suspect it didn’t register too high on the ‘best-moments-of-my-life’ register.
It’s the fight against the odds that makes any success meaningful.
So why do we spend so much time wishing things were easier?
Parenting is an example
Have you ever bemoaned how your kids have it easier than you do?
And yet in all likelihood you’ve had it easier than your parents, who had it easier than their parents before them.
If I think of my own family history, my Dad was the eldest son of Scottish migrants to Australia. He had 6 brothers and sisters, one of whom died before reaching adulthood. His Mum died when he was very young and he was raised by a stepmother he was never very close to. He grew up dirt poor.
If I go back another generation to my maternal grandparents, they grew up in Lithgow, a coal mining town in New South Wales. My grandmother’s Dad died at age 42 of black lung. My grandfather joined the Navy and served in World War 2. Luckily, he was transferred off a ship just before it was sunk. He lost a lot of mates but survived to live a long life.
What about your family history?
Adversity is good for you
I read an article recently by Ted Lamade, Managing Director at The Carnegie Institution for Science, that explored this idea that some adversity can be good for a person. And let’s be honest, over the course of a full life we all get our fair share.
All you need to do is read the obituaries in the newspapers of notable people who have passed away recently. Inevtiably there’s a journey and a series of life experiences (not always great) that helped shape who they were and the success they had.
Yet ironically, instead of seeing the high correlation between the struggle and the success, my guess is that after reading these obituaries most parents would still likely continue bending over backwards to shield their kids from the struggle.1
Lessons for advisers
I’m reminded also of a quote from author Jim Rohn that said:
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”
As my wife often reminds me, running a business is simply an endless series of problems that you solve. Lest that sound too pessimistic, you can have a lot of fun if you treat each challenge or problem as a puzzle to be solved, rather than a total pain the backside.
The person or team that solves the most problems the most creatively often reaps major rewards. And I mean emotional payback as well as financial payback.
So ask yourself:
- What are the biggest obstacles to my (our) success right now?
- What new skills would I need to acquire or develop to break through these obstacles?
- What new skills would the members of my team need to acquire or develop?
- Do we need a new skillset on our team?
An interesting business culture
Ted Lamade references a conversation he had with the head of investor relations at a private equity firm:
I asked her… three questions… — What is your source of Edge? Endurance? and Culture?
This woman…answered uniquely and succinctly, “Our culture is both the source of our edge and endurance.”
I came to learn that this firm believes that what sets it apart is how it identifies and cultivates its people. It is their edge.
To accomplish this, this firm does something… unique. Like most of their competition, they place a high priority on a candidate’s intellectual and emotional quotients (“IQ” and “EQ”). Unlike many funds though, they have a third pillar — an adversity quotient (“AQ”). In short, they look for intelligent and well-adjusted people who have overcome challenges. Those who have been knocked down several times, but have pulled themselves back up. Those who have learned from and been shaped by the adversity they have overcome.
I love this as a ‘people strategy’. And my guess is that it builds a supportive, resilient and high-performance culture, not in the Goldman Sachs sense of flogging people mercilessly, but in terms of being able to dig in and solve tough business challenges as they arise.
As we all start contemplating a rest at the end of this year and a re-set for 2023, it might be worth reflecting on the value of the struggle. Maybe it helps you re-frame some of this year’s challenges differently and gets you excited about the upcoming and unknown challenges that 2023 will inevitably bring.
That’s what I’ll be doing over the holiday period.
What about you?
Let me know how you go.
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Flagging at the end of the year? Here’s some inspiration to help you re-frame 2022’s challenges and get excited about 2023!
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