Struggle! I am on a mission to reframe how we think about and how we use the concept of personal responsibility. You see, somehow, over the years, these have become words and an action we are slowly removing from our vocabulary and from our lives. We are instead replacing it with words like support, entitlement and enabling, and while all have their place in our society, without the balance of personal responsibility we lose the most powerful strategy needed for success. There is an incredible gift, a set of skills that can only be built when we take ownership
Now for the sake of this article let me back up and share what I mean by personal responsibility.
A gift that I guess I always inherently understood was there, but one I only recently became conscious of from engaging with and observing successful professionals – self-made successful professionals. Self-made meaning those who literally came from nothing, often less than nothing, and have risen to great heights of personal and professional success.
Now I must admit, it may have been luck to have come into contact with these professionals, but it was my desire to understand how they rose to the level they have that put me on the path to discovery of this gift of struggle. Now understand, I am obsessed with successful people, and specifically those that are self-made. I am so interested in learning what makes successful people successful, and then in turn helping others understand how to integrate those strategies into their lives and their organizations.
In addition, I am just plain curious, I mean don’t you find it fascinating that someone could go from living in the poorest of neighborhoods, to living in the most exclusive? Or that someone could begin their life on the receiving end of charity and wind up in a position of being powerfully philanthropic? Or start out just hoping to find a job, and end up running companies that employing hundreds, sometimes thousands of people?
You must agree, if nothing else, the journey of a self-made person is always an interesting story. And, for me, the story began in January of this year, when I was visiting a very good friend of mine in Jupiter Florida. Both she and her husband are “self-made,” and as luck would have it (for me) so are many of their friends. Over lunch one day, I had the pleasure of meeting several of those friends and hearing their life stories.
Stories that were unique to each individual and were so interesting and fascinating in what they had in common. As I sat there listening to each one, I began to think about the lives these men had lead, and wondering how did they, literally, wind up here; in this beautiful club, with their wonderful friends and families, having achieved unbelievable levels of success? How did they go from living on the wrong side of the tracks, to setting the tone for life on the right side of the tracks? The more they talked, the more I learned, and the more I began to notice themes, and threads so to speak, in their lives and careers, that each of them spoke about and each of them shared. While their stories were different, these themes were the same, and were present in each of their lives. Powerful themes, that I believe once learned, anyone can integrate into their company and their life to get the same powerful result as these self-made men.
Education –These “self-made” men, had a passion to learn, and took responsibility to do so. Learning through formal education, on the job, and from anybody and anyone who would spend a little time with them to show them the ropes. They shared a commitment to life-long learning and internal drive for personal and professional growth.
Discipline –No one needed to get these men up in the morning, make them go to work, or set goals for them to achieve. Whether someone was there to push them or not, they shared a value of discipline. They lived in a time when expectations were placed on them, by teachers and/or their parents and themselves.
Advocate – All sought out and found an advocate, someone to be in their corner. Someone they could learn from and observe to learn the ropes of how to be successful.
Independence –From an early age, they chose to be independent, and give up the opportunity to make excuses. They took responsibility to make choices, take risks and deal with the benefits and consequences of their decisions.
Connections –These men were not raised with role models or etiquette coaches to show them the ropes and the importance of building connections, but they learned early on to push out of their comfort zones and create relationships that would open doors and lead to opportunity. In addition, they committed to creating bonds and finding friends with the same motivation and drive to succeed.
Struggle -All embraced and accepted the fact that a portion of their path would involve struggle. In other words, there was no net, and no other choice but to succeed. This, of all the themes, seemed to me to be the most powerful and the most important. With no net, obstacles became something to get past rather than an excuse or a reason to stop. And because of that struggle became a gift that built confidence, critical thinking and internal drive.
So, take a lesson from the path of the self-made man, and integrate these strategies into your company and into your life, and watch as you customers become more engaged, your team takes more ownership, and you begin to benefit from the incredible gift of struggle!