The Scoop @ MSCO

Strolling Alone In A Thunderstorm

When I was a teenager, the rolling, rumbling drumbeat of an oncoming thunderstorm was a clarion call for me to run outside into the slashing water and the electric bolts and take in the random beauty of nature gone wild.

I did not believe lighting could strike me. I had not an iota of concern about a tree crashing down on my body. I felt exhilerated to be alone in God’s fireworks and to learn from them.

What did I learn? Well, before I get directly to that, many years later I was walking by the ocean on a December day in the salty freeze of a Maine beach. All around me, the remains of a thouands storms were strewn by the waterfront, tree trunks laced with weeds and fishermens’ boots, all topped by sand and sea foam.

The storms and the sea shared a common element: both were shaped by the unpredictable. The random they were driven by a dynamic I could never understand or comprehend.

But that I could learn so much from. So what did the teen storms and the Maine beach and similar bouts with the wild teach me?

*That there is little value in the linear. It is the way traditional teaching is conducted and it is why the traditional rarely leads to breakthroughs.

*Putting yourself in the danger zone, out of your comfort zone, forces you to think in ways that are catalysts for change.

In business, every time I have had to deal with a threat, I have grown. Not immediately or directly. There were moments of fear and indecision and concern. And then, in the midst of the dilemma, I would see through the lightning and the foam and the pieces would assemble into an arrow that would lead me to a new direction. Often to personal growth. Always to passion and exhileration.

Just this week, I spoke to a friend who is frozen in the locks of a life that is not working. No joy at work. No discovery at rest. Just the perpetual motion machine of going through the motions of an existence that can be changed if the fear of the unknown is challenged and overcome. It is not easy but nor is anything worthwhile.

The only way to move through the ziggeraut of a life of achievement is to roll the dice now and then, risk the unknown, stroll in an electric storm. In business, it means expanding into unknown markets, investing in untested advertising, funneling dollars into R&D when the only certain outcome is an expense, trusting managers who have never yet to prove themselves.

There are a zillion reasons to do none of this. Played against the grand scheme of things, of the drive for success, none of these reasons are valid. They are why civil servants delight in safety. They are why risk takers roll the dice, absorb the speed bumps, detest safety nets, and invest in their companies, their team members, and in themselves, time and again.

The next time I want to make a step or a leap forward, I will not attend a Harvard seminar. That will be me you see strolling in a hurricane.
Mark Stevens
CEO

2 Comments

  1. June ∣ April 6th / 2010 at 10:01 am

    Whew! We had a ginormous storm last night that knocked out power to a good part of our small town. Thankfully no major injuries or anything like that.

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