I keep hearing people say that if only they lived in a time of greater crisis, they could have achieved more. They look at George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and other famous leaders and notice they emerged through crises. I read a Harvard Business Review article implying people have to go through crucibles to develop as leaders.
You don’t have to overcome adversity to achieve a lot. You don’t need an outside challenge.
I think people don’t look for counterexamples because it’s easier to blame external factors than to take responsibility for realizing your dreams. It’s like a version of my touchstone strategy:
Don’t look for blame but improve things to the extent you can.
There are plenty of role models if you look for them of people who emerged from comfortable lives. They still have to work hard. They just don’t need outside challenges.
I remember feeling this strongly reading Steve Martin’s book. He had no crucible from the outside. He acted on what he wanted and reached the top of his profession. Or professions, since he’s succeeded in many areas.
No outside force oppressed him. He lived by his standards and didn’t accept mediocrity. Many great actors and artists do so.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, Warren Buffet, and Henry Ford come to mind as incredibly successful people who didn’t have to overcome tremendous adversity.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book