Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm not owed anything.

In grade 10, I found myself on the receiving end of a life lesson from my granddad. He saw me cast aside loose change with an ignorant disregard. "It's just change" I naively proclaimed as he turned a shade of red.

Into his den I went for an hour of perspective that spanned the great depression, world war II, immigrating to Canada with nothing, starting a business with nothing and what that took. "The world doesn't owe you anything" he said. "I know you think it does, but it doesn't. Anything you want, you're going to have to work for and you're going to have to work hard."

Admittedly, at that age I had very little perspective on what hard work was, however I would begin to see & feel multiple examples through my personal & professional life pursuits.

High school. In order to qualify for post secondary education, I would have to do better than show up & show off. If the grades were not 70% + my options would be limited. At best i was a C+ student, so in order to reach the goal of university I would have to change my course of action. This was called sacrifice; giving up something now, to get something later. In terms of sports, we had to make the team which came with the same sacrifices as making the grade.

University. In high school it was easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but university was the meeting place of many student athletes with the same (or better) pedigree. I would have to be better than them if I was to get a look. Not worse than, not as good as.... better than. It was really simple. Being better than others meant things like listening, focusing, learning and checking that three letter word; EGO at the door. On top of over 40+hrs / week dedicated to athletics there was school, which without would again limit my opportunities. Planning, patients and perspective were factors in succeeding through university.

Entrepreneur. There was a toolbox of knowledge acquired from university that meant very little beyond having a toolbox of knowledge acquired from university. Next was the application phase. I would quickly learn it didn't matter what I knew, it mattered what I did with what I knew. Once again, I/we would be challenged to be better than competing peers, competing businesses, competing options. Unlike sports, the business season is 24/7/365 with no pre & post season, little time to rest & rejuvenate and slim margin for error. If I/we wanted to be great I/we would have to be great. Good was status quo, average/poor were bankrupt. To thrive and survive required greatness and only greatness. Passion, determination and desire were staples to business success.

Marriage & Parenthood. Unsurprisingly, the same prerequisites for success in these life pursuits applied here with the downside of not meeting them being emotionally and financially costly. Whoever said life gets easier as you grow older had obviously mastered the simple formula to success. In this realm it was about selfless giving/sharing to even think about 'being great at'. In this stage, it wasn't about me anymore.

Reflection: Looking back, I can now appreciate the value of the change perspective and more importantly the point granddad was trying to make. At this age & stage of life, it's interesting to see the young people, co-workers, peers and even business professionals who both fail and succeed. Those who are making their way are using the same fundamentals & principles he shared on that impactful day.

No one is owed anything.

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