A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to review the manuscript of his first book. He is a world-class athletic coach in his sport and finally was convinced that his approach was quite revolutionary for his sport based on the success of this athletes. The first third of the manuscript was how he became both an elite athlete himself and subsequently, a coach after the age of 30 having no experience whatsoever prior to. After a series of failed businesses, bad luck and a few poor decisions, he had hit life’s rock-bottom becoming an alcoholic and purchasing a gun to end his life. He learned his sport because it became an alternative to misery and studied every known approach. Today, he uses that knowledge to transform lives and athletes to great performance largely by providing a model that is counter-intuitive and challenges models developed by the gurus of the sport.
As an executive coach, I do not encounter hardly any client who has not been scarred by a bad place of work, a bad boss, a failed marriage, a proverbial ‘stab in the back’ from someone once a friend or other similar malaise. Almost all of them do not view those traumatic experiences as a rich foundation to grow a better version of themselves or to even use them to orchestrate change. Sometimes, the best learning can be how not to do something by knowing how painful certain behaviors can be because you felt that pain yourself and experienced the negative impact on your performance during that time.
This week, recall one of your worst business experiences. Yes, I know that sounds counter-intuitive. Make a list of all the actions that occurred that you know led to you and others around you to feel dis-empowered, afraid, and under perform. Look at that list. How many of those exist in your current world? Are you in a position to change them? Can you tell your story of that bad experience to show empathy towards others and orchestrate change? You never know how your tragedy can be used to create magic until you try to, after which, it ceases to be a tragic event and more of your calling card/identity and licence to make things better.