Win every challenge

June 9, 2018

We recently buried an uncle. On the way to the cemetery, his sister told me about an exploit he was compelled into. Apparently, in the last exercise undertaken by his intake group to qualify for a career as an army officer, the gunpowder strapped to his body blew up when he had to fall to the ground as part of the exercise. He suffered severe burns. But he could not show the pain while the exercise was still going on. To do so would have meant dropping out of that batch of graduates. He had undergone grueling preparation for more than a year. The cost of the journey to the military career had been so high, he chose to bear the excruciating pain in order to get to the finishing line. He managed what he determined to do, and graduated with his batch.

So it is with many of the high gains in life. Many well-laid plans can easily meet unexpected huge challenges. I remember the high level of debt I got into when I decided to lease a building and renovate it for a long-term office location. By the end of achieving that goal, I promised myself that I would not take risks again. Thankfully, I forgot that promise not long after that. And that debt got paid off easily with returns from business conducted in an office that attracted the kind of clientele I risked for. Even better, I am still enjoying the dividend from that risk though it has been almost twenty years.

A major investment that brings the kind of returns that move you from being a petty trader to a medium scale entrepreneur is likely to come with such risks that many stop on the ground floor of business and career. What can be even more stressful is not so much the risk at any one time. It is the seeming endless cycle of strain from change after change after change, as you grow from good to better, then to great. Each victory, each promotion is preceded by a tough stretch. The good news is that this is is the DNA of a life of achievement. Stretch, strain, gain. Stretch, strain, gain. How do we make this cycle of mountain top living easier to manage?

Three suggestions:

  1. Like Moses at the Red Sea, resolve to win. Choose not to go back. This calls for calmness and fortitude (emotional intelligence) even in the face of daunting challenges.
  2. Develop the skill of devising creative solutions, even in the face of seeming chaos. Know that there is always a way out. You only need to plan a good mix of different moves.
  3. Develop the skill of planning. Watch your landscape carefully, think through the best way of obtaining value without compromising integrity, and let the objective of your plans be to always create value

Aristotle is famously quoted as having said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I wish you a life of moving from good to better to excellent.

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