They say in business and in life “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But does it really? It can just as easily make you bitter, scared, cynical, depressed, or hopeless. Life is full of trials and so we desperately do what we can to find purpose or meaning within our struggles, anything to simply tell us that there is a reason behind the madness of the world. Yet the more we struggle with these questions, the more paralyzed by fear we can become.
Why is there suffering in the world? How can we prevent grief? Why can’t things just be easy? These are age-old questions and I don’t think any of us are going to find the answers anytime soon. Write it off as a fallen world or imperfect people, it doesn’t matter why. What matters is what we do when we are in the heart of the storm. Will the bad weather kill us, make us stronger, or will we just come out with so many scars that we can’t even recognize ourselves?
I love to plan everything out. I have contingency plans for my contingency plan. I tend to believe in myself, perhaps a little too much. I know that I can leap over any hurdle or dodge any bullet. My wits, skill, and education will carry me through the storm. But, somehow, I keep getting drenched by disappointment or failure. In today’s over-complicated world, it becomes too easy to forget what life really should be all about. We all play our parts, but where is the truth in our lives? When people describe us, do they describe our business skills, our experience, our education, or do they talk of our devotion to people and to life?
The problem with the old adage that “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” is that it is a very self-focused solution to the natural ebbs and flows of life. It screams out that we are only responsible for number one. Of course, the irony of this is that the very statement actually makes us weaker. The world is filled with shrewd and heartless individuals, walking around wearing their scars as badges of honor and as an excuse for their poor actions. Business is now built on distrust; we idolize ruthlessness and pride ourselves on sticking it to the man (whatever that means).
Take a deep breath of common sense and you find that the world is not a better place the “stronger” we get. Our lives should not be defined by what we gained but what we have given. I understand that this is a business blog, and you are probably wondering where the lesson is. Sometimes the simple truth is that we can’t better our business unless we are willing to better ourselves. The more I plan, focusing on fixing and preventing failure, the less time I have to work towards success. What we need to realize is that while planning is good, life will happen no matter what. Our job is to simply plan for our success, work through our failures, and stay devoted to the one thing that unites us all. We are all needy; we all will eventually need a hand up. Let’s focus on staying humble enough to ask for help and diligent enough to give it. Then we may all stay a little drier as we endure our storms.