Saturday, January 17, 2009

Problems ,Perspective & Perseverance.

In the comic strip, Peanuts, a hapless Charlie Brown occasionally would be stalked by ominous rainclouds. Although the rest of the sky would shine bright and blue, poor Chuck would be stuck under a dark cloud, getting doused by its showers. While his friends and neighbors enjoyed the beauty of the day, a drenched Charlie Brown would be a scowling onlooker.

The lingering raincloud seemed to suggest Charlie Brown's inability to break clear from his problems. A melancholy character, he was prone to fits of worry and self-doubt. He concocted problems where none existed and fretted about those which were real.

While we do not have to contend with perpetual drizzle like Charlie Brown, many of us live under the gloomy shadow of self-induced rainclouds. When life's twists and turns work against us, we retreat into a rotten attitude or heap blame on our surroundings. By doing so, we neglect to deal with our problems and only add to our misery.

The Five Truths Leaders Understand about Problems

1. They're unavoidable.

For the aspiring leader, problems may be the most faithful companions of all. The road to success is seldom paved smoothly, and is oftentimes under construction. Potholes and barricades abound. At every bend in the journey, a leader's vision must peer around obstacles and through formidable walls to foresee a positive future. Leaders who sidestep problems stunt their growth - they end up shallow and debilitated. The successful leader stares down problems and resourcefully addresses them.

2. Perspective on the problem, rather than the problem itself, determines success or failure.

We see problems, not as they are, but as we are. That's why attitude plays such a crucial role in separating those who lead from those who follow. Alfred Armand Montapert said, "The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the former." Leaders look at problems from a healthy, self-confident vantage point.

A Wrong Perspective -------------A Right Perspective

Problems are unsolvable -----------Problems are solvable
Problems are permanent -----------Problems will pass
Problems are not normal -----------Problems are natural
Problems make us bitter -----------Problems make us better
Problems control us ----------------Problems challenge us
Problems stop us -------------------Problems stretch us

3. There's a big difference between problem spotting and problem solving.

Anyone, even the fairly imperceptive, can identify problems, but few people have the initiative to tackle them. As novelist John Galsworthy observed, "Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem." As rule, don't voice complaint about a problem until you're 1) able to put forth a recommendation for solving it, and 2) willing to take an action to solve it.

4. The size of the person is more important than the size of the problem.

You can tell the caliber of a person by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage him or her. Joke writer Robert Orben says that he once saw an ad from an entertainer that read, "Lion tamer - wants tamer lion." Clearly, this performer wasn't looking for greatness but merely for something manageable. To lead at the highest level requires wrestling with problems seemingly beyond our ability to apprehend.

5. Problems, responded to correctly, can propel us forward.

Leaders are not discovered in the limelight; rather they are forged in the darkness under heat and pressure. Leaders gain respect on difficult terrain, after taking a few blows and being shaped by the problems they encounter. As a matter of fact, courage and valor go undetected until seen through the lens of adversity.

Perspective By: Justin Pinkerman

Distraught over massive financial losses incurred during the past year, Adolf Merckle scrawled a suicide note to his family and wandered out the door into a dark, wintry night. He made his way for the railway where he stood by the tracks and waited in the cold. Spotting the headlight of an oncoming railcar, he threw himself under the train and took leave of this world.

As tragic as the suicide was, it would not have received worldwide press apart from one shocking fact: Adolf Merckle was valued at 9.2 billion dollars, ranking 94th on Forbes 2008 list of the world's richest persons.

It can be hard to fathom the extent of Mr. Merckle's wealth, a billion dollars being such a staggering sum. Think of it this way, 9,000 people could each win a million dollars in the lottery, pool their money together, and still have less money than Mr. Merckle was worth. Or, the entire nation of Haiti (8.5 million people) could work for two and a half years without accumulating income equal to Mr. Merckle's portfolio.

A family statement, issued after Mr. Merckle's untimely death, read as follows: "The desperate situation of his companies, caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, broke the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life." Surely Mr. Merckle's financial missteps and poor investment decisions must have been painful to stomach. Watching his business empire suffer had to have been difficult for a man of his status. Even so, Mr. Merckle had billions of dollars to his name. It's astonishing to consider the monumental loss of perspective that led the German billionaire to take his own life.

As evidenced by the tragic case of Adolf Merckle, even the most prosperous individual is not immune to a descent into despair. With corporations cutting payrolls and the stock market on the downswing, many leaders face worrisome bottom lines, dwindling investment portfolios, or even unemployment. Many find themselves in the fight of their lives, struggling daily to gain a healthy perspective.

Two Pointers to Keep Perspective When Problems Persist

1) Gratitude

Leaders enter dangerous territory when they neglect to be grateful for what they have, and instead begin to fear losing what they've accumulated. The blessings of life surround everyone, but the person is rare who allows its simple benefits of life to fill his or her soul. Yet, the choice presents itself to anyone: accentuate the positives or dwell on the negatives.

Choosing to be grateful earns the greatest return in times of trouble. It's virtually impossible to be overtaken by worry when a person has a heart of gratitude. For this reason, it pays to log a gratitude journal - each day, list three things in life for which you're thankful. Don't just jot them down; roll them over in your mind. Let them sink into your spirit. Chances are, the exercise will dramatically improve your perspective.

2) Selective Hearing

For leaders, denial isn't an option. Bad news is preferable to no news in that information conveys important knowledge about the current reality. The wise stay apprised of the economic outlook and make decisions based upon incoming data. At times those decisions can be painful such as instituting a spending freeze or terminating the employment of a devoted worker. Nonetheless, leaders shoulder the load and do what must be done to move forward.

While leaders refuse to put their heads in the sand, they do have the wherewithal to unplug from negativity. At a certain point, a glut of the same dreary news damages the psyche. Leaders confront reality, but they stop short of wallowing in worry and despondence. They avoid doomsdayers and naysayers, preferring to fill their minds with hope and opportunity.

The Final Words: Press On

Hiking up a mountain summit for sunrise can seem unreasonably hard in the beginning. The steep trail causes your legs to quiver, the altitude shortens your breath, and rocks and snares threaten to trip your step. For a time, you may be tempted to quit. However, if you persevere to the top, you're greeted with the grandeur of the golden sky, and rewarded with a breathtaking perspective on the beauty of nature.

Like a mountaineer, you may be enduring a rocky, uphill stretch. If so, keep fighting to gain perspective. Hard work and persistence seldom go unrewarded, and they often carry you to a glorious destination.

Perseverance By: Dr. John C. Maxwell

Perseverance is not an issue of talent. It is not an issue of time. It is about finishing. Talent provides hope for accomplishment, but perseverance guarantees it.

Running Past Failure

As a small child, Vonetta (Jeffrey) Flowers dreamed about being in the Olympics. She ran everywhere she went, and gained a reputation among her school friends for being quick. At age nine, Vonetta learned she had special talent. While trying out for an inner-city track club in her hometown of Birmingham, she shocked coaches by posting the best sprint time for Jonesboro Elementary School - running faster than boys two years older than she was!

Vonetta's immense talent carried her to the University of Alabama-Birmingham on a track-and-field scholarship. While at the university, she continued to pursue her goal of gaining a spot on the Olympic team. She practiced meticulously to perfect her stride, spent hours in the weight room adding strength, and ran grueling intervals to shave seconds off her sprint times. Thanks to her combination of talent and discipline, Vonetta ended her college career as a 7-time All-American, competing in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints, long jump, triple jump, heptathlon, and relays.

With her college career finished, Vonetta set her sights on the 1996 Olympics. Unfortunately, she failed to qualify for the team, running slightly behind the leaders. The failure stung, but Vonetta was determined not to give up. She found a job as an assistant coach and continued her regimen of training.

For the next four years, Vonetta put her body through punishing workouts with an eye on the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In her words, "I devoted countless hours to lifting weights, eating right, and staying mentally tough. I knew that my time as an athlete was coming to an end, and I'd hoped that the 2000 Olympic trials would prove to be my year to finally find out what it's like to be an Olympian."

In June 2000, Vonetta lined up again to run at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, Vonetta placed 13th, and she failed to make the Olympic squad. Although one of the fastest women in America, she wasn't in the select group to represent the United States in Sydney. After 17 years of training, she had come up empty in her quest for the Olympics.

Two days after her second painful failure in the Olympic Trials, Vonetta's husband spotted an advertisement for tryouts for the United States Olympic bobsled team. He convinced her to go to the tryouts. Growing up in the South, Vonetta was not accustomed to cold and snow, and she knew next to nothing about bobsledding. However, at the tryouts her unusual blend of speed and strength proved to be ideal qualities for a brakewoman (the person who pushes the bobsled to give it initial momentum and then hops in with the driver). Vonetta was chosen for the team.

Vonetta's decision to join the bobsled team came with a price - two more years of a strict diet, sore muscles, and countless hours dedicated to attaining peak physical fitness. It also meant delaying her dream to be a mom. However, her years of perseverance paid off. Not only did Vonetta achieve her lifelong goal of competing in the Olympics, but she also became the first African-American to win a gold medal in the winter Olympics!

Perseverance punctuates talent

Vonetta's talent seemed almost limitless, but it wouldn't have carried her to the Olympics without an admirable measure of perseverance. Life seems designed to make a person quit. For even the most talented individual, obstacles abound, and failures are commonplace. Only when a person matches talent with perseverance do opportunities become avenues of success.

Perseverance means succeeding because you are determined to, not destined to

If Vonetta had seen her Olympic dream as a matter of destiny than she likely would have given up after her second failure to make the track and field team. After 17 years of training, the results signaled that her dream wasn't meant to be. She had no natural reason to be hopeful about her prospects. However, she pressed on, determined to find a way to take hold of her goals, and in the end, she was rewarded with success.

Perseverance means stopping, not because you're tired, but because the task is done

Perseverance doesn't come into play until a person is tired. A year or two after college, Vonetta still was riding the excitement of her collegiate track and field championships. She was young, energetic, and optimistic about the future. Nothing was telling her to stop, and consequently she needed nothing extra to keep going.

However, after a taste of disappointment at the Olympic Trials, fatigue and discouragement crept up on Vonetta. The mountain of work in front of her began to look more and more daunting, and her dream began to be a little harder to imagine. Nonetheless, Vonetta persevered. She kept believing, she kept training, and she kept running until she finally caught up with success.

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books. His organizations have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and INJOY Stewardship Services. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and audiences as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and ambassadors at the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was named the World's Top Leadership Guru by He was also one of only 25 authors and artists named to's 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold over a million copies.

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