We were sitting at a wine-filled dinner, the six of us, discussing life, kids, and jobs. Lydia* and Philip*, a university professor, and a high-ranking British colonel, respectively, were charming, intelligent, and always a source of stimulating conversation. Philip was ‘deployed’ to Canada to teach combat tactics at the local military college. I asked him plainly, ‘so what exactly are you training the students on?’
Philip replied that currently, he was teaching the future officers what to do if they suddenly found themselves in a situation where their vehicle had been blown up, they had no shelter, and no support; a situation he, himself, had experienced in combat.
I asked him what he did. “The first thing,” he said with a half-smile, “is look around and figure out what your assets are.”
In life, and business, we often forget to focus on our assets and instead look at everything that is wrong. This only serves to propel us down the path of victimhood. We all have assets and listing them periodically helps to gain healthy perspective. If we have skills, a supportive partner, financial resources, certifications, work experience, athletic accomplishments, or have even successfully raised children, we have assets. Identifying our assets is the first principle that can help us elevate our lives and our businesses.
When I was twelve years old, my father handed me a copy of Sun Tzu – The Art of War. This ancient text is used in both military and business philosophy. The Art of War is taught at Harvard, Wharton, and other business schools as a tried-and-true coppolation of methods to conquer the enemy. My twelve-year-old mind discerned that it was much more than that – it was a guide for navigating life’s challenges.
I lead a group of entrepreneurs every Monday. These people come from a variety of backgrounds and are navigating the world of business. The key tenant I teach from The Art of War is to ‘adapt to your terrain.’ This is our second principle.
In life, and business, the terrain will change. Perhaps it is family visiting for Thanksgiving that throws off our schedule or it could be a change in policy, or product, from a parent company that causes us re-configure our business message. The terrain is constantly changing and in order to succeed, we must adapt.
Look at businesses who failed to adapt – Blockbuster, Toys R’ Us, and others who made startling assumptions and did not adapt to the consumer demand for ease of online purchasing, free shipping, and basically staying at home to conduct business. Failure to adapt will sink a marriage and it will bankrupt a business.
I have a friend, and business colleague, who is now retired from the military. He is very sharp, focused, and highly disciplined. I asked him what the key to his success was and he said, “in the military we had a principle – mission before self.”
This is our third principle – mission before self. When we say we want to achieve a goal, our actions must align with that goal. That means if our ‘self’ wants to Netflix and chill and we cannot afford to send our child to the special school they deserve to go to then we must put the mission before the self.
In university, I studied clinical psychology and then spent years pursuing absorbed in the understanding of human behavior. We may call it different things – the ego, the self, our human side, whatever we name it, the reality is that we all have a part of us that fundamentally sabotages our life and work success. Whether it is a relationship crumbling, a child in need, generating revenue for a start-up, or whatever the fundamental requirement is, we must put the mission before the self.
This is not to be confused with self-care – getting the workout in, eating healthy foods, going to bed at a reasonable hour, meditation and prayer, journaling, and taking care of ourselves holistically. It is simply the necessity of putting our mission, even if that mission is self-care, ahead of anything that might derail us from doing what is necessary.
Where can you use these principles to finish 2018 ahead of where you were at this time last year? Can you use these principles to achieve something you have never achieved? Currently, I am using these principles to raise $2 million in Pre-Series A funding for Radius AI – a Silicon Valley and Phoenix based AI company that I have been newly named as Chief Communication Officer.
Whatever it is that you desire, know that you can achieve it. With faith, discipline, and sweat equity, all things are possible. Go for it.