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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 4, 2013, 5:30 am

150 years ago they had something else

No iPads or lattes, but people had grit and determination to succeed

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    “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”

                            ~ Benjamin Disraeli

    Lary Kirchenbauer, Building a BusinessOn a recent morning, I headed to a favorite place just down the street to fetch a couple of lattes for my wife and me.

    Our forebearers would have awakened in woolen underwear, stepped in the dark onto a cold dirt floor, and stumbled outside to chop some wood to start a fire in the cook stove balanced on the rocks outside. They would have tossed some coffee grounds into a beat-up metal pot … grounds that had already been used for several days … filled the pot with water, boiled it … and at some point, would finally get that first bitter cup of java. No coffee house down the road, no car to get there, certainly no latte or cappuccino. Eat what you kill, literally. If you ain’t got it, you ain’t gonna get it.

    In many ways, we’re much less resourceful than our forefathers. While we may have expanded the definition of community in many positive ways, using our physical and social media “mobility” to create unimagined connections, we’ve also become more dependent on external resources to get through our day.

    In some ways it’s probably better that we’re co-dependent. Maybe it does take a village … and maybe the extraordinary speed with which we can communicate … mind-boggling to our forefathers … suggests to some that a lack of self-sufficiency is a good thing. Maybe we should consider our connectedness as a major advantage. It’s probably a good thing that we have access to resources in all kinds of ways and don’t have to ride horseback for three days to get to the next town.

    That’s the upside … but what about the downside? We do have access to extraordinary resources across the globe, but does access to those resources actually make us more resourceful? I think not.

    In part, I think that resourcefulness is a matter of attitude rather than access. Think less about when your computer goes down and you’re aggravated because those resources are suddenly unavailable. Think more about being a Navy seal behind enemy lines, oh dark thirty, out of ammunition, no food, no communication with your team.

    What we’re missing is the gritty determination embodied by an independent frontier spirit. While we can easily access a vast array of resources, we are so dependent on those abundant resources that we take them for granted and don’t dig deep enough within ourselves to find otherwise elusive solutions.

    Resourcefulness, after all, is one of the irreplaceable ingredients of our own good fortune.  It is less the skill to deftly handle new situations and challenges than it is a “refuse to lose” mentality that fuels the sense of urgency and drive that underlies our ability to overcome the roadblocks we face at every turn.

    It’s about what we do when the precise resource that we need is not at hand. It’s about how hard we look to find its replacement or to solve the problem at a difficult, maybe even overwhelming moment. For our businesses, it doesn’t mean just exhausting every option, but finding new options that never previously occurred to us because failure is not an option.

    These less traveled paths are rocky and unstable, with overgrown brush and barren rock, much like what faced our brethren when they crossed the country in battered covered wagons, trespassing on forbidden lands where they were both uninvited and unwelcome.

    Today, it’s easy to get that café latte with no more effort than to just show up. It doesn’t take three days to get to the next town, or a half a day’s journey into a desert sandstorm just to get to the grocery store. We don’t have to ride in a buckboard carrying a single shot musket to safely get to our office.

    It does, however, take the same tenacity and strength of character to carry-on and to face the challenges before us. Our population of roughly 25 million people in the mid-1800s is now 300 million. Our diversity is revolutionary. Our forefathers would simply be in awe of the technological change that accelerates every day.

    In our businesses, competition has never been more fierce … our people are more demanding, customers have higher expectations, markets are more unforgiving. So, while it’s okay to luxuriate in your bedroom slippers, sidled up to a warm furnace hugging your iPad with a gateway to the world … don’t for a moment forget that you still make your own bed and put your pants on one leg at a time. You. No one else.

    It’s really up to you whether you will persevere despite the obstacles. When life throws sand in your gears, you better figure out how to make a sandcastle.

     

    Lary Kirchenbauer, President of Exkalibur Advisors, is an Experienced Executive Coach, Educator, Author & Public Speaker. Lary works closely with senior executives and their middle market businesses at the intersection of leadership, finance and business strategy. “Like” Building a Business on Facebook and benefit from his exclusive newsletter, or visit the Exkalibur web site at www.Exkalibur.com, where you will also find a library of valuable resources.

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