Every decision you make (or do not make) in life is either driving you towards a default future or a future you want to create. Every small or big decision you make can make you a victim or a victor of circumstances. Are you a Victim or a victor of the circumstances?
Have you ever noticed your reaction or response in different situations? If not, try to remember and re-live one of your best or worst times. Think about how you reacted and what actions did you take? Now, think as a disinterested person how could you respond to that situation differently?
The three laws of performance
Let me share some of my examples and learnings about how you can either be victims or victors of circumstances and how situations can make or break you. In other words, circumstances define us if we do not learn from them.
I am reading a book – The three laws of performance. It is an incredible – but complex – book. A word of caution – it requires a lot of deliberation and thought to work on action items.
In one of the chapters, the authors narrate a small incidence.
Colin Wilson, the prolific and influential British writer, was born to working-class parents from a relatively poor community in Britain. Although his ambition was to become the next Albert Einstein, he was forced to quit school at age sixteen.
Working as a laboratory assistant, he fell into despair and decided to end his own life by drinking hydrocyanic acid. At the moment before what was to be his final act, he came to a realization. There were two Colin Wilsons, it was like two people living in the same body. One was an idiot boy filled with self-pity. The other was his “real self”.
The idiot boy, he realized, was about to kill them both.
From that moment on, Colin Wilson occurred to himself in a new way. He saw himself as the “real Colin Wilson” instead of the unsuccessful lab technician. He later wrote that from that point, “I glimpsed the marvelous immense richness of realized, extended to distant horizons.”
The authors conclude in their words – When “how a person occurs to himself alters”, everything else shifts as well.
The language of “occur” is peculiar to the authors. I tried simplifying it at the beginning of the blog.
Did you realize anything? Out of frustration, the prolific British writer was about to kill himself. Many a time, you become victims of circumstance and take actions that you must not. Predominantly, such decisions define you. Let me share my personal experience to drive home the point.
My personal experience – once a victor once a victim
I was damn bad in Mathematics up to standard 5. Teach me a concept in the morning, and by evening I have entirely forgotten it. I wanted to become an engineer, though I did not know one needs to studying Mathematics to become an engineer.
Thankfully, in standard five, I learned that I need to study Math to become an engineer. I started writing tables daily. Within a month, I could write, recite and answer multiplication till 27 verbally. I gained confidence. I started solving problems of Mathematical reasoning. Thanks to my cousins, they had competitive exams preparatory books. Within months of realizing the importance of Math for my dream, I became the victor of Math-phobia.
Finally, I was a rank holder in the state Pre-Engineering Test.
This situation defined me. It can help you too.
Cut to my standard 9th and 10th. I was a very good sprinter and long jumper. No wonder, I wanted to be athele too. I was at a crossroads – dream one of becoming an engineer and dream two of becoming an athlete. At that time we Indian respected only Cricket none others as such. I left the athletics and concentrated on 1st dream. Surprisingly, I never went to practice on tracks for at least 3.5 years, my one decision, and I had completely stopped running. In fact, when I went to the track, I used to feel ashamed of even touching it forget abou running.
I was the victim of the situation I left one dream whereas I could pursue both in the longer run. Did you realize how our situations define us and our decisions make or break us?
There is one good thing about being an athlete at a young age. Whenever I go to a doctor, invariably doctors ask – “are you an athlete or do you play sports regularly?” Initially, I used to ask “why are you asking – I was an athlete as a teen, but not now”. They responded – “Your heart rate and BP are on a lower side. It is common for sportspersons.”
Circumstances in business – victim to a victor
Making no decision is also a decision. I heard this regarding previous Prime Ministers of India – PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.
On a lighter note – you can afford to be indecisive for political and larger reasons such as a country. Though, this is a sad thing to say or write. However, in business, one cannot be that lax. You are judged every day for your past and upcoming quarter results and long-term success. You have to perform or perish, you cannot bribe board members or shareholders to elect you the CEO again and again :). Although, it is possible to form Governments in democracy!
In general, the decisions you make define you or define the course of the organization you are building. The decisions you make affect the near and dear – stakeholders of your life and business. Let me elaborate.
The business world is full of case studies after case studies regarding how companies made or broke themselves. Nokia was leading the mobile revolution in the ’90s. In 2005, Sony launched Walk-man mobile phone series W. Apparently, it was a competition to Nokia. Had Nokia learned something and Apple not caught on to it and continued with its iPod – both Nokia and Apple would have been history. Apple reinvented the communication industry, whereas Nokia became a history.
Did Apple become the victim of the competition? No. It sailed through this time with a rather winning product – iPhone. I can go on and on – be it the digital camera vs Kodak, reinvention of Domino’s in the last decade, or the Ice harvesting industry of the 1900s.
If you have seen the sailboat, It sails in different directions with the help of wind. It is up to the sailor how he wants to navigate and decide the direction of his journey.
In every walk of life – personal or professional – we face defining moments. If we do not decide, we move towards the “default future” – as the book The three laws of performance states.
What is a default future, you may ask? Well, the default future is – “Unless you do something radical to alter your course, the future that is approaching you is the default future.” If you take some radical path it will alter your future. In my above personal examples, it was improving Math and leaving athletics.
In summary, the circumstances will always pose questions or force you for decisions; how and what decisions you make will define whether you are a victim or victor. Do you want to live in your default future or want to course correct to make a better future for yourself? Let me know if I can be of any help from your journey from a victim or a victor.