A leadership trait that can be very valuable in the face of challenge and disappointment is the belief that everything happens for a reason. That is not to suggest that you adopt a nonchalant, do nothing attitude in the face of setbacks and failures but rather that you have the wisdom to understand that when events occur that are out of your control or not what you expected, you understand that they can be blessings in disguise.
As I grow and develop on my own personal leadership journey, I continue to be amazed at how difficulties and problems that occurred years ago, were pieces to a bigger puzzle that have shaped and defined my career and life, directing me towards purpose.
One such insight occurred last weekend while shopping for Easter basket fillers for my stepson.
While roaming up and down the aisles of Town Hardware(a tourists’ favorite
in Black Mountain, NC www.townhardware.com ) , there it was; a specter from my childhood sitting innocently and ubiquitously on a shelf alongside Burt’s Bees and Calamine lotions. Cloverine Salve , “skin protectant since 1860”.
It had been over 50 years since I had seen a can of Cloverine Salve but when I did, the memories of my childhood experience and lessons associated with this seemingly innocuous can of salve re-surfaced like a submarine.
When I was around 8 years old I saw a full page ad in a comic book that featured a FREE ring. I managed to tear out the page, scribble in my name and address and get my request for the ring in the mail.
Lo and behold it soon arrived but the box sure was big for a little ring. Much to my surprise, in addition to my coveted piece of faux jewelry were 24 cans of Cloverine Salve? Needless to say I had not read any of the small print.
I took it all to my mother who sternly told me that the ring was a gift for agreeing to sell 24 tins of salve. My mother, a strong believer in dealing with the consequences of your choices, then informed me that I had to deliver on the agreement that I unwittingly made. There has never been much room for argument with my mother.
So off I went the next Saturday, up and down the streets of my neighborhood, door to door, sheepishly and shyly asking if anyone would like to buy a can of Cloverine Salve.
I spent two days and several miles walking and asking. I sold one can… to the kindest person in my community.
The other 23 cans were packed up and shipped back with my apology for poor performance.
That childhood event gave me early leadership lessons on accountability, perseverance and how to keep trying in the face of rejection. These are all attributes that I have relied on throughout my career as an entrepreneur and CEO.
And from a perspective honed by 35 years in the leadership trenches, no stranger to failure, adversity and uncertainty, the reappearance of Cloverine Salve into my visual and emotional awareness kindled my appreciation for the lessons that I have learned the hard way .
May we all, as leaders, have the wisdom to remember that there is a reason for the events and consequences of our lives, intended and unintended.
And may we seek to elevate our perspectives and the perspectives of those we lead in seeking solutions and moving beyond the failures and setbacks that are inevitable parts of our journeys in corporate and business life.