The struggle is part of the journey. I’ve always been a fan of the John Adams quote, “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.” Collectively and individually, we learn little about ourselves when things are going well. In fact, we tend to take our success for granted. The more comfort and security we achieve, the more this becomes an expectation. Unfortunately, this also means our tolerance for discomfort or challenge goes in the opposite direction. We can get soft, lazy, and complacent. Comfort is the enemy of progress.
Our country is going through a tough time right now. Yet, I do believe the end is in sight. We can choose to continue to focus on how challenging this is and why we wish things were different or we can embrace our reality and take the necessary steps to accelerate our path out of this challenge. The choice is always ours. Leadership is easy when times are good; It is necessary when they are not. The question we should always be asking ourselves is, “Are we doing what’s necessary to be part of the solution or fanning the flames of the problem?”
Yes, this has been a prolonged period of frustration and challenge. And, yes there will be more tough times in our future. Instead of resisting this reality, how about we come to terms with it? Weak nations, organizations, and families are torn apart by adversity. The opposite is also the case. Sometimes it is our shared need to overcome a challenge that bonds us together. The struggle can and will define us. Adversity is a part of the equation of every life, let alone those who aspire to leadership responsibilities.
I’m still regularly surprised when I speak to leaders who complain about how difficult their job is. I want to say, “Didn’t you know what you were signing up for?” Did you think it was all just going to be good times and positive results? Leading people is messy. Human beings are complicated. They have their own challenges and struggles. It’s part of being human. And, when you group a bunch of people together it can be a bit chaotic and challenging to manage. Add a competitive marketplace and a changing external environment to the mix and you get the gist of the job.
Leadership is arduous work. You need to bring clarity to confusion, bring order to disorder, bring confidence to anxiety, show people they are capable of much more than they think they are, solve difficult problems (your competition cannot), get people to work together who are very different from one another, manage interpersonal conflict and differences of opinion, navigate the changing realities of your marketplace even when they are unpredictable or non-conducive to your plans, hold others and yourself accountable to what you say you are going to do even when it’s hard, and live your values especially when they are tested.
John Adams knew that America wouldn’t just happen. Creating a new nation would require arduous work and sacrifice. It would take time and the road would be very bumpy. We’d have to confront a powerful adversary who had many advantages over us. There would be rigorous debate and the need to compromise. Resources would be stretched thin. Logistical challenges would be too many to count. We’d need to stretch our thinking and open our minds to new possibilities. Our assumptions would be challenged and often wrong. We’d have to learn many new skills just to keep up with the challenges before us. In some cases, we’d be doing something that had never been done before. Ultimately and sadly, it would require many individuals to risk losing their life for a cause they believed in.
Fortunately, none of us must deal with the challenges our Founding Fathers and ancestors confronted when they launched this country. Because of them and others before us, our struggles are different, and we have better problems. I am an eternal optimist and believe that most people are capable of remarkable things given the opportunity. In my professional role, I get to see individuals stretch and grow themselves on a regular basis. I’ve seen leaders overcome all types of challenges and become better bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, and friends because of them. Yes, the struggle is part of the journey. The sooner we embrace this fact, the higher the probability we will make the most out of our lives and businesses.