Today I want to talk to you about something that you need – a personal quality –when you attempt something challenging. You may not know you have this quality when you start. But depending on how you approach obstacles, set backs and day to day living, you can discover you do have it.
And that something is this: resilience and resourcefulness.
Let me start with a story that I heard recently, when Steve Jobs died.
When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big. The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top. “Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”
I got chills when I read that. Part of me felt relieved that I didn’t work for Steve Jobs. Another part of me felt envious that I never got to work for Steve Jobs. A man like that can inspire you (with carrot, stick or a hybrid of both) to reach for heights you never even knew existed.
No one left behind
I was fortunate enough to have a boss like that early in my career. His name was Steve, too. This was when I was working for Deloitte – a huge global consulting firm. I worked in health consulting, and we were working on a large hospital project involving 50 teaching hospitals around Australia. I was a key relationship manager with these hospitals, liaising with them on the data they needed to dig out and provide to us as part of their involvement in the study. Well, some of these hospitals just weren’t set up for this – they didn’t store the data in the first place, or someone who had long left the hospital had organised it and nobody knew how to get at it. And every hospital was different – there was no template they (or I) could apply, no “one size fits all” solution. I was spending my days in protracted phone calls with people working in basement information management centres, doing my own fair share of “inspiring”. Alongside regular drumming of my head against a hard and unyielding surface.
One especially exasperating day, I walked into Steve’s office and told him we’d have to drop a hospital from the study. They just couldn’t get the data required to continue. It was hens-teeth-pullingly painful, for everyone concerned. Especially me. I was only 24 but I felt I was about 400 years old. And I’ll never forget what Steve said to me. He said “We won’t be losing one single hospital in this study. We’ll find a way to help them give us what we need”. It wasn’t a debate, or even a conversation. It was just a fact. That’s what we were going to do. Steve’s level of certainty rolled over me like chocolate over ice cream. I now knew, without a shadow of a doubt, the standard by which we would be operating, and we would be judged – by ourselves first and foremost, as well as by others.
No hospital left behind.
And that’s what happened. We completed the study, many months later, with all 50 hospitals. It took an extraordinary amount of effort, of willpower, of resourcefulness, of finding a way. Like the Apple engineers, there was no other choice. When you are in that situation, it is quite extraordinary what you can find. When you have to dig deep, you can unearth something you never even knew you possessed.
So. What on earth does this have to do with conscious shopping, style, consumption, self-expression and everything else we talk about here?
Here’s the connection:
When you set yourself up to undertake an important personal challenge, say to have a year without clothes shopping or to slay your personal shopping dragon in some other way — then you want to set yourself up to succeed.
You don’t want to unwittingly set yourself up to fail. You don’t want to start out with a half-hearted commitment to the challenge. A “we’ll see how it goes but if it gets too tough I may drop out” attitude.
One of the ways you can set yourself up to fail is by giving yourself an easy out. Sure – you can do that, and let me say this. I’m a big believer in people making valid, informed choices, of which giving up can be one.
But if you truly want to succeed, then giving yourself an out just doesn’t come into the equation. You have a “one choice” viewpoint – you’ll stick at it, and you’ll prevail.
You don’t give yourself an easy out. You don’t prepare ready-made excuses for why you’ll fail.
You believe in yourself. You put faith in yourself. You treat yourself with dignity and courage.
What I’ve learned is this: One of the most important things you need to succeed, at anything, is the attitude of resilience and resourcefulness. Of not giving yourself an out. Of finding a way.
No air bubbles.
No hospital left behind.
If you had an attitude like that, what would you start today?
See you next week.