“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…”
– Winston Churchill
Of course, Churchill just had to fight off the Nazi’s and protect his country from annihilation. I wonder how he would have handled trying to launch a new business into which he had just invested his life savings when the tech bubble burst and 9/11 stopped the world of commerce from spinning. Or, how would he have responded when he just got his business humming on all cylinders when the Great Recession hit. I don’t know how he would have responded when his job got eliminated just as his oldest child was going off to college and his youngest child needed emergency medical treatment. Or, how he would respond to graduating college with a mountain of debt and trying to find a job in his chosen industry? Or, if he were a single parent, abandoned by a spouse and faced with raising a family by himself.
I suspect he would have responded EXACTLY THE SAME WAY!
In business and in life, we are constantly faced with insurmountable odds. The successful executive and the successful person are the ones who do not quit. They focus on the potential, not the probable. As we have discussed before, they choose hope and optimism. During World War II, Churchill willed his country to victory (of course, it helps to have the U.S. as an ally, too). But, had he not shown his country his will and his resolve to NEVER give in, it is likely that the outcome would have been very different.
How many times in business have you been faced with an overwhelming challenge? How many times have you not backed down and, even if the outcome was not optimal, were you ultimately proud of yourself for not quitting? Conversely, how many times have you folded at the first (or second or third) sign of adversity and kick yourself later for not fighting back? You cannot always control the outcome, but you can control how you respond to the challenge. As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture, “Brick walls are there for a reason – to see how badly we want something.”
Those of you who remember the animated Christmas classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town (millennials, you guessed it, YouTube) had a great song that I literally hum to myself whenever I am at my lowest and do not know where to turn…
“Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door!”
It is that simple. Back in the day (before arthritis and artificial hips), I used to be a runner. I loved going for long runs after work. One day, I was talking to a much better runner about how I struggled with running up hills. He told me the secret was to look down, not up. “If you look down, the pavement looks flat and you don’t focus on the hill, instead you focus on your steps.” Yup, just one foot in front of the other.
I am currently working on building a new business. It is a lot of fun and there are many opportunities for success. It is also significantly harder than I thought it would be. So, while I hum my tune, I also focus on some great advice my very dear “friend” gave me…
“We made a promise. We swore we’d always remember. No retreat, baby. No surrender.” Bruce Springsteen
Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.