Overcome Adversity, Don’t Avoid It.

big challengesGreatness comes from overcoming adversity, not avoiding it.

I remember I was working on large project back in the mid-90s and it was to say the least a tough project, we had a lot of work to do, it was a new business and we had a fixed deadline. The deadline was fixed because it was determined by legislation, we needed the new system to be fully functioning, up and running by April 1st.

There was no room for delays, we would have to go live with whatever system we had, there were no second chances.

These are the kinds of projects I like, the tougher ones, as this is where reputations can be made.

At the time I was the project manager and I needed a Test Manager to ensure that the system worked and met all of the requirements and would support the business needs. I approached someone I had worked with before, I laid out what was needed, I was clear about how tough this was going to be, the scale of the work the tough deadlines. I also made it clear that as project manager I would have his back and makes sure that this was a success.

What happened next surprised me.

My friend said ‘No thanks‘.

I said, ‘What do you mean no thanks, this is a great opportunity, and because I’m the project manager it’s yours if you want it’.

He replied again ‘No thanks, it’s too risky. I am only interested in jobs where it’s a guaranteed success’.

I was stunned, but nothing I could say would make him take the role.

This was a great opportunity, it could have catapulted his career and helped him make a name for himself. But he chose not to do that. He was only looking to do jobs where success was guaranteed. But if success is guaranteed then how it that going to help you build your career and reputation. When success is guaranteed a monkey could do the job and be successful.

This doesn’t mean that we should take crazy risks; but if we want to stand out; if we want to be seen and get on the Fast-Track to success then we need to deliver some of the more difficult jobs.

My friend, 20 years later on, is still working at pretty much the same level as he was back in the day. His aversion to career risks have meant that his career has stagnated. Maybe he has less stress in his life but he also has less success.

On another project where I was the lead, this was one where we had to deliver results in 3 months which normally took 18 months, which was certainly a risky project, I invited another of my friends, a colleague who I had worked with previously to come along and be my right hand man.

This job was one of the biggest challenges I had been involved in up to that point, but he jumped at the chance, he didn’t hesitate for a second. He said sure, if we could deliver that then we would be able to deliver anything.

He saw the risk not a challenge but as an opportunity, an opportunity to create a reputation for himself by being involved in delivering a large complex program in record time.

Success wasn’t guaranteed, there were a lot of risk, and it involved us working a lot of long days and weekends. But eventually we successfully delivered the project.

Since then my friend has gone on to bigger and better things, and is currently a Senior Vice President at a Fortune 100 company.

He always credits that project as the one that helped him, it not only enhanced his reputation, but also it gave him the confidence that no job was too big, and that it showed him that greatness comes from overcoming difficult challenges not avoiding them.

It’s not always fun taking these big challenges on alone, if you need help or support then contact me at gordon@leadership-principles.com and lets see what I can do to help get you onto that Fast-Track to success.