I seem to be having a few “deja vu’s” recently and it gave me pause to think this weekend about how history can repeat itself when we don’t learn the lessons of the past sufficiently.
I am today faced with similar corporate “forks in the road” as I was many years ago when I led ICP to go public. Developing IP (intellectual property like patents and trademarks) in addition to a pipeline of sales requires investments which can often only yield paybacks years thereafter. Doing it “on the skinny” is what we’ve done for three years and while we’ve all eaten well and had rents paid, there are moments of challenge which I won’t give more detail on here.
On the personal side, I’ve met some amazing people in the past year and that tells me I am being rewarded for the conscious changes made. The key for me is to look back at what I learned and, funny enough, I find that when I look both professionally and personally, I can see parallels in the lessons. Here are just a few which occupied my thoughts the most:
1. Know thy partners
It is incredible how excitement can overwhelm prudent thought in the selection of partners in all areas of life. Clearly, the lessons of past will lead me to understand and know a partner better than I did when deciding to “take a plunge”. Yet, I also believe that partners reflect us and that we attract them, so by no means do I fault any partner of the past, they were simply my mirror. I see the type of partners that I am attracting today, and I can’t help but smile. I guess I’d say I once was a “hare in a Porsche”, and now I’m a “turtle in a Tesla”…
2. Know thyself
What I have learned in these past few years is much about ownership and accountability. To refute my own faults of past, to not shore them up, change myself or choose a partner who may compliment areas of weakness would be to repeat past experiences which would not serve well. It’s what I call “dropping the mask”, owning it all with integrity, and choosing change. I know where I am strong today, and I now know where whatever the endeavour (personal or professional) I’d best either take the time to strengthen myself or to leave it to someone else to handle that can do it better.
3. Give to gain
The challenge of small business environments is how the owner(s) feel(s) everything is on their shoulders. It’s like being a parent. Getting into partnership, again personal or professional, gives us a chance to share loads, and yet only turns out well if we bring an open attitude and let go of the reigns we previously held in order to not only validate but to elevate our partners. Lao Tzu’s ultimate statement on leadership is that the truest of leaders are blind to the people who work with them. I can’t claim to have reached anywhere near that pinnacle professionally yet I continue to aspire and work on it. Personally, I see it as a partnership of “different equals”, each with their own challenges and abilities, creating a greater unit together than they’d be apart. Of course, on the personal side, at this stage of life, there are realities to work into priorities in all circumstances (aka kids, homes, families, businesses,etc…), yet even then, working on the same principle of “giving to gain”, everything can be considered and worked around. Second time personal relationships have an inverse likelihood of failure to second time businesses. Why is it that so many learn the lessons professionally yet fail to do so personally? (80% of second relationships fail while a strong majority of second businesses blossom). I’ve concluded that it’s because the biggest error in getting into personal relationships based on “what am I getting” is the most often repeated premise which causes the rampant failures while a business partnership often has clearer parameters which people take the time to often spell out in a contract. You don’t get “honey, you take out the garbage and I feed the cat” as clear personal relationship parameters, though there are broader ones that are often agreed.
4. Manage Expectations
Whenever we start a new relationship, whether personal or professional, we must beware of the tendency to over-promise. Many love the excitement of taking a company public or of a new romance, yet the fact is that there are no shortage of challenges that will come into play. Turning them into opportunities to grow is the key to how together with new “partners” obstacles are turned into positive events and are managed to everyone’s relative contentment. My favourite answer to questions these days is “I don’t know”. Because truly, I really don’t have all the answers. I have far more questions. The search for the answers is a wonderful journey. Admitting we don’t have them all is a good step to mutual success.
5. Be True
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that if we don’t speak our minds about something which bothers us we are essentially dooming the relationship, be it professional or personal. Approaching issues with integrity and transparency allows for partners to know exactly what is ailing and how together you can fix things. I’ve always said that identifying issues is easy, working on solutions is where the real work is. Always bring solutions to a table of discontent and you’ll turn that table into one of joy and satisfaction a lot sooner.
So folks, those are five things are lessons of past which I believe would serve anyone well, hence my sharing them today. This post was my lunch break from a major initiative which will likely change the landscape for our company, just as my new residence (and OK, yes, I’ll admit…the T car too ) is providing to me personally at this very same time.
We often get what we deserve, though sometimes we simply have to wait for it a bit longer. The universe is never wrong, it knows when we are ready. Good or bad, “I don’t know”…its just a such an awe-inspiring journey and I can’t wait until tomorrow…