Why be grateful for our failures, mistakes and setbacks

The balance sheet is a key component of any business.

We also have a personal balance sheet.  Yes, this includes our cash in the bank and investments.  But these financial assets aren’t our only assets.  We also have our strengths, our passions, our personality, our skills, our experiences, and our memories.  

This week we are exploring the power of gratitude to increase our happiness and success.  Yesterday we examined the assumption: first, be successful; then, you will be happy.  The research is clear and turns that idea on its head.  Happy people are more successful.  And, one of the strategies we can leverage to increase our happiness is to cultivate our gratitude.  Intentionally. 

The word appreciate has two definitions: (1) to see the value in; and (2) to grow.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal allows us to do both.  We give thanks for our strengths and experiences.  And, by focusing on them, we expand our capabilities.

The other important aspect of our personal balance sheet is our mistakes. Or, as philosopher Brian Johnson says, our mis-takes.  We see our failures, setbacks and challenges not as liabilities, but as valuable assets.  We want to capitalize on them, not waste them.  These experiences provide maturity and wisdom.  Our most important learning experiences many times involve extreme challenge and even trauma.  There is a bevy of research detailing what researchers call “post-traumatic growth” which leads to an enhanced appreciation of life. 

The person who isn’t making any mistakes is likely sitting around doing nothing.

The liability side of our balance sheet is a list of all our bad habits that get in the way of living our best, most purposeful life.  These we want to minimize or eliminate all-together.

In 1921, my grandfather Rocky founded our predecessor company.  During the recent kickoff of our 100-year celebration, I suggested we at PCI have much to be grateful for.  We’ve been blessed to have a string of strong years, certainly the best in our long history.  

But, as many PCIers know, it wasn’t always so.  We’ve had our share of tough, challenging years as well.  And, we are grateful for these years, too, because they made us who we are today.

The one thing we know about any organization like PCI that has stood the test of time is the people who make up that organization are resilient.  Capital R: “Resilient.”

Brian tells us there are people and organizations which are fragile: they fall apart quickly.  There are people and organizations that bounce back from adversity.  We call them resilient.  

And, then, there are people and organizations where the greater the challenge, the stronger they get.  He calls these organizations “anti-fragile.”  Brian’s phrase “obstacles make me stronger” or OMMS is one of my favorites.

As I’ve written about before, at PCI we went through an extremely difficult stretch in the mid-2000s.  It was white-knuckle time.  Very difficult.  Layoffs…  Zero bank balance…  Hard, hard times…

But it was during this period when we articulated our purpose: “We inspire dreams and transform lives.”  It was during the darkest of these days that we became clear on our enduring organizational goal/rallying cry: “Every client should be referenceable.”  We shaped our five client promises: Be proactive.  Be accountable.  Be positive.  Be trustworthy.  Be passionate.  And, it was during this period during which we first coined the phrase “notthebigcompany” which defines our workplace culture, our business philosophy, and even the way we live our lives.

Remember: Obstacles make me stronger.  Obstacles made us stronger.  Indeed.  We fought.  We didn’t give up.  We were resilient.  And, we persevered.

A great workplace culture is wonderful when times are good.  But, it’s even more valuable when times are hard.  It is my belief that if it were not for our notthebigcompany culture, we wouldn’t have survived.

Since then, we’ve rebounded nicely.  Top line revenue is up nearly 10x from its low point.  It’s been an incredible ride.  And, as we begin our next century, we believe we are just getting started.  We have a new service offering, the Oral History Project that makes it feel like we work at a 100-year old start-up!

The enduring lesson we’ve learned is to be grateful for the successes.  And the failures.

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Reflection:  What is a challenging experience from my past that shaped who I am today?

Action:  Commit to keeping a gratitude journal for 100 days starting today.

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