Endurance, Persistance, and Triumph
(Do you have ideas for future newsletters? Write me.)
If you haven’t read Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage you might want to pick up a copy. Read it the next time you become overwhelmed with the challenges of your business, your career, or your life. Endurance is the tale of how the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men survived for over one and a half years after their ship became icebound on an expedition to Antarctica. Captain and crew drifted with their boat locked in pack ice for 10 months, then lived in tents on the ice after their boat was crushed and sunk. When their frozen neighborhood finally drifted to within striking distance of land they were saved by their own perseverance and initiative by sending a number of the crew to fetch a rescue party. Sailing in their all-too-small life boats across some of the most treacherous seas in the world, this courageous band of sailors finally made it to land only to find that they had to climb over a snow-covered mountain range to reach civilization and bring help to their comrades.
Many of us in the business world have faced what may have seemed like tremendous challenges in the past several years. I started my business leadership and project management consulting practice in January of 2001, and it has occurred to me more than once that I could have picked an easier time to launch such a venture. Perhaps your business has been struggling, or you personally may have been affected by lay-offs, pay cuts, or other economic circumstances of our day. I was personally truly inspired by reading about Captain Shackleton and his 27 men, living out their days on the ice pack, their stories of being ever hopeful when all practical reason for that hope was gone, their sincere expression of joy when their sleeping bags were merely damp rather than soaking wet, and their gratitude when the weather warmed to a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit! It put the challenges of finding my next consulting gig squarely into perspective for me.
What “hardships” have you and your business experienced in the past couple of years? And what has been your response to those circumstances? Persistence? The will to endure and triumph over circumstance? Victor Frankl, a former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp, said “Everything can be taken from a man, except the last of his human freedoms: his ability to choose his own attitude in any given set of circumstances…” I have seen this demonstrated numerous times in the endurance and persistence of business leaders and professionals with whom I have had the great honor of being associated with during the recent economic “mood disorder”, as I am calling it.
Many leaders of companies have had to make the tough decision to let some people go rather than to have the whole ship sink under their watch. In almost every case these leaders have stepped up and taken substantial pay cuts to model the selfless behavior that they hoped to see in others. Several of the jettisoned professionals whom I know have managed to find other ways to contribute when their former means of making a living was nowhere to be found. (One Ph.D. physicist and former ivy league professor is rumored to have been bagging groceries until his employers discovered what a whiz he was at solving computer problems.) And still others, seeing that “permanent” employment is a fiction which we embrace at our own peril, have begun to create side-businesses into which they can pour their heart and soul now that the corporate world no longer seems to be able to command that sort of devotion.
One such business is Elite Horse Clothing, the creation of Brenda Keiner, an electrical engineer who solved a problem for her horse that grew into a product and now a company. Brenda recently launched this product globally through a Yahoo Store on the internet with the help of myself and several other industrious entrepreneurs. Brenda works a more-than-full-time job. However in her spare moments she can be found designing horse fly protection gear, revising the latest prototype of her next product, and collaborating with her co-conspirators on how to reach the veterinarian market, get feedback from our latest customers, and generally doing what it takes to build a business that can sustain her in the years to come.
Sure, the past couple of years have been tough. And there are plenty of times when I despair and wish for better times. However the challenges of building my business are nothing compared to those of Shackleton and his crew, and no matter how difficult the challenges may seem at any moment, I can always fall back on my sincere gratitude that I am not in the position of needing to subsist on a diet consisting mostly of seal blubber!
May you persist, endure and triumph over circumstances!by