One Thing All Great Leaders Do, And You Should Too

by Tom Koulopoulos

One Thing All Great Leaders Do, And You Should Too

Innovating and reinventing yourself always starts with a choice to do this one thing.

Picture This

Let me paint a picture of success for you.

You just made a great call about something that resulted in a windfall for you. You know that there were many factors leading to the success but in the end it was your decision to act that was the catalyst. So, do you take credit for it? If you’re being honest then like most of us the answer would be YES! After all it was your good judgment, experience, wisdom, prescience, or just plain old intuition that made the difference.

Now let’s turn the tables, same canvas but I’ll paint a different picture.

You just made a lousy call that resulted in a horrible loss. You really messed up. However, there were lots of other factors involved; the market crashed, someone got in your way, you missed your flight, you got sick, or myriad other things you had no control of. In short, you’re a victim of fate. So, do you take responsibility for all of the bad stuff that happened to you?

Who’s Responsible

Well, hold on, you certainly can’t be held responsible for things out of your control, right? Especially things that you were just a victim of. But, what if I told you that way of thinking is exactly what most often holds you back and limits your chances for growth and success?

In How To Get Unstuck Cheryl Hunter tells a gut wrenching story of how as a teenager traveling in Europe she was abducted, beaten, sexually assaulted, and left for dead. It’s unimaginable that anyone would ask someone who had been through that horror to take responsibility for it. Yet, one of Cheryl’s five points in the strategy she used to move forward was, “You are responsible for everything that happens in your life.”

Tough to swallow, right? But her reasoning is rock solid; without taking responsibility for your struggles you will forever be allowing everyone and everything other than yourself to architect your life. Once you accept that the architect of your life is none other than yourself you take back control over your thoughts, beliefs, actions, and, most importantly, your future.

I know, it’s hard to accept. It’s so much easier to blame circumstances, difficult or bad people, the economy, your spouse, your parents, your childhood, an illness, a sibling, anything or anyone other than the one person who can ultimately turn adversity into advantage.

Turning Adversity Into Advantage

Still doubting? Both Oprah and Tony Robbins grew up in abusive homes. Could they be bitter and wish they’d had kind loving childhoods? Of course. Who would blame them? And yet Tony Robins said of his childhood, “If my mom had been the mother I thought I wanted, I wouldn’t be as driven; I wouldn’t be as hungry, I wouldn’t have suffered, so I probably wouldn’t have cared about other people’s suffering as much as I do. And it made me obsessed with wanting to understand people and help create change.” That’s the essence of taking responsibility for your life. While you may have no control over what happens to you, you always have a choice in how you use it to learn and grow.

But here’s an even better way to look at the role of adversity in your life. To be the architect of your own life, to innovate yourself, you have to accept that everything, good, bad, and horrible, that has happened to you up to this point has been an essential part of building your platform for the future. So, ultimately you have a choice; be held hostage by the past or use it as the curriculum for your success. It’s a choice we all have.

As I think about the people I know who have struggled with the greatest adversity it consistently inspires me to see how they have turned it into their advantage. A billionaire CEO who turned the pain of abandonment as a child into self sufficiency and built a global empire, an Inc 500 entrepreneur who turned the shame of debilitating shyness into intense retrospection that has inspired hundreds of thousands people, a nurse who suffered terrible trauma in her adolescence and now uses the empathy and compassion learned to turn around countless lives of society’s abused, homeless, and forgotten. Each one transformed what could have been a lifetime of remorse into resilience and resolve.

These are the innovators, the people who architect their lives, the ones who I admire and respect as role models for a life well lived, because they refuse to allow adversity to be anything other than a lesson in growth.

The bottom line? You’re totally responsible for what picture ends up on your canvas; make the choice to paint it any way you want.

Change Planning Toolkit

This article was originally published on Inc.

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Thomas KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.

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