I receive Chris Carmichael’s “Weekend Reading” cycling coaching email. (Chris Carmichael is a retired professional cyclist, cycling coach, author and founder of Carmichael Training Systems … www.trainright.com.) Writing about long-distance endurance cycling, Chris lead off his latest “Weekend Reading” with this kick-ass statement: “Endurance sports are about suffering. If you want to get better, you have to be prepared to be uncomfortable.” This statement resonated with me because of how it correlates not only with cycling, but with business too. I asked Chris if I could use the quote in my MMWU and he said, “Yes.”
As a business owner or leader, no doubt you get the connection to “suffering” and “being prepared to be uncomfortable.” Just as in distance cycling, there are always times when you need to dig deep to find inner strength and courage to work through the inevitable business crises or challenge. And when you tap into that inner strength and courage to overcome a crisis or crush a challenge … well, few words exist that can describe that feeling of personal triumph. It makes you stronger. It makes you a better leader. It prepares you for whatever lies ahead.
Here are my no-compromise thoughts to cast a positive light on the darker aspects that come with being a business owner and leader:
- About being tested: If there is any absolute about achieving success, it’s that your limits will be constantly tested. A win in business is a momentary event that fades quickly; then it’s on to the next win. Likewise, a crisis or challenge grabs your attention, puts your senses on full alert and forces you to engage. You fight to win. You fight to work through a crisis or challenge. Your limits are being tested. Each win represents an incremental increase in your leadership limits. If you don’t want to be tested like this, you don’t belong in a leadership position.
- About adapt and overcome: We just wrapped up 2013. Was it a winning year for you and your company? Congratulations if it was … but 2013 is in the history books and the bar has been raised for an even bigger win in 2014. What did you learn about what worked and what didn’t? What needs to change? What’s the plan for 2014? If 2013 was a tough year, how will you adapt and overcome? The suffering will continue if you don’t initiate significant change. To adapt and overcome – to continue winning or get out of survival mode – you need to be very uncomfortable.
- About tough decisions: Making tough decisions is simply a part of leadership and leading a successful company. Maybe it’s a major change in strategy. Maybe it means having to fire a long-term employee who is more about self-entitlement and resisting change than bringing their best game to work and being part of a team. Maybe it’s finally accepting that there are only 100 pennies in a dollar – not 110. Maybe it’s time to reduce debt rather than add to an already excessive debt load. Maybe it’s time to change your thinking and behaviors. Pushing yourself to make tough decisions is what no-compromise leaders do.
- About building a stronger more capable you: Getting and staying in excellent physical shape always requires some suffering and discomfort, but it’s a “good” suffering and discomfort because you know the positive effect it has on your endurance and strength. More importantly, you know how it builds your confidence to push your limits even further. Business is never all “blue sky, clear sailing.” Adversity is inevitable. Stuff happens – sometimes really ugly stuff happens. That previous suffering gives you the confidence and strength to weather just about any storm.
- About execution: Planning is tough work. Executing a plan is even tougher work. It takes time. It takes change. It takes unwavering commitment, discipline and accountability. Execution is the commitment to working out, in this case, the commitment to achieving consistency and getting what you started across the finish line. Fact: Execution in business is hard work and requires a certain degree of suffering and discomfort. In this case, it’s the kind of suffering and discomfort that creates wins, breakthroughs and extraordinary success.
- About never getting too comfortable: Leaders that get too comfortable get fat and lazy. Getting too comfortable means you’ve set your company to coast on autopilot. No leader or company can afford to coast for too long because everything gets dialed down – and the first thing to dial down is sense of urgency. In business, sense of urgency is forward momentum and growth energy. If you’ve been getting too comfortable, it’s time to snap out of it. If you really want to experience some quality suffering, try waking up a lethargic company culture that’s coasting downhill.
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