Our Path to Growth is Always Through Difficulty

This is a guest post from April Abboud.

April Abboud is a successful American entrepreneur who has moved to the Middle East.  She gave up the business she grew, the culture she knew and having family close by to start a family in a land thousands of miles away.  She has chosen to challenge herself all through her life.

April was recently asked to be the Moderator and Welcoming Speaker for the regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.  She shared a powerful story about the need for each of us to face difficulties in our lives:

The Regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

The Man who Helped the Butterfly

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

It stopped moving. It seemed to have stopped making progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

The man decided to help. He took a pair of scissors and cut off the remaining cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily.

The butterfly had a sluggish, swollen body and small, shriveled wings.  The man continued to watch the butterfly.  He waited for the wings to grow and expand to be able to support the body.  He waited for the body to shrink to the beautiful proportions of a butterfly.

He waited.  Neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The butterfly never was able to fly.

The Universe is Wise

The man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand nature.  The restricting cocoon and the struggle is necessary.  As the butterfly squeezes through the tiny opening, fluid from the body is forced into its wings.  This long, tiring, intense struggle for escape is necessary for the butterfly to fly once it fights its way to freedom from the closed cocoon.

This is not only the nature of butterflies.  It is the nature of life.  It is our nature.  If we do not have adversity and strife on our journey we cannot carry the weight that our dreams require of us. Everyone has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they could never go back to the person they once were. Some understand this difficulty for what it really is:  Growth.

As an entrepreneur, I have often made the choice to travel the road less taken, one filled with uncertainty and fear.  I dare to make the world a better place and somehow along the way find the courage to believe in my wings and let myself fly.

We must give ourselves permission to accept the struggles, for in them we find our true original, authentic self.

To those who crawl around swollen with desire we become leaders. Fierce are those with restrictions, strengthened by their journey, that not only find their wings but take to flight.

Follow April…

You can follow April on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/aprilabboud/

On Running 22 Marathons in 30 days (in Winter)

This is a guest post by Luca Rossini. Luca ran home. This is a big deal when you live in Paris and your family home is near Milan.  This post shares how he kept the journey going day after day after day... 

Over to Luca…

How I found the Strength to Run 900 kilometers through the Winter roads of France and Italy

I would like to share something I learnt in the winter of 2012 on the French roads of Bourgogne, on my 900 km run home to Italy.

It was the year when I lost my father, and my brother had been diagnosed with leukaemia. I had always loved running as an amateur, and so, despite hesitations and perplexities, I decided to take a month off from work and find the energy that I wanted for myself and my family, by running all the way from Paris, France (where I live) to Pavia, Italy (my hometown, close to Milan).

Luca’s planning for his 900km run from Paris to Pavia (Milan)

Starting my Days Slowly

On an evening two years ago, I listened to Conor’s speech (http://youtu.be/XUsvWP6seQE) in my apartment in Paris. He talks about the advice coming directly from Kenneth Blanchard, author of ‘The One Minute Manager’.

Conor had asked him if Blanchard had ever had that black day, the last after a month of efforts, that 30th when one feels that one’s leadership, the energy hoisting one’s organisation or project, isn’t there anymore; and if he did, what does or would he do on such a day.

After a pause, Blanchard replied, suggesting that you ‘start your day slowly’.

In practice, it implies that when you wake up in the mornings, take a moment to reflect on the reality of life. Take the time to feel your presence, consider where you are and why, and the reasons that will enable you to execute the endeavour that lies ahead, before you dive in and invest the energy in the whirlpool of life.

Learn to Spend Time with Yourself

As I closed my laptop after watching the video, I was reminded of something my father told me on a winter night when we were staying at a monastery, which also serves as a mountain hut, in the snow-capped Swiss Alps. After dinner, the monks requested ten minutes of silence, for them and us, bunch of ski-mountaineers in colourful fleeces and boots.

Ten minutes is a long time. I remember my father telling me that a few minutes into the silent reflection, he started asking himself, “Why am I here? What brought me to this point? What is the deeper meaning, the underlying reason that has brought us up here, now?”

Start your day slow. Ask yourself why.

I was quite surprised to arrive at the same answer, or more precisely, the same question, during my long run through France and Italy. It was my beacon through the cloudy, freezing December mornings that led me home.

In fact, as I progressed through the run, I began suffering from tendonitis and inflammation due to lack of training to cope with the intense pace of about 40 kms a day. Some days, I would wake up from the bunk beds of the hostel where I spent the night, feeling cramps as soon as I put my feet to the ground. It would make me wonder if that would be my 30th day, the day when I stop.

But then, I clearly remember, and remind myself ever since, something happened, every morning.

I would start walking early in the wintry morning lights, one stiff leg after another, feet cold in my running shows, and looking probably odd. After a few hundred meters, rain or shine, the walk softened, my dear Achilles tendon warmed up, realising this was anyway a great ride to do.

A kilometer or so later, I could risk running a few steps, often realising with pain that it was too early to do so.

The important thing was that, sooner or later in the morning, and every morning, I found myself, legs warm, feet in the air, round movement in the knees, running as I love to, headed to my destination behind the Alps.

Finding the Source of Inner Strength

Luca arrives home

I am not a professional, neither do I run regularly. My only preparation for the run consisted of my rucksack, spare t-shirts and socks, a smartphone for maps and a duvet. I reached my hometown with no fanfare, finishing alone on my usual training loop leading to the door of my childhood’s house, for a warm shower, just before Christmas.

One might wonder what such a lonely wolf experience would give you. I didn’t articulate it in words until now – what I can say is that it made me conscious of the fact that the reservoir of energy we can tap on is virtually infinite, because is constantly refuelled by the meaning we assign to it.

This is the well of inner strength, and it is something I will always bring with me. I hope it also inspires some amongst you.

About the Author

Luca has a blog that followed his run day by day The Long Run Home.  Luca has started the Bruno Rossini Marathon in memory of his father each year in Pavia.

The Big Question – by Bill Treasurer

This is a guest post by my good friend Bill Treasurer, who's latest book Leaders Open Doors makes its big time release this week!  Over to Bill...

If you’re a leader, there’s an important question on the minds of the people you lead. They may not say it directly, but it is the core question that defines the relationship between you and the people you lead. When people believe the answer is “yes,” they will be more committed to their work … and to you. But when they think the answer is “no,” their commitment to their jobs and their loyalty to you will suffer. The question is: Do you care about me?

Do you care about me?

The answer shows up in your treatment of people. You may say that you care about people, but if you never smile, constantly move up deadlines, rarely ask for their opinions or use their input, take credit for their good work, set unrealistic goals, and don’t say “thank you” for their hard work, then you don’t really care about them. And they know it.

To be a leader means to get results. But when the drive for results monopolizes a leader’s attention, people become a lesser priority. When a leader cares more about the “ends” (results) and less about the “means” (people), the leader becomes susceptible to treating people like objects. A single-minded focus on results often leads directly to treating people poorly. The drive to achieve results becomes the leader’s excuse for toughness, saying things like, “Sure, I’m tough. We’re under relentless pressure from our competitors, and margins are tight. Being tough creates urgency and motivates people to work hard. My boss is tough on me, so why shouldn’t I be tough on the people who work for me?”

To be sure, results matter. But people achieve those results, and when you treat people poorly you’ll get poor results. Answering “yes” to the core do-you-care-about-me question means taking a deep and genuine interest in those you are leading. Caring, in this sense, is obliging. For when you care about people, you give them more of your time, attention, and active support. A wise leader treats people as more important than results, because strong people produce those results. Period.

So what does caring look like? When you care about people, you:

  • take an interest in their career aspirations
  • seek, value, and apply their ideas
  • acknowledge people’s contributions and say “thank you” generously.

As a practical matter, it’s a good idea to care about your people. Here’s why: when they know you care about them, they will care about you … and your success.

In fact, you’ll know that you are truly a leader who cares when the people you lead start seeking and valuing your input, when they take an interest in your career aspirations, and when they are actively supportive of you. And when your people care about you, they’ll help you get better results.

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting and author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. 100% of the book’s royalties are being donated to programs that support children with special needs. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, Right Risk, and Courageous Leadership, and has led courage-building workshops across the world for NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and many others. Contact Bill at btreasurer@giantleapconsulting.com, or on Twitter at @btreasurer.

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