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Imagine Lance Armstrong’s best day. Do you feel the wind blowing against your sweaty face? Are there fans cheering as you cross the finish line? Or, is there the scent of antiseptic, the chill of a thin gown and the buzz of fluorescent lighting in a dreary hospital room?
Surprisingly, Lance Armstrong said his best day was not on his bike but on his back; the day he learned he had cancer. The character he developed through this adversity helped Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France bicycle race a record seven times. His proudest achievement, though, was still to come. He has encouraged thousands of cancer survivors and raised millions of dollars to fight the disease.
What adversity are you facing? Your ability to handle this adversity is one of the most robust predictors of your personal growth, future contributions and happiness in life. Organizations that develop their capacity to handle adversity improve morale, performance and profitability. Blaming, whining and complaining are symptoms of individuals and organizations beaten down by adversity.
Every individual and every organization has a unique purpose, a mountain to climb, a contribution to make. There are three ways to deal with your personal and organizational mountains. You can climb, camp or quit.
Adversity provides the opportunity to develop extraordinary character. Character inspires greatness. The character you develop helps you make greater contributions while overcoming adversity of all kinds.
Here are six ways to lead through adversity and keep climbing your mountains.
1. Check Your Mind-set. There are approximately six billion people on the planet, and it’s estimated that two billion of them live on $2 or less per day. Put in all in perspective; our standard of living is the highest the world has ever seen. Kings and queens in centuries past could not imagine our automobiles, TVs or cell phones, not to mention our computers, airplanes and household appliances. Check out the Web site, www.GlobalGichList.com; if you enter your income as $20,000 (U.S.), you will see you are in the top 10 percent of income earners in the world. Maintain perspective. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Count your blessings. Have an attitude of gratitude. You’ll be happier and healthier. You’ll be a more attractive person. Choose to be happy with what you have while you pursue what you want. The French have a wonderful saying, noblesse oblige, that means with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities.
2. Develop Your Character. Thousands of people were recently asked what is most important to them:
Approximately 95 percent said that their character is most important. About 5 percent said that their achievements are most important. Only a few individuals value their possessions more than their character and achievements.
When have you experienced your most significant character development? Virtually everyone says it is during times of adversity. In order to effectively lead our lives and organizations through adversity, we must develop these character qualities.
3. Live a Balanced Life of Meaning and Contribution. Make a list of the five most important elements of your life – family relationships, vibrant health, personal faith, meaningful contributions at work, a satisfying hobby, a volunteer role, and financial stewardship, for example. Now, number these areas in order of importance. Put this list on a card and carry it in your wallet or purse. Each area of your life invites you to make specific contributions that improve quality of life for yourself and others. Living a balanced life means that you give your best in all areas. Work-life balance means that work intrudes on family as much as family intrudes on work. That’s balance. Sometimes you choose to work longer. Sometimes you choose to invest more time with your family.
4. Become Obsessed With Your CEO. Businesses that obsessively focus on serving customers, employees and owners (CEO), while fostering leadership throughout the organization, perform much better than comparison companies. These enlightened organizations:
During times of adversity many people disengage. It’s easy to escape into habits of self-absorption and selfishness. However, it’s more productive and satisfying to give your best efforts to serve others. You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. Continue to give your best efforts to serve others. Give to those less fortunate. The principle of giving and receiving is the key to unlocking success in all areas of life.
5. Achieve Your Most Important Priorities. Priorities are what matters most. They may be:
As you clarify and achieve your most important priorities, you make progress in the most important areas of your life. Only you can make your unique contributions in these areas. To prioritize effectively, ask yourself what are the most important actions you can take in each area. Then, prioritize the actions as follows: A = must do B = should do C = could do. Do the A priorities first, then the B priorities. You’ll always be focused on things that matter most. It has been suggested that one minute of planning time may save 12 minutes in execution time. Prioritize your list. Go to work.
6. Create an Inspired Definition of Success. Webster defines success as, “the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at; the attainment of wealth, fame and prosperity.” This is an inadequate definition. We all know people who have achieved what they “aimed for” only to make themselves and others miserable. Many others have discovered wealth and fame are short-lived and unsatisfying. There is much more to success than achieving “something.” Success is best defined by our contributions to others. That kind of success can be achieved by anyone in any economy.
About the author:
Joe Calhoon is the president of PriorityAdvantage, a business growth firm based in Kansas City, Mo. He has 25 years of experience working with business owners and business leaders who want to develop higher performing organizations. In addition to helping start more than 20 new business ventures, Joe has served 500 different organizations on four continents. Joe’s newest book is “On the Same Page – How to Engage Employees and Accelerate Growth.” For more information, visit www.joecalhoon.com or call 816-285-8144.