“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” – African proverb
When I was growing up, I remember cringing whenever I heard some adult (usually one of my parents) refer to something as “a learning experience.” Invariably, that phrase was used when something wasn’t going well, or was really difficult, or some failure had happened. I sometimes thought the only thing I learned from a “learning experience” was to associate “learning experience” with something bad.
To this day I don’t like that phrase, but I’ve figured out what my parents meant. And they were right. The only time we learn or improve or grow is when we’re really challenged. No growth happens when we’re in our comfort zones, and when things are easy, we get comfortable.
The past 24+ months have obviously been challenging. The next 24 might not be any less challenging, although perhaps in a different way. It’s easy in the middle of all of that to complain about how difficult it is, or how something’s not fair, or how everything’s bad all the time. And we certainly all have moments when it’s tempting to feel that way.
But if you’re going to succeed as a leader, a huge portion of that success will depend upon your mindset. Part of that mindset has to be that when things are difficult, you look for ways that difficulty can help you or your business improve. We’re forced to do something because of a global pandemic – what about having to do that thing is going to make us a better business? Or make me a better leader?
I’m not suggesting you have to necessarily consider all challenges to be “fun”. I don’t think anybody would consider having to lead a business through chaotic times is always pleasant or enjoyable. But your attitude about that chaos and those challenges has to be that those things are opportunities for you to do better.
I think the past few years have created more opportunity for us to grow as leaders than perhaps the rest of our careers combined. The next few might not be different. Don’t look at that as an unfair burden, or that you were just born into the wrong point in history. Look at it as an opportunity to be a far better leader than you ever would have been had things been easy.
Changing your mindset, or even maintaining a constructive one, is not easy. It takes conscious effort on a daily basis. So make that effort. Take advantage of the most opportunity you’ll ever have as a leader. This is your chance to make the most of who you are as a leader. Don’t miss that chance.