Sometimes inspiration comes at the most unexpected times...
...from the most unlikely places.
The lessons that we need to succeed in business and in life are not always obvious. We don't always get them in the classroom or at a board meeting.
For example, my mother used to always tell me to wear clean underwear, in case there were a car accident.
She got the desired effect, so much so, that I can remember being an adult, during the very busy years of raising my children and working full time, being stressed out, overwhelmed, sitting in traffic at a red light and thinking...
Well at least I have on clean underwear! I’ve got THAT going for me!
Things have changed a lot, but her words echoed in my head this morning as I was getting dressed to go to the office. I no longer fear being caught in the emergency room with holy drawers, but this very personal choice that we make every day is a metaphor for something much bigger.
The choice to be “put together” well, from the inside out, in ways that are not necessarily apparent to the rest of the world, is an important one.
There are other kinds of metaphorical “clean underwear.”
This is the stuff of good intentions, hard work, ethics, respect for others, and other important principles. This kind of “clean underwear” is especially important for entrepreneurs and others who forge their own paths in the world.
The early years of building a business, especially one that doesn't fit the mold of what others expect— one grounded in a bigger vision— can be hard. Before anyone else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself and in what you are doing. On top of that, you have to get out there and try it, and try it, and try it, and try it...
Napoleon Hill, in his famous book, Think and Grow Rich, discusses the ways that many people who have known great success in life have experienced multiple failures— heartbreaking, gut wrenching, fall on your face failures! Yet these people have all risen to great heights in their respective professions. Hill emphasizes their ability to learn from each experience— and in particular from what appears on the surface to be ...failure.
(Uh oh! That F-word!)
This morning I found myself feeling grateful for all of the lessons from my first couple of years as an entrepreneur, and even the personal tragedies that have made me stronger. While I would never, ever, want to repeat the experiences, I must admit that each one benefited me as a human being and as a businesswoman.
Sometimes it seems, that we have to know some failure, taste a little blood, in order to truly succeed.
Mike Matsumura, one of my favorite yoga teachers, has told me on occasion, “If you never fall, maybe you aren’t trying hard enough.” This comment always came with a smile as he saw me struggling or shaking my head as I fell out of a posture or lost my balance. We learn by doing— on the mat, in work, and in life.
Think of how children learn to ride bicycles.
Early on, they must have the will to stick with it until they learn to stay up. With each skinned knee, we encourage them to get back out there and practice until the day comes when we run beside them and finally let go, cheering at the top of our lungs as they speed off into the distance entirely on their own power. The falls, the scratches, tears, bumps, and bruises of this learning experience seem to be, for most of us anyway, a necessary part of learning that all important skill that we never forget.
Many business lessons are like that.
Once you have learned by doing, especially if you fell off the bike once or twice, you never forget!
The difference between business lessons and those tumbles from our bicycles during childhood is that this time, we bleed green!
What we are doing as we put ourselves "out there," time and time again, is accomplishing the difficult task of learning lifelong lessons.
Of course, we all tend to emphasize the wins, but the lesson Hill teaches so eloquently is that those who win big in life are the ones who keep at it when the going gets tough. These are the people who get back up when they fall off of the bicycle or the yoga mat, the ones who carefully note the lessons of what doesn’t work as well as what does, doing better marketing research the next time, better defining their niche markets, constantly improving products and services... Whatever it takes!
Napoleon Hill’s point is that what matters is not what others think, but that we continue to learn the lessons required to create our own success, and that we do so from a position of determination and faith that we will get there!
When we get focused on our own work instead of the naysayers’ objections, some great things happen.
We get more efficient & effective.
Our confidence improves.
We know– with great certainty— that we are doing things right, coming from a position of internal strength, and making an impact in the world on our own terms.
Best of all, we can enjoy feeling put together from the inside out, comfortable in our own skin— and in our clean underwear too.
So what about you?
Can you keep at it regardless of the opinions of others?
Do you do the right thing in ways that the rest of the world might never see?
After all, putting on clean underwear is about YOU, not what the ambulance driver might think if calamity strikes!
Kimbro, D., & Hill, N. (2011). Think and grow rich. Fawcett.
This posting was adapted from the original, posted to the Management on the Mat blog in December 2015.
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